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Publication - Consultation Paper

Consultation on New Controls in the Queen Scallop Fishery in ICES Divisions VIa and VIIa

Published: 11 Oct 2016
Part of:
Marine and fisheries
ISBN:
9781786525277

Seeking views on introducing new management measures in the Queen Scallop fishery in ICES divisions VIa and VIIa.

9 page PDF

350.4kB

9 page PDF

350.4kB

Contents
Consultation on New Controls in the Queen Scallop Fishery in ICES Divisions VIa and VIIa
9. PART 1 - Management Measures Advocated by the Working Group

9 page PDF

350.4kB

9. PART 1 - Management Measures Advocated by the Working Group

9.1 Proposal 1 - Increasing the Minimum Conservation Reference Size [8] ( MCRS) of Queen Scallops

The current EU MCRS for queen scallop is 40 mm and it applies in all UK waters, although in Isle of Man territorial sea the MCRS is 55 mm.

MCRS is a commonly used fishery management tool that helps ensure that a proportion of animals are reproductively mature and have spawned before being harvested. This helps ensure that recruitment of juveniles is maintained and that the population remains healthy.

For queen scallops, scientific information indicates that size at maturity is between 22-45 mm and varies according to area, due to different growth rates [9] . Therefore, with a MCRS of 40 mm it is likely that the majority of animals caught have matured, but it may not ensure that most animals have spawned at least once in all areas. Additionally, it has been shown that smaller scallops, e.g. those in their first spawning years, have a lower reproductive output which may be of lower quality. Larger animals produce more larvae of better quality, and have had more opportunity to spawn (multiple years), so protecting scallops until they are larger is likely to be beneficial to the recruitment process.

The potential benefits to recruitment of increasing MCRS need to be considered in relation to the potential effect on fishermen's income, both short and longer term.

Surveys of queen scallop populations over 6 years (2008-2014) by Bangor University, using commercial fishing gear within the Manx territorial sea, indicates that 97% of the queen scallops sampled are greater than 40 mm, while 91.5% are greater than 50 mm, 81% are greater than 54 mm and 65% are greater than 59 mm [10] . Therefore, in simple terms, and without consideration of relative catchability of different sized scallops, or size variability between areas, the potential reduction in number of scallops landed could be as follows:

  • No change to MCRS = no change to landings
  • Increase to 50 mm = landings quantity decrease of 5.5% ( i.e. 97-91.5%)
  • Increase to 55 mm = landings quantity decrease of 16% ( i.e. 97-81%)
  • Increase to 60 mm = landings quantity decrease of 32% ( i.e. 97-65%)

It should also be noted that price paid for catch varies with size, and so the percentage decrease in landings quantity does not equate to an equivalent reduction in value.

There are some additional points to note in relation to this proposal;

  • Historically, relatively few queen scallops less than 50 mm were landed since processing them by hand was uneconomic. However, developments in technology has made processing smaller scallops possible. Fishing vessels are also thought to have landed greater numbers of smaller scallops in order to maintain income.
  • Because prices paid to fishermen vary with scallop meat yield, the potential reduction in income by increasing MCRS should be temporary, as the same animal caught later would realise a higher value.
  • Potential costs associated with increasing the size selectivity of fishing gear for larger scallops: although this factor will vary between individual vessels and may not be significant.

Question 1 - Do you support increasing the MCRS of queen scallops in ICES divisions VIa and VIIa?

a) YES
b) NO

Question 2 - If YES, what size should the MCRS be increased to?

a) 50 mm
b) 55 mm
c) 60 mm

Question 3 - What impacts would increasing the MCRS of queen scallops have on your business? What would the likely costs be?

9.2 Proposal 2 - Introduction of a Closed Season for Queen Scallops

At present queen scallops may be fished throughout the year in UK waters. There is a statutory seasonal closure for fishing queen scallops in Isle of Man waters between the 1 st April and 31 st May.

The purpose of a closed season is to protect scallops during the main spawning season and to allow animals to spawn before they are caught. Many marine animals broadly synchronise spawning to the period when water temperatures are increasing and food availability is high, thereby maximising the chances of larval survival. Scientific evidence indicates that queen scallops typically spawn in the spring (March - May), although secondary spawnings can occur later in the year (Autumn), and also periodically throughout the summer [11],[12] . The spring spawning is considered to be the most significant for settlement of juveniles 11, although in some years the later spawnings may be important.

The extended spawning pattern is also commercially important because a valuable part of the queen scallop product is the mature reproductive organs, or roe, and so the presence of this component, to at least some extent throughout the year, means that any closure over the main spawning period should not excessively affect the economic value of the industry. Nevertheless, the timing of any closure needs to be considered as a balance between maximising reproductive output and maintaining the meat and roe-on product availability.

9.2.1 Timing of Seasonal closures (economic considerations)

The following processing data have been provided for queen scallops caught primarily in division VIIa, with some catch from division VIa. The trends are considered to be similar in both areas.

Table 1 provides a description of typical monthly variation in observed roe and meat condition, reflecting spawning and other condition cycles in the scallops. Of note are the low yields (the proportion of useable product weight to overall weight of the scallop) of roe following spawning in April and May, and the relatively poor condition of the meat in the early part of the year due to low feed levels.

By contrast, following feeding and recovery over summer there are good yields of meat and roe from July onwards. Finally, although an October spawning is typically recorded, effectively reducing yield, the meat quality is high at the end of the summer, and so overall yield remains good.

Month Comments
January Roe starts to develop
February Good roe and reasonable yields.
March As above.
April Heavy spawning occurs producing very low yields of both roe and meat.
May As above.
June As above. Meat starts to recover to be good by end of June.
July Full meat, good roe, producing maximum yields of both.
August As above
September As above
October Spawning occurs. Good yields for meat only.
November As above.
December As above.

Figure 6 Qualitative assessment of variation in monthly yield, roe and meat condition for queen scallops landed for processing from Area VIIa (2010-2015).

Figure 6 shows the relative monthly trend in average yield over a 6-year period (2010-2015), which is again lower between January and June compared with July to December. Low yields are particularly marked between April and May, making machine processing for meat-only production unviable, although hand processing of specific catches may still provide reasonable yield from reduced quantities of high-quality scallops. Selective harvest from certain areas ( e.g. deeper or hydrographically different) may allow maintenance of roe-on yield from reduced landings.

Figure 7 Variation in average monthly yield (roe-on and meat only) from queen scallops landed for processing from Area VIIa (2010-2015). Includes both dredge and trawl caught queen scallop. Note: values are for yield only, and do not indicate relative quantity.

Figure 7 Variation in average monthly yield (roe-on and meat only) from queen scallops landed for processing from Area VIIa (2010-2015). Includes both dredge and trawl caught queen scallop. Note: values are for yield only, and do not indicate relative quantity.

Therefore, from both economic and biological perspectives, the most appropriate period for an annual fishery closure for Irish Sea queen scallops would be from April-May or April-June, depending on the desired duration.

While there is some regional and annual variation in spawning timing, a practical approach would be to define a general period of closure coinciding with the typical spring spawning period.

There was a clear preference from the working group for any seasonal closure to be introduced, at least initially, on a voluntary basis with some flexibility as to when the closure would be brought into effect, depending on biological and economic considerations. This was primarily due to the difficulties in predicting the possible impacts of such a closure. It was also considered desirable that if a closure were introduced, then the timing would again, initially, be reviewed annually with respect to biological and economic considerations.

A voluntary closure was thought necessary in order to fully understand the potential impacts on businesses and other stocks ( e.g. fishers may move to targeting other species) before proceeding on a more formal basis.

Question 4 - Do you support an annual spawning closure for queen scallops in ICES divisions VIa and VIIa?

a) YES
b) NO

Question 5 - If YES, which of the following closure options is preferred? Note: all of the following have a valid scientific basis, but differ primarily in their extended biological (positive effect) and economic effects (negative effect) (option b), or complexity of implementation (option c).

a) One annual closure between 1st April and 31st May ( i.e. same as statutory Isle of Man Closure).
b) One annual closure between 1st April and 30th June.
c) One annual flexible closure between March and June, with specific timing determined by the fisheries management agencies, in consultation with industry representatives, and with reference to biological and commercial considerations.

Question 6 - Should fishery closures be implemented on a voluntary or compulsory basis (statute or licence condition)?

a) Voluntary
b) Compulsory

9.3 Proposal 3 - Entry Restrictions for the Queen Scallop Fishery

The UK queen scallop fishery is an open access one, meaning that it is open to any vessel with a commercial fishing licence. In contrast there are limits on which vessels can fish for queen scallops within the Isle of Man territorial sea. In 2015, the Isle of Man Government limited access to the queen scallop fishery to those vessels with a track record of fishing activity. This resulted in a reduction of fishing entitlements for queen scallops from approximately 130 licenced vessels to 48. [13]

As indicated in Figure 4, 47 UK vessels landed queen scallops in 2015, but over the previous decade, in any one year, as few as 13 and as many as 84 reported landings from around the UK. An additional 26 vessels (as at 2015) from the Isle of Man typically fish for queen scallops.

Limiting the total number of active fishing vessels is an important fishery management option as annual changes in stock levels, due to fishing or natural factors, can result in significant annual variability in fishing effort. This makes long-term sustainable management and maintaining stock levels within safe biological limits very difficult to achieve.

Although during the working group process representatives of the queen scallop industry strongly supported entry restrictions, no agreement on the specific basis for restricting entry was reached. Various options are presented below to seek information and views.

Restrictions on prosecuting fisheries are already applied through the licensing system on other key UK shellfish species (scallop entitlement, the Scottish razor permit, shellfish entitlement) which limit the number of vessels able to prosecute these species. New licence conditions or a new entitlement could be added to licences to restrict the number of vessels permitted to land queen scallops.

Question 7 - Do you support the introduction of entry restrictions to the UK queen scallop fishery?

a) YES
b) NO

During the working group process there was also support for greater data collection by industry members as a condition of receiving a queen scallop entitlement. This data could include a greater level of detail of area fished / fishing effort and could help to inform longer-term management.

Question 8 - Do you support the introduction of additional data collection as a condition of receiving a queen scallop entitlement?

a) YES
b) NO

9.3.1 Entry Restriction Options - Qualifying Period

A number of criteria have been used to restrict entry into fisheries. These are intended to differentiate between consistent and irregular activity and, by inference, the importance of the fishery to the entitlement holder.

Available data indicate that 140 vessels recorded fishing activity for queen scallops in areas VIa and VIIa between 2010 and 2015 (source: MMO). Figure 4 shows the number of vessels participating in the fishery since 2006, indicating that any reference period including 2013 (the peak of vessel numbers) would probably tend to maintain current effort levels if track record was the only criterion.

When applying fishing track record to differentiate between eligible and non-eligible vessels generally a period of 3 years is used, the specific choice determining whether the number of vessels participating remains at current levels, or is actually reduced.

Question 9 - What is the preferred 3-year reference period for determining eligibility for the fishery in future? (see Figure 4)

a) 2013-2015 - would tend to maintain current vessel numbers
b) 2012-2014 - would tend to maintain current vessel numbers
c) 2011-2013 - would tend to maintain current vessel numbers
d) 2010-2012 - would tend to reduce current vessel numbers

9.3.2 Options for Entry Requirements

In addition to a reference period, specific activity criteria could be used singly or in combination; these may take the form of a specified landings quantity, a specific number of landings or the number of days spent fishing.

Option 1 - Use of 'reported landings quantity' within the 3-year reference period to differentiate between eligible and non-eligible vessels.

This would be similar to current UK shellfish entitlements, with the ability to prosecute the fishery being limited to those with recorded landings of the species.

Question 10 - What is the preferred reference point for 'reported landings quantity' during the 3-year reference period?

a) Up to one tonne landed during the 3 years would qualify.
b) Minimum of one tonne landed during the 3 years would qualify.
c) Minimum of 5 tonnes landed during the 3 years would qualify.
d) Minimum of 10 tonnes landed during the 3 years would qualify.
e) NONE - prefer use of Option 2 or 3.

Option 2 - Use of queen scallop 'landings frequency' within the 3-year reference period to differentiate between eligible and non-eligible vessels.

The importance of queen scallop as a target species varies between boats, with some fishing year round, whereas others only when the opportunity arises. Minimising the impact of restrictions on those who most depend on queen scallops could be achieved by using the number of landings of queen scallops as an indication of targeted activity, and therefore future eligibility. Similarly, small fishing boats may land frequently, but only small amounts, therefore activity, rather than amount, may be fairer for smaller-capacity boats.

Question 11 - What is the preferred reference point for 'landing frequency' during the 3-year reference period?

a) Any recorded landing during the 3 years would qualify.
b) Between 10 and 20 landings over the 3-year period would qualify.
c) Between 20 and 30 landings over the 3-year period would qualify.
d) Between 30 and 50 landings over the 3-year period would qualify.
e) More than 50 landings over the 3-year period required to qualify.
f) NONE - prefer use of Option 1 or 3.

Option 3 - Use of 'number of days at sea' of fishing activity within the 3-year reference period to differentiate between eligible and non-eligible vessels.

The number of days spent fishing for queen scallops over the reference period may provide another alternative criteria. This would also be indicative of the relative importance of the species to an individual vessel's normal fishing activity. This was the criteria used to control entry into the Isle of Man queen scallop fishery.

Question 12 - What is the preferred reference point for 'number of days at sea' of targeted fishing activity during the 3-year reference?

a) Any recorded days at sea during the 3 years would qualify.
b) Between 10 and 20 days at sea during the 3 years would qualify.
c) Between 20 and 30 days at sea during the 3 years would qualify.
d) Between 30 and 50 days at sea during the 3 years would qualify.
e) More than 50 days at sea during the 3 years would qualify.
f) NONE - prefer use of Option 1 or 2.

10. PART 2 - Additional Management Options for Consideration in the Medium to Long Term

The options outlined below were not agreed by the working group for immediate introduction to the queen scallop fishery in divisions VIa and VIIa. However, to inform future fishery management considerations, Fisheries Administrations wish to gather views from stakeholders on the potential use of alternative control methods.

10.1 Proposal 4 - Effort Restrictions

A sustainable fishery is one in which the amount of surplus 'fish' available to catch is matched by the amount of fishing activity, or effort. Where fishing effort is too high, stocks decline accordingly, reducing future fishing opportunity. When this occurs consistently there may be frequent 'boom and bust' fisheries, which is undesirable for the stability of fishing industry income and seafood markets.

There are indications that effort in the queen scallop fishery is too high, and in future this should be capped (see Proposal 3 for the start of this process), and ultimately reduced equitably across the remaining fleet.

There are currently no effort restrictions applicable to the UK queen scallop fleet, except to vessels over 15 m through the western waters effort regime, although these are also considered to be ineffective in relation to the queen scallop fishery. The working group recognised that any effort management regime should apply equitably to all classes of fishing vessel, from under 10 m to over 15 m vessels.

It should also be noted that there is an important interaction between entry restrictions and effort restrictions. For example; with a finite amount of fish to catch, more fishing vessels mean less available for each individual, or a highly competitive fishery, which may have undesirable consequences. Therefore, low entry requirements may result in stricter effort controls, and vice versa. It is important to note that any new effort restrictions would be introduced in addition to entry restrictions

There are a several options for restricting effort in future and we are seeking views on these. Further relevant information on this proposal can be found in the 2015 Isle of Man queen scallop consultation [14] .

Question 13 - Do you agree that effort controls should be introduced in the queen scallop fishery?

a) YES
b) NO

Question 14 - If yes, which of the following is preferred for development as a future effort management option in the queen scallop fishery?

a) Days at Sea scheme.
b) Temporal fishing restriction, e.g. no weekend fishing, no night fishing.

10.2 Proposal 5 - Introduction of Quotas for the Queen Scallop Fishery

A fishing quota limits the amount that may be taken from the fishery, and may be applied to the whole fishery on an annual, or other time period, basis. It may apply to the whole fishery or be divided between the eligible fishermen, as individual quotas.

Quota systems have proven successful in increasing and conserving some stocks, and individual quotas in particular can develop more economic stability and encourage better management and stewardship, since well managed fisheries often result in an increasing quota over time, benefitting individual fisherman. [15],[16]

Determination of an appropriate quota requires stock assessment, however such an assessment has not been conducted over the whole fishery area, and although moves towards this have begun, it will take several years to develop any such assessment. However, in principle, progress towards a quota system can be started, based on current harvest rates, and adjusted over time as more comprehensive information becomes available.

Question 15 - Do you support the principle of developing a long-term quota system for the queen scallop fishery?

a) YES
b) NO

10.3 Proposal 6 - Introduction of Closed Areas for the Queen Scallop Fishery

Closed areas are used in the marine environment for many purposes, ranging from conservation of species and habitats to successfully supporting fisheries production, including scallop fisheries. [17]

In relation to boosting scallop populations they may:

  • Protect high densities of adults for increasing reproduction and recruitment,
  • Protect high densities of a juvenile year-class until they have reached MLS,
  • Protect habitats where juveniles can settle for subsequent fishing once they have grown.

Closed areas may be temporary or permanent, depending on their purpose.

Question 16 - Do you support the principle of developing spatial management options (closed areas) for the queen scallop fishery?

a) YES
b) NO

10.4 Proposal 7 - Introduction of Gear Specific Management in the Queen Scallop Fishery.

As previously indicated there are two methods for catching queen scallops; dredge and otter trawl.

Trawl fishing is based on the principle that queen scallops swim in response to approaching gear. This behaviour is observed at temperatures above 12°C [18] , which means that the trawl fishery is effectively limited to the 6 month period between approximately June and November. By contrast, dredge fishing can capture scallops all year round.

In the Isle of Man territorial sea otter trawl is the predominant fishing method with approximately 85% of landings. There is some trawling in UK waters around the north coast of Northern Ireland, and occasionally off the Scottish west coast, but the bulk of the landings are taken by dredge fishing.

Specific regulations are in place for both fishing types around the Isle of Man, but the introduction of management controls for UK waters could consider the separation of the two sectors at the initial stage and develop equivalent, but gear-specific, arrangements where appropriate.

Question 17 - Do you support the principle of developing equivalent, gear-specific management options for the queen scallop fishery?

a) YES
b) NO


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