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 aims to identify the key fisheries that are at risk and propose management solutions before collapse.
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.
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.
Watch Blue Marine’s short video to 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 outcomes from the event will input to the Whelk Fisheries Management Plan being developed by Government for England waters.
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 will input to the Whelk Fisheries Management Plan being developed by Government for England waters.
Gallery photo credits: Images [1 – 3] Henley Spiers, [4-7] Paul Naylor,  J. Small and  G. Lee
Over 90 per cent of cuttlefish landings are caught by trawlers offshore
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