Minister of State with responsibility for Fisheries at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. John Browne, T.D., launched a consultation document proposing changes in the way in which access to the Irish Lobster Fishery is managed today, the 28th April 2008 at the Harbour View Hotel, Rosslare, Co. Wexford.
The consultation document entitled Managing Access to the Irish Lobster Fishery has been prepared by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, through its work with the Lobster Species Advisory Group and in consultation with the Seafood Strategy Implementation Group (SSIG). It details proposed policy changes that will manage access to the lobster fishery on a regional basis and form the foundations of a management regime that will encourage and reward a sustainable approach.
‘I am delighted to be here in Rosslare to launch this important consultation document on the management of Ireland’s Lobster Industry. The industry is of vital importance to local communities and we need to ensure it is protected for the future. This report compiled by BIM identifies the challenges we currently face and outlines the practical solutions available to ensure the industry is managed more effectively for all concerned’, said Minister Browne.
Since the introduction of lobster V-notching in the mid-nineties, there has been a growing appreciation amongst inshore fishermen of the need for conservation. However despite the efforts of many local v-notching groups, the catch rate for lobster continues to decline in many areas, mostly due to an increase in effort. This pattern can be seen around the coast and it has been fully detailed by BIM in a recent Resource Analysis that formed the basis for this report. Some of the findings demonstrate the dramatic decline over the years. For example, in the south east, catch rates are well below the level they were at in the 1960s and 1970s.
Recognising this problem the Lobster Species Advisory Group has asked for changes to be introduced that would provide better access arrangements to lobster fisheries and provide some measure of protection to local fishing communities that rely on these stocks. Therefore, in order to manage the industry effectively, it is proposed that, in the future, a specific authorisation will be required to fish for lobster. A number of conditions will apply to this authorisation including geographic limits. It is proposed that the Irish coast will be divided into 8 lobster management units. A holder of an authorisation will be entitled to fish in two adjacent sub areas of their choice.
Using this system, access can be managed more appropriately creating a climate where fishermen can commit to better management of their fishery. Noting that this was an important consultation document Minister Browne went on to say ‘Following the 12 week consultation period I intend to quickly examine the views given with the intention of introducing a new policy as early as possible thereafter’
Speaking at the launch of the report, Jason Whooley, Chief Executive Officer, BIM was hopeful for the future: ‘It is broadly accepted that changes are needed to protect the lobster industry and to ensure we have a viable and sustainable product for the future. This report provides the blueprint for a successful management regime that will clearly define boundaries in order to manage stocks and in doing provide for a more secure Irish Lobster Industry’
In summary, Managing Access for the Irish Lobster Industry proposes that:
Access to lobster fisheries should be managed regionally.
Vessels which fish for lobster will need an authorisation to do so.
Authorisations can, effectively, be transferred with capacity within a management unit but not to other units.
New entrants to the lobster fishery will be managed on the basis of priority rules.
Authorised vessels must record and report their fishing activity.
BIM will hold further meetings for all licence holders on the proposed changes in 2008. If you wish to express your views on the proposed changes, you can download a copy of the report Managing Access to the Irish Lobster Fishery.