Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed has signed into law SI No 679 which provides for the extension of management measures for lobsters until 1 January, 2018, reports Pauric Gallagher.

In January 2015, a maximum landing size for lobster of 127mm was introduced, aimed at ensuring the long-term viability of the fishery by protecting the lobster stocks’ reproductive potential. As part of the measure, the initial first two years of operation saw fishermen get paid up to 75% of the market price for V-notching lobsters over 127mm and returning them live to sea, this was to offset potential losses during the transition to the new measure.

In addition, the grant aid for voluntary V-notching of lobsters was increased from 55% to a maximum of 75% of the market value.

SI 679 ensures these V-notching measures will continue until 1 January, 2018.

A maximum landing size of 127mm for lobsters was introduced following a public consultation process where the majority of respondents said they were in favour of a maximum 127mm landing size, as these large lobsters are generally not what the market demands and usually fetch a lower price per kg than average-sized lobsters.

But a number of inshore fishermen are still against the new legislation, stating that as much as 30% of their daily catch at certain times is over 127mm in size, and that the current maximum size is far too small, citing that a larger maximum size should have been tried initially, and then decreased if it looked like stock numbers were still failing to improve. Several shellfish exporters say there is a market for a larger class of lobster in Asia, which has emerged since the public consultation.

Alex Crowley, chairperson of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) told Fishing News: “The views expressed through the forums since the outset suggest that the lobster maximum size is a management measure that is unpopular within the lobster industry. It seems to affect various operators disproportionally and perhaps a management measure that’s affects would apply more evenly would be more favourable. Something that would create more of a ‘level playing field,’ so to speak.

“Extending the period in which oversize lobsters may be brought ashore to V-notch by another year will help mitigate the financial impact of the regulation, while allowing further data collection on the extent of the stock that consists of lobsters over 127mm.

“The importance of basing management decisions on sound and comprehensive scientific data cannot be understated. If it wasn’t for this extension, fishermen would feel the full brunt of the measure in this coming season.”

He added, “At our last NIFF meeting held on 13 December, (details of which are on the Inshore Fisheries Forums website: the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) also indicated an intention to carry out a full review of all aspects of the existing V-notching scheme to date.

“The NIFF will be involved in this review process. I would urge everyone involved in the lobster industry, particularly fishermen who have a view to express on the current V-notching scheme, to do so through your RIFF.”

Contact email addresses for the RIFFs can be found on the Inshore Fisheries Forum website.


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