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Consultation on new Management Measures on Crab and Lobster Landings into Orkney

A consultation on management proposals for lobster, velvet crab and green crab landed into Orkney. The management measures were developed by Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd, which is part of the Inshore Fisheries Group network.


Consultation Document

Background on fisheries management in Orkney

The management proposals contained in this document were developed by Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd ( OSF) which is part of the Inshore Fisheries Group network.

Inshore Fisheries Groups ( IFGs) are non-statutory bodies that have been established around the Scottish coast, whose purpose is to help improve the management of Scotland's inshore fisheries out to six nautical miles. They aim to put commercial fishermen, assisted by government agencies and others with an interest in the marine environment, at the heart of developing initiatives for sustainable and profitable fisheries.

Orkney already has well-developed management of its fisheries, and OSF has been recognised by Marine Scotland as the IFG equivalent for the area. OSF was established as a Company Limited by Guarantee in 2006 with the aim of running the Orkney Lobster Hatchery and taking forward various other initiatives relating to the sustainability of the local shellfisheries. OSF has representatives from all local fisheries sectors as members and directors, with directors being recruited through an open and widely-advertised process.

After reaching consensus among its membership and the wider Orkney inshore fishing community, OSF has asked Marine Scotland to legislate to help secure the long-term sustainability of Orkney's shellfish fisheries by increasing the minimum landing size for velvet crab and lobster, introducing a minimum landing size for green crab, and prohibiting the landing of berried velvet crab caught in the six nautical miles around Orkney.

Background on fisheries in Orkney

Shellfish is by far the largest sector of Orkney's fishing industry, accounting for over 99 per cent of the area's total catch in 2013, with a value of almost £7.3 million. [1]

While whitefish vessels once made up the backbone of the local fleet - over a dozen large trawlers targeted that fishery at its peak in the 1980s - only a few such vessels now remain. The fleet now consists mainly of a hundred or so under 10 metre vessels fishing for crab and lobster, along with a dozen boats dredging or diving for scallops.

Shellfish landings into Orkney makes up a sizeable portion of the national catch, responsible on average for six per cent of total shellfish landed into Scotland each year. This includes 30 per cent of velvet crab, 21 per cent of brown crab and 12 per cent of lobster landed into Scotland each year.

Fishing is a significant employer in Orkney: 2.5 per cent of the working age population are fishermen, as compared to 0.2 per cent for the total Scottish workforce. Two cooperatively-owned crab processors also provide onshore employment for over 120 staff, and purchase some £5.5 million of local shellfish each year to process for sale to UK and export markets. [2]

The species involved in this consultation are some of the most profitable landed into Orkney. In 2013 they accounted for a third of all landings by value:

  • Velvet crab (landings worth £1.3 million)
  • Lobster (landings worth £1.1 million)
  • Green crab (landings worth £87,000)

The following page shows both the tonnage and value of these species landed into Orkney from 2008 to 2013.

Quantity (tonnes) of velvet crab, lobster and green crab landed into Orkney, 2008 to 2013.

Quantity (tonnes) of velvet crab, lobster and green crab landed into Orkney, 2008 to 2013.

Value (£'000) of velvet crab, lobster and green crab landed into Orkney, 2008 to 2013.

Value (£'000) of velvet crab, lobster and green crab landed into Orkney, 2008 to 2013.

These species are managed under a broadly similar framework in Scotland:

  • They are not subject to quota control under the EU Total Allowable Catch system
  • Vessels fishing commercially for these species must have a shellfish entitlement associated with their licence

Landings of velvet crab and lobster into Orkney must currently comply with an EU-set minimum landing size, and landings of female lobster must comply with a Scotland-specific maximum landing size.

State of the stocks in Orkney region

Marine Scotland Science assesses Scotland's fish stocks using F MSY. F MSY is the fishing mortality consistent with the largest average yield that can continuously be taken from a stock under prevailing environmental conditions.

F MSY can be difficult to estimate, and proxies to it are often used. As it is not possible to directly estimate the maximum sustainable yield ( MSY ) for velvet crab and lobster, F MAX (the fishing mortality rate that maximizes yield per recruit) is used as a proxy to F MSY for these stocks.

When a stock is fished above F MSY, the scientific advice is that a higher yield and biomass in the long term could potentially be obtained from the stock by introducing measures to reduce the level of fishing mortality (effort).

Velvet Crab

The latest stock assessment from Marine Scotland Science shows that both male and female velvet crab continue to be fished above the F MSY proxy.

Velvet crab stock status for Orkney, 2002-2005, 2006-2008 and 2009-2012. [3]

Velvet crab stock status for Orkney, 2002-2005, 2006-2008 and 2009-2012 table

Lobster

The latest stock assessment from Marine Scotland Science shows that male lobster continues to be fished above the F MSY proxy. Female lobster is now fished at F MSY, while in previous assessments it [3] was fished below F MSY.

Lobster stock status for Orkney, 2002-2005, 2006-2008 and 2009-2012. [4]

Lobster stock status for Orkney, 2002-2005, 2006-2008 and 2009-201 table

Green Crab

Marine Scotland Science does not currently perform an assessment of the green crab stocks in Scotland.

Benefits of MLS

The aim of introducing a minimum landing size for a species is to prevent the landing of juvenile individuals, allowing them the opportunity to grow and reproduce before being harvested. For species that already have a MLS, an increase allows more individuals the opportunity to reproduce before capture, potentially decreasing fishing mortality and increasing long term yield and biomass.

A 2009 study on the effectiveness of management measures adopted by the English Sea Fisheries Committees (the bodies responsible for regional inshore management in England prior to the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities) supported the adoption of regionally specific MLS provisions for shellfish. It stated that:

"In all cases regionally specific MLS byelaws have served the purpose for which they were designed and can be considered best practice for shellfisheries management." [5]

Staggering the increase in MLS for lobster

OSF has proposed that the MLS increase for lobster be staggered over a three year period. This would see an immediate increase from 87 mm to 88 mm, followed by further increases to 89 mm and then 90 mm over the subsequent two years. This would give fishermen the opportunity to adjust over the course of three years to the 90 mm limit.

A study of the benefits of various lobster management measures found that within two years of an increase in MLS to 90 mm those newly undersized lobsters could be harvested. [6]

Prohibiting the landing of berried velvet crab

In addition to a MLS increase for velvet crab, OSF proposes that there also be a prohibition on the landing of berried (egg-carrying) females of the species that have been caught in the six nautical miles around Orkney.

A review of management measures for Welsh crustacean fisheries explains that the purpose of this measure is to "provide temporary protection to reproductive individuals from the fishery and thus improve recruitment to that stock by increasing egg production." [7] Introducing this measure along with a MLS increase could therefore potentially see an increase in both the egg production and yield per recruit in the velvet crab fishery.

Carriage Restrictions

The new MLS measures outlined above would apply only to those vessels landing into the Orkney area. In order to improve compliance it may also be appropriate to introduce restrictions on the carriage of non-compliant shellfish to accompany these new measures.

We therefore seek views on the possibility of introducing new restrictions which could make it illegal to retain on-board animals that are not compliant with these new MLS measures in the six nautical miles around Orkney.

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