Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (D&SIFCA) has amended scallop diving permits issued to commercial divers to remove what has been until this year a three-month summer closed season.

The move follows an extended dialogue between stakeholders and the IFCA. The move, which amends a permit condition, meant that the changes could be made without the need to go through the lengthy formal processes required to enact or amend a byelaw.

In a statement confirming the changes, Devon IFCA said: “Commercial divers are now able to remove scallops from specified areas, during certain months, within some of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in D&SIFCA’s district.

“This may sound like a contradiction, but MPAs are not ‘no-take zones’ and are designated for specific and differing reasons. Commercial scallop diving is a low-impact fishery with respect to its interaction with designated habitats within MPAs in D&SIFCA’s district, as supported by Natural England’s formal advice.”

D&SIFCA has introduced a package of management measures to apply during July, August and September, including the use of vessel monitoring (IVMS), a daily catch limit, and an increase in the minimum landing size for scallop to 110mm – the IFCA limit is currently 100mm. A daily catch limit per vessel of 2,400 scallops is also in place – roughly 12 bags per boat per day.

Scallop dredgers in the district are restricted to 12 dredges in total, and a 12-hour curfew, with a 100kW power restriction within the inshore potting zone.

The news was welcomed by commercial divers. Lyme Regis-based Jonathan Shuker, who also goes netting from JBP E 17, a Cygnus Cyclone, told FN: “It is great that the IFCA listened about this, and recognised the really good recovery of the scallops inshore over recent years.

“A summer closure was making marketing for us very hard; it was during the times of best diving visibility, and was also pushing more effort into sole netting.

“There are a group of young divers entering the industry here – really good to see – and this measure will support their jobs as well as take effort off some other fisheries.”

Brixham-based diver Frazer Pugh, who operates the Bagheera BM 99, told FN that the move meant he was much better able to supply his regular customers, whom he had struggled to supply during previous years, saying: “We’ve seen our catch rates increase steadily over the last six or seven years, and stocks seem in great shape.

“In previous years, I’ve tried really hard over the Devon closed season to maintain supplies, but had to expend a lot of extra time and fuel to manage this, and the scallops were never quite as high-quality as the ones we collect around the Devon coast – we only dive in Marine Protected Areas, and nearly always within a mile of shore.

“This amendment to the rules not only supports me and my crew to make a sustainable living over the summer months, it also is very much welcomed by the local customers we have.”

D&SIFCA chief officer Mat Mander said: “I am pleased that fishers and other stakeholders took the time to get involved in the consultations and provided their views and information to the authority.

“In conclusion, the authority has introduced permit conditions that demonstrate how participation in the consultation process and the use of technologies can help change and improve the way in which we approach our fisheries and conservation management.”

The chair of the authority Professor Mike Williams said: “The use of new technology such as vessel monitoring, alongside prudent measures such as catch limits and increased MCRS, as well as continuing research, enables D&SIFCA to adopt an adaptive precautionary approach to sustainable stock management, while providing new socio- economic benefits to the local community.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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