Our projects

Safeguarding at-risk fisheries

The future of some low-impact inshore fisheries is under threat.  Non-quota stocks lack data, there is often little or no management of the larger offshore fleet targeting these fisheries, leading to uncontrolled over-fishing.  

Inshore small-scale fisheries are an important part of our heritage, coastal economies, and when well-managed, can provide a local and sustainable source of seafood.

The under 10 metre fleet makes up over 75 per cent of the active UK fishing fleet and predominantly target non-quota species such as whelk, crab, lobster and cuttlefish using static pots that have a much lower impact than the larger trawl and dredge fisheries.

Yet the future of these low-impact inshore fisheries is under threat.  Many of the non-quota stocks are data-deficient, with little or no management of the larger offshore fleet that lands the majority of the catch, leading to uncontrolled over-fishing. There is increasing concern amongst conservationists and the industry about declining stocks, overcrowding and gear conflict.

Through the Safeguarding At-Risk Fisheries project, Blue Marine is promoting sustainable and equitable management of the key fisheries that support low-impact small-scale fishing communities to safeguard stocks and livelihoods.

Through a series of free online Symposia in 2022 and 2023, Blue Marine brought together over 400 stakeholders representing fishermen, fisheries management, environmental and scientific interests to share information, research and discuss management options. The outcomes from these events fed into the first ‘Frontrunner’ Fisheries Management Plans for Crab and Lobster, Whelk and Cuttlefish and Blue Marine continues to actively influence the sustainable management of these fisheries and the low-impact fishing communities that depend upon them.

Common Lobster

Caption: Common Lobster surrounded by Snakelocks anemones. Photo credit: Henley Spiers.



The first fishery that Blue Marine is focused on is cuttlefish. Not only does this species have fascinating characteristics including the ability to display over 34 billion body patterns, but they form a very important part of the mixed inshore fishery, particularly along the south coast of England where several ports are dependent on them.    

We extract species from the sea to sell but it doesn’t stop us from appreciating them as creatures as well and the cuttlefish is very charismatic”. Fisherman, Mudeford, Dorset 


Caption: Common cuttlefish during spawning season. Photo credit: Henley Spiers.

Over 90 per cent of cuttlefish landings are caught by trawlers beyond 6 nautical miles with no limits on effort or landings – meaning they are often caught before they spawn and, with a short two-year life cycle, this can have significant impacts on population.


Cuttlefish Symposium

Blue Marine convened a Cuttlefish Symposium in November 2021 bringing together over 120 attendees including fishermen, fisheries managers, government agencies, conservation groups and citizen scientists to share information about current cuttlefish stocks and fisheries.  This forms the foundation of a collaborative effort to identify effective measures to manage the fishery and safeguard cuttlefish populations and sustainable low-impact fisheries for the future.

The Cuttlefish Symposium Proceedings summarise the key points made, with recommendations for further research and management needed. Blue Marine will feed these recommendations into the Channel Non Quota Species Fisheries Management Plan being led by the MMO and due to be published by the end of 2023.

The following videos by Blue Marine and Rosie Ashley-East  shine a light on these amazing animals and the need for better management to safeguard cuttlefish and sustainable fisheries.



The UK whelk fishery has expanded in recent years due to growth in foreign markets and increased prices and yet there is limited management, especially in the offshore fishery. A number of inshore measures help prevent overfishing within 6nm such as pot limits and minimum landing sizes that reflect regional differences in whelk populations. But in UK offshore waters there are no effort restrictions except in Wales. Due to the currently limited regulation of the fishery and understanding of stock status, whelk populations are vulnerable to overfishing.

In June 2022, Blue Marine’s Whelk Symposium brought together over 50 delegates representing research, fishing, management and conservation interests to share information on fishery status and current management.

The Whelk Symposium Proceedings capture a wealth of evidence to support adaptive management at the regional scale both inshore and offshore to safeguard this vital fishery. Outcomes from the event input to the Whelk Fisheries Management Plan being developed by Government for England waters.

Credit: J. Small



Edible crab (Cancer pagurus), also known as brown crab, is the third most valuable fishery in the UK. Fisheries using pots to catch crabs in a mixed fishery with lobster occur along almost the entire length of the British coastline.  Traditionally, these fisheries have operated seasonally and close to shore, supporting a thriving inshore fleet of small vessels, but emergence of a significant offshore crab fishery in the late 1980s onwards has seen crabs targeted at depths of 100m to 200m and landings have increased significantly in the last 30 years.

Despite the economic importance of the brown crab fishery in the UK it is considered data poor and there have been increasing calls from industry for improved management. Brown crab are a non-quota species and therefore has no catch limits and the most recent stock assessments for England and Scotland indicate most of the main fisheries for brown crab are considered to be either fully exploited or overexploited.

This, combined with recent significant localised declines and mass mortality events, has raised concerns about the sustainability of the fishery and the impact that a collapse would have on inshore small-scale fishing communities.

In November 2022, Blue Marine held the third in a series of online symposia bringing together over 150 academics, fisheries management bodies, fishermen and conservationists and 30 speakers to share knowledge and discuss the most urgent and effective management measures for both crab and lobster. The Crab and Lobster Symposium highlighted the sense of urgency felt by many within the industry that management shortfalls needed to be addressed before declines result in total collapse, and reflected a level of consensus for regionally adaptive measures and better understanding of the impact of non-fishing stressors such as pollution, sedimentation and climate change.

The Crab and Lobster Symposium Proceedings will inform Blue Marine’s recommendations for sustainable management throughout UK waters and our input to the government’s draft Fisheries Management Plan for English waters.

Gallery photo credits: Images [1 – 3] Henley Spiers, [4-7] Paul Naylor, [8] J. Small and [9] G. Lee

Safeguarding at-risk fisheries

Key stats

Over 90 per cent of cuttlefish landings are caught by trawlers offshore  

How to help

By working together, we can turn the tide on overfishing and the destruction of biodiversity. By supporting Blue Marine, you can help to create marine reserves around the world.


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