The NGO Blue Marine Foundation is hosting a free online Whelk Symposium on 22 June, from 2-6pm, to share current knowledge and support ongoing work to safeguard the long-term health of UK whelk populations and sustainable fisheries.

Speakers and presenters at the event will include the Seafish-led UK Whelk Management Group, the IFCA Whelk Working Group, the MMO and independent scientists talking about current research, management measures and future management options.

An open forum session will invite views from all attendees, particularly from fishermen in both the inshore and offshore fleet.

Whelks are an important fishery for many ports around the UK, particularly in the Channel, North West and East of England. Growth in foreign markets and increased prices have led to the fishery expanding in recent years. During the decade from 2009 to 2019, landings by over-10m vessels have followed a steady increasing trend, rising from 3,000t to 7,000t during the period, and providing an increasingly important alternative as other fisheries have declined in value.

Despite their growing economic importance and increased fishing effort, as a non-quota species there is a lack of stock data and limited management, and whelk have been identified as vulnerable to overfishing. Consequently, there is common concern amongst fishermen, fisheries managers and conservationists about the fishery’s long-term sustainability.

A report by MRAG commissioned by Blue Marine in 2018 made recommendations to improve data on stock boundaries, prevent expansion of active gear such as trawling, and introduce flexible effort control and regionally appropriate minimum landing sizes.

A recent assessment by New Economics Foundation Consulting Ltd and the Association of IFCAs also found a lack of coherence in terms of inshore and offshore management, and a deficit in terms of management and governance for the offshore component of the fishery.

Across the fishing industry, a number of groups are working on research and improved management for the whelk fishery. Development of Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) is now also a major commitment under the Joint Fisheries Statement, which sets out how the objectives under the Fisheries Act 2020 are to be achieved. Whelk has been identified as one of six frontrunner FMPs being developed, which are due to be published by the end of 2023.

Sam Fanshawe, Blue Marine’s UK projects manager, said: “One of the key principles of Fisheries Management Plans is stakeholder engagement, and we hope by bringing together the various groups, agencies, researchers and fishing representatives, this workshop will complement ongoing work and support transparent and inclusive development of effective measures to safeguard whelk populations and a long-term sustainable fishery.”

You can register for the symposium here.

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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