A ban on the landing of egg-carrying female lobsters has been announced by government in England to conserve dwindling stocks.
The ban on landing “berried” lobsters and crawfish applies to all British vessels fishing in English waters, even though the practice is not banned in some other devolved regimes or in the Channel Islands
The ban was supported by BLUE and its partners in the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve, where fishermen already return berried lobsters and by three-quarters of the commercial fishermen who responded to a pubic consultation by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Six out of nine Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities already ban the landing of berried lobsters, which is internationally recognised as a prudent conservation measure, but three do not and the practice has been legal beyond the six mile limit.
Scientists concluded in 2011 and 2014 that that lobster stocks were overfished nationally and conservation measures were necessary. A single large female lobster will carry 100,000 eggs, a tiny fraction of which will survive to adulthood.
Commercial fishermen in some areas number up to 60 per cent of berried lobsters in their catch and there has been resistance for decades to a ban or economic reasons.
DEFRA’s assessment of the impact of a ban estimates the value of national annual landings of lobsters at £17.85m and estimates the value of berried lobsters landed at £2.40m which is says “represents a reasonably small
proportion (13%) of these landings.”
Charles Clover, executive director of BLUE, said: “We and the fishermen of Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve are delighted that the authorities in England have recognised the wisdom of these conservation measures which have been in place for some time in Canada and the United States. We look forward to the same measures being adopted in all the devolved administrations.”
In BLUE’s submission to the consultation on behalf of the Lyme Bay reserve, it called for a ban on the retention of berried lobsters on vessels as well as a landing ban and for a raising of the legal landing size from 87mm to 90mm because larger lobsters lay more eggs.