A new conservation measure announced today by  (31/05) gives legal protection to v-notched crawfish in Irish waters.

Approved by Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the  measure received widespread support from industry representatives of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF).

The conservation measure stems from a proposal initiated by fishing interests in the southwest in consultation with the Marine Institute which had sought this legal protection under a project in that region.

Marine minister Michel Creed and members of NIFF agree crawfish conversation measures

At today’s NIFF meeting, the Minister also invited the Forum members and the marine agencies to provide their views on an appropriate lead-in period for the new measure.

“I am pleased to announce the approval of this measure, which has the potential to support the recovery of the crawfish stock in its traditional fishery areas along the southwest and west coasts.

“The Inshore Fisheries Forums, now five years old, continue to embrace the challenge of developing measures to support the sector on the path to long-term sustainability. I have asked my officials to draft the appropriate legal instrument to implement this measure.”

Background

The proposal was developed by the North West Kerry Shellfish Co-operative in collaboration with the Marine Institute, following a two-year scientific project in the southwest.

Funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Biodiversity Scheme, the project gathers biological data on crawfish and investigates crawfish migration.

The proposal was submitted to the South West Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum, which brought it forward to the NIFF for wider industry discussion. The NIFF recommended the proposal to the Minister in January.

Also discussed at the NIFF meeting was implementation of the Inshore Fisheries Sector Strategy along with proposals for the mackerel hook-and-line fishery and management of the landing of crab claws.

Legal enforcement

When introduced, the legal instrument will prohibit Irish sea-fishing boats from landing or retaining on board v-notched crawfish. Such crawfish will need to be returned alive to the sea. It will also prohibit v-notched crawfish from being offered for sale.

A crawfish is ‘v-notched’ by removing a v-shaped notch from one of the flaps (known as uropods) either side of the central part of the tail (telson) when it is first caught.

In 1989 over 200 tonnes of crawfish were landed; however landings have declined since then to around 20-30 tonnes per annum.

Other regulations in place for crawfish fishing include:

SI No. 232 of 2006 (Crawfish (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2006) which provides a minimum landing size of 110mm for crawfish;
SI No. 233 of 2006 (Crawfish (Fisheries Management and Conservation) Regulations 2006) which banned the fishing of crawfish with nets in two specified areas off the Kerry and Galway coasts.

A similar provision is in place to protect v-notched lobster under S.I. No. 591 of 2014 (Lobster (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2014) and has proved a popular and effective stock management tool.