In support of wider moves across the UK to develop management plans for crab and lobster, fisheries NGO Blue Marine is hosting a one-day online symposium on 16 November, bringing together fishermen, fisheries managers and scientists from across the UK to help develop ideas that will strengthen sustainable management of the stocks.

Crab and lobster are among the most valuable fisheries in the UK. The value of UK crab landings increased by 78% from £39.8m to £71m, and landings of lobster increased by 43% from £32.2m to £46.3m, whilst crab in particular has a significant export market, particularly to Asia and the EU. They are also popular with UK consumers, but there is limited management to protect stocks from overfishing.

The rise in value has resulted in an increase in fishing effort for crab and lobster around the UK, leading to concerns about the long-term sustainability of some fisheries. This was the spur in 2020 for the formation of the Crab and Lobster Management Group, led by Seafish.

South coast potter Dan Langford has seen catch rates plummet in the last two years, as well as witnessing a die- off of crabs that has yet to be explained. (Photo: Geoffrey Lee)

This brings together fishermen’s organisations, active fishermen, producer organisations, government and scientists to improve the operational management of crab and lobster fisheries to ensure their long-term sustainability.

As part of the government’s responsibilities under the UK Fisheries Act 2020, Fisheries Management Plans are to be developed for over 40 fisheries. The Crab and Lobster Fisheries Management Plan will be one of the first to be developed, and is due by the end of 2023.

Establishing sustainable management for a viable fishery is not the only concern, with some inshore regions experiencing dramatic declines in the availability of stock, and increased mortality caused by various factors. Disease, chemical pollution, water quality, sedimentation and climate change are all adding to the pressures.

Blue Marine Foundation is working with inshore fishermen in a number of locations including Jersey, Sussex and Berwickshire to study different aspects of the crab and lobster fishery, including the impact of sediment (Fishing News, 27 October, ‘Growing concern about Sussex sedimentation’).

Sam Fanshawe, Blue Marine’s UK projects manager, said: “The mass mortalities seen off the North East coast have focused attention on some of these issues, but around the coast, there are similar albeit less visually dramatic signs that stocks may have reached a tipping point.”

Dan Langford, a third-generation lobster fisherman operating the Rapid Return LI 77 from Selsey in Sussex, told BBC ‘South Today’ recently: “About three years ago, you could average 120 to130 lobsters a day. This summer we’re averaging 40 or 50 a day. If there’s nothing to catch out there, then there isn’t a fishery and there isn’t a future.”

From 10am to 6pm this Wednesday (16 November), Blue Marine’s online Crab and Lobster Symposium will bring together over 25 speakers to share information on current research, fishery status, current management measures and future management options.

“This is not aimed at replacing or competing with the formal development of the Crab and Lobster FMP, which is being led by Seafish,” said Sam Fanshawe. “Rather, with input from Seafish as well as a range of managers, scientists and fishermen, this is aimed at helping to develop inputs that will feed into the FMP.

“Blue Marine fully understands the ‘consultation fatigue’ that can set in for working fishermen, who not only have a demanding full-time job, but are also seeing multiple consultations going on now at both local and national level, that seem to be never-ending.

“We hope, though, that even if they are not able to listen in to the whole-day event, fishermen will be able to participate in the final discussion. We have persuaded Fishing News to chair this discussion, and very much hope to enable the views of the catching and processing sectors to feed in to the audience of scientists and managers who will be present.

“A full agenda and registration details are available here – and if you can’t attend but want to raise a point or a question, you can submit a message on the registration page. We very much look forward to hearing from you.”

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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