Catch limits and other controls to prevent over-fishing will be rigorously enforced when the king scallop season opens in Manx waters on Wednesday (1st November).
For the first time, the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) has imposed a total allowable catch for the season on the fishery, which is worth £12 million to the Island’s economy.
The 94 vessels licensed to fish for king scallops within the Island’s 12-mile limit will be permitted to land 3,203 tonnes during the seven-month-long season.
A daily catch limit of 1,050kgs per vessel will apply, to help ensure scallops are available for most of the season and avoid over-fishing early in the season.
Skippers will also be required to fill in catch forms electronically each day.
Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said:
‘Landings of king scallops from the Irish Sea, and in particular from Manx waters, have risen rapidly since 2006.
‘When the king scallop season started last November, there was a highly visible presence of vessels in Manx waters and landings were exceptionally high, leading to alarm from those who rely on the species for income and jobs for many months.
‘My Department imposed a temporary daily catch limit to slow down fishing to ensure stocks were sustainable for the rest of the season and for the longer term.
‘Working with scientists at Bangor University, we have now carried out the first full assessment of king scallop stock in our waters and this shows an unwelcome downward trend in the population.
‘My Department is therefore imposing the first ever total allowable catch on king scallops for the season and will enforce daily limits from the outset.
‘These will be supported by measures that have been in place in the past such as a 6pm to 6am curfew on fishing, a minimum landing size and the need for vessels to be fitted with trackers.
‘The fishery will be robustly policed and anyone found flouting the law will face prosecution as we safeguard the industry in the long term.’
Restricting the king scallop catch is the latest step DEFA has taken to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery.
The Department has already substantially reduced the number of vessels licenced to fish for king scallops.
In setting the catch, the Minister has followed a recommendation from the Isle of Man Scallop Management Board, which is made up of scientists and industry representatives from the Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.