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Public Consultation on a proposal to increase the minimum cod-end mesh for Irish vessels targeting Nephrops

Introduction


Following constructive meetings with fishing industry representatives, BIM were requested to conduct trials on the effects of increasing the minimum cod-end mesh size from 70mm to 80mm for Irish vessels targeting Nephrops. The BIM trials returned very positive results both in terms of increased profitability and sustainability for Nephrops stocks. A public consultation has been initiated on the following proposal so that the Minister may take a full account of all stakeholders’ views.

Proposal

A minimum cod-end mesh size of 80mm shall apply to all Irish Nephrops and Whitefish fisheries using demersal trawls, Danish seines or similar towed gear. The measure shall apply to all gear types (single, twin and quad). In order to remove any ambiguity around the targeting of different species with 70mm cod ends and to assist in enforcement it is recommended that the minimum mesh size be applied to all demersal gears (Nephrops and Whitefish).


Background

As part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, from 1 January 2016 to 1 January 2019 at the latest all fishing vessels will need to comply with the requirement to land all catches of demersal quota stocks (subject to any agreed exemptions). The Landing Obligation (LO) will come into force for Nephrops fisheries in all Irish Waters from 1 January 2016. Nephrops are the most important demersal stock for Ireland.

An increase in fishing opportunities for Nephrops is likely to occur to take into account the additional number landed that previously would have been discarded. It is anticipated that quota uplifts will be applied to Nephrops to account for this, which may lead to both economic and conservation gains if unwanted catches can be minimised. An increase in the minimum cod-end mesh size is considered to be the simplest and most practical means of maximising the opportunities to catch larger Nephrops, increasing the total value of Nephrops landings and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the stock.

The Discards Implementation Group (DIG) recommended that BIM undertake trials to reduce the catches of small Nephrops in the Nephrops fisheries. The DIG sub – group (involving industry representatives, The Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) recommended that trials be undertaken to establish the benefit of increasing the minimum mesh size from 70mm to 80mm.

The full report of the trials can be downloaded at http://www.bim.ie/our-publications/fisheries/.
From a sustainability perspective, the BIM report showed significant reductions in the catches of small Nephrops. The report also showed that, in terms of profitability, an increase in the minimum cod-end mesh also has significant benefits and would likely increase the total annual value of Irish Nephrops landings by between €1.53m and €3.14m.

It is intended that the proposal will be given effect in a Statutory Instrument which will make it an offence under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 for a vessel to utilise a demersal gear with a cod-end mesh size of less than 80mm.

It is intended that the new mesh size provision will commence on 1 March 2016.

Submissions

Interested parties may submit comments in writing to FisheriesConsultation@agriculture.gov.ie by
5pm on Friday 15 January 2016.

Or by Post to


Jamie Walsh
Sea Fisheries Policy and Management Division
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
National Seafood Centre
Clonakilty
Co. Cork