Over the next two weeks, a limited amount of fishing for King Scallops will take place in the Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) of the Ramsey Marine Nature Reserve. The area is leased to the Manx Fish Producer’s Organisation (MFPO) and the fishing activity has been agreed with DEFA, with advice from Bangor University fisheries scientists.
The FMZ has been closed to dredging for scallops since 2009 but recent surveys by DEFA found good quantities of scallops on historical fishing sites in the bay, indicating that the fishery has recovered well. Recent meetings have been held between DEFA, Bangor University and the MFPO to discuss a strategy for limiting fishing. Only 19% of the area will be fished, by 3 MFPO vessels which have a very limited catch allocation. In addition, there will be comprehensive scientific monitoring of the seabed and scallop stock before, during and after the harvest. This will provide fisheries scientists and the MFPO with the information necessary to manage future fishing in the most sustainable way.
The fishing activity has been timed to coincide with the Christmas period when high prices can be achieved for the catch and valuable scientific data can be collected. Fishing vessels will report their catch daily to ensure that their allocation is not exceeded and they will also carry scientific observers and trial mini-GPS units to track each fishing tow.
A spokesperson for the MFPO said:
'we know the value of the bay, both in the scallops it contains, and the juveniles it produces to replenish other areas. If we follow the advice of the scientists, we hope to have a reliable, long-term fishery for many years to come.'
DEFA Minister, Phil Gawne MHK said:
'I commend the responsible approach being taken to the management of this fishery, and see it as the start of a longer-term approach where the industry has a greater role in the management of our fish stocks and the habitats on which they depend for survival. The sustainable use of fishery management areas, with restricted entry, or periodic harvesting is a strategy which we continue to wish to see being trialled, and I am pleased to see it being supported by the Industry'.