The Isle Of Man Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) has confirmed the temporary closure of three areas off the west coast of the island to demersal trawling – a move, it says, that will provide fisheries and conservation benefits, as well as protecting valuable seabed carbon stores.

The three areas of muddy Nephrops grounds on the west coast have long been accessed by the Irish Sea trawl fleet, but will now be restricted to static gear only. The closure came into effect on 8 April and will run until December 2026.

The three areas closed to trawling were reduced in size by 18% as a result of feedback received from the Northern Ireland Fishermen’s Federation. The areas have been split into seven smaller zones, in each of which a maximum of 400 creels will be allowed.

The move will support the ongoing work being undertaken on behalf of DEFA by Bangor University looking the impact of Nephrops trawling on the release of carbon from seabed sediments.

The closure of the grounds to mobile gears is supported by the Manx fishing industry, which will use the areas to continue to explore the potential for a targeted prawn creel fishery on the island. A number of attempts have been made to explore the viability of a dedicated creel fishery, stretching as far back as 2003, but the moves received a boost last year, when the island received 100t of Nephrops quota as part of the ongoing reallocations of quota between the EU and the UK post-Brexit.

John Henley, skipper of New Dawn PL 1 (left), delivering the first creel- caught prawns of the season to Jay Gore of Robinson’s Fresh Foods. Fishermen are hopeful that the newly available quota, and the designation of static gear-only grounds, will lead to development of a long-term, sustainable fishery. Results of the initial research and fishing trials will be reviewed when the grounds reopen in December 2026. (Photo: David Beard)

David Beard of the Manx FPO, who manages the quota, said: “The first landings from the newly established creel-caught fishery mean the Isle of Man is once again at the forefront of sustainable fisheries management.” Jack Emmerson, sea fisheries manager at DEFA, said: “The new quota is a massive opportunity for the Manx seafood industry.

“The department is committed to ensuring that the new fishery is established with sustainability at its foundation, and we believe that these new measures strike a balance between sustainable local food production, environmental protection and the need for greater research into the role these marine habitats have in mitigating climate change.”

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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