North Sea RAC Nephrops Work Recognised by Commission

8th October 2012 in Advisory Councils, North Sea, Shellfish

Progress by the North Sea RAC in developing a long term management plan for the nephrops fishery in the North Sea has been recognised by the Commission’s Director General in a letter to the RAC.

A draft plan has been prepared in dialogue with ICES scientists and discussed with fishermen in port meetings in the main North Sea landings ports for prawns: North Shields/Whitley Bay, Fraserburgh, Pittenweem and Eyemouth; and the draft advice has been refined to take account of the comments made by those involved in the fishery.

The aim of the long term management plan is to move away from knee-jerk annual decisions and to take account of and balance biological, economic and environmental factors in maintaining a sustainable and profitable fishery.

Two of the most taxing issues still being addressed by the working group charged with developing the Plan are how to address mixed fisheries issues; and how to take into account scientific advice that management of the nephrops fishery should be based on functional units rather than the whole North Sea.

The RAC is working closely with ICES scientists on the important question of how mixed fishery aspects of demersal fisheries should be handled. The best way to provide additional protection for vulnerable function units, without putting the industry into a ridged straitjacket, has been the subject of intense discussions and study for the RAC undertaken by Newcastle University.

An “of which” quota for the Farne Deeps (the functional unit that has been exhibiting signs of over-exploitation) seems to provide the most broadly acceptable approach but further details of how such an approach could be effective in practice are still under consideration.

The NSRAC work on a LTMP for nephrops is important in its own right but it may also be equally important as a template for the development of other bottom-up multi-annual management plans and a future regional approach to fisheries management under the CFP.