County Down Fishermen Face Restrictions In Manx Scallop Fishery

Many king scallop trawler owners and fishermen across the three fishing ports of County Down will be waiting on the postman this Friday with a considerable degree of trepidation.

The Isle of Man fisheries department has today written out to the various boat owners explaining whether they qualify for a scallop licence… or not. For some vessels this could mean a make or break position over the next fishing year.

A consultation has been launched and fishermen are now studying  this very closely.

IOM Fisheries Department To Introduce Protection Measures For Scallop Fishery

Measures are being introduced to ensure the sustainability of the Island’s king scallop fishery.

Pictured beside some scallop dredges at Ardglass harbour are Dick James, NIFPO Chief Executive, Simon Wills, boat owner, and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie chatting about changes to the king scallop fishery develop in the IOM fishery which could have a significant impact on the County Down ports.

From the start of the 2016/17 season on 1st November, the number of licences issued by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) to fish for king scallops within the Island’s seas will be reduced.

Eligibility will be determined by vessels’ track record of fishing for king scallops over the last few seasons, with vessels’ size taken into account.

The measure follows a public consultation, conducted by DEFA during the summer.

The consultation attracted 84 responses and showed overwhelming support for the introduction of a reduction in the number of licences issued.

Explaining the need for the measure, Richard Lole, Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: ‘In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of vessels fishing for king scallops in Manx waters and a corresponding increase in the catch.

‘In 2015/16, 4,500 tonnes of king scallops were landed in the Island, worth £4 million at the quayside.

‘At the same time, indications are that stock is under increasing pressure, prompting concerns over the sustainability of this valuable fishery.

‘The new measures will protect those vessels that can demonstrate a historic interest and dependence on the fishery while safeguarding the fishery in the long term.

“At the same time, the first stages of a new inshore marine zoning plan will also be introduced by DEFA.

“This follows a separate public consultation carried out in the spring.

“The area between the shore and three miles out to sea is home to important species. It accommodates many recreational/leisure activities as well commercial fishing, particularly ‘pot’ fisheries for crab and lobster.

“In order to better balance these diverse interests, five new inshore conservation zones will be established around the coastline, where commercial dredge and trawl fishing will be prohibited but potting and recreational fishing can continue.

“Outside the new zones, dredge and trawl fishing can continue within three miles of the shoreline but with additional access restrictions – again based largely on past effort and landings.

“The new zoning proposal has been developed in close liaison with fisheries and conservation interests and reflects the strong local support for a healthy and balanced inshore marine environment.”

The Island’s territorial sea extends for 22 kilometres (or 12 nautical miles) and covers some 4,000 square kilometres in area.

Through its Future Fisheries, Managing our Natural Wealth and Food Matters strategies, DEFA is aiming to ensure that the economically-important fishing industry, and the marine environment that supports it, are protected for the long term.

NIFPO Comments On IOM Proposals To Reduce Number Of Vessels Accessing Queen Scallop Fishery

King scallops… the IOM fishery may soon reduce access to its inshore scallop fishery.

Dick James, Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Association Chief Executive, said: “This reduction in the number of Northern Ireland vessels being allowed to fish within the Isle of Man three mile limit seems to be weighted in favouring the IOM under-15 metre scallop boats at the expense of the bigger NI vessels.

“Most of the IOM fleet are of the smaller trawlers, that is in the under-15 metre class. It looks as though the decision to select particular vessels is much based on their previous track record in fishing in these waters within the three mile limit.

“The IOM fisheries department may yet make specific changes such as reducing the sizes of the bars in the scallop dredges as a technical measure or reducing access to the vessels from a fleet of 78 Northern Ireland vessels to approximately 38.

“Whatever the IOM fisheries does in respect to reducing fishing effort, it will certainly have a huge impact on the County Down fleet, and it is almost impossible for many vessels to diversify in the winter months into other fisheries due to a wide number of reasons. And following these new measures, it could introduce further cuts to fishing opportunities through effort reduction, quotas, technical measures, fishery closures etc.”

Margaret Ritchie MP Pursues Protection For County Down Fishing Ports

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie is concerned at the IOM restrictions to be imposed on local County Down scallop boats.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie is concerned at the IOM restrictions to be imposed on local County Down scallop boats.

SDLP Margaret Ritchie has written to the Isle of Man Government to seek a meeting regarding a consultation issued in relation to the Queenie Scallop Fisheries – which is seeking to restrict the number of licences to be issued.

Ms Ritchie said:, “The Manx Government is seeking to protect its own fishing industry with this move. However, fishermen from the County Down ports have been able to fish in this area for many years, and it is imperative that any move to restrict the access of fishermen in Irish Sea waters is avoided.

I have raised this issue with the Minister for Agriculture, Ms Michelle McIlveen MLA, and have urged her to put pressure on the Isle of Man Government to protect our fishing ports.

“I want to see these local ports developed and enhanced, and I will be actively pursuing this matter at the top level.”

Ardglass Boat owner Comments

As uncertainly hangs over the future of the fishing opportunities for local County Down fishermen regarding access to the IOM queen scallop fishery following the announcement of a consultation to cut the number of vessels fishing there, an Ardglass boat owner said: “We were looking forward to a season of scallop fishing and now we are uncertain where we stand in all of this. If the Manx fisheries department on issues a small number of licenses to County Down fishermen then it could be a very poor winter ahead for the scallop fleet here.

“It all depends on the track record of your boat as to whether or not you will be considered for a licence. There are some boats that just will not be fishing there and that means basically they have no option but to fish for prawns through the winter. There will be winners and losers in this once the consultation is completed.”