Report suggests Northumberland fishing boost

Fishing boats moored at Boulmer.
Fishing boats moored at Boulmer.

Fishing in Northumberland is moving towards a more sustainable future, according to a new report.

Local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) around England have been working with Project Inshore, run by Seafish, to identify best practice within fisheries and look at areas that need improvements.

The expertise provided by the Northumberland IFCA has resulted in reports that could potentially improve catches and secure livelihoods for fishermen along the coast.

The reports highlight 10 key species caught within the six-mile inshore fisheries limit around the English coast that will have primary focus. These priority species are determined on their value, local cultural and socio-economic importance and the management structure in place.

Eighty per cent of the creel lobster and crab fishery, worth £3million to the area, falls within the Northumberland management zone. Thanks to hard work of the local IFCA, management measures have been put in place that will have a positive effect on the whole stock.

Northumberland IFCA also boasts a 14-year-old ‘V-notching’ programme that sees berried lobsters (female lobsters with their eggs attached) being purchased back from traders and returned to the sea during the peak lobster season of summer and early autumn.

This allows the eggs to hatch and protects the female lobsters for a further two-year period, giving them time to potentially release two broods of eggs that might not have otherwise been released.

England’s lobster fishery is worth around £15.7million and more than 1,700 tonnes are landed each year. Most of these are caught by small, inshore boats. Investment in research on stocks and landings will allow fishery managers to improve the fisheries, securing livelihoods in coastal areas. Other stocks are equally important, if less glamorous: more than £3.5million worth of whelks are caught each year, some of them being exported as far away as South Korea.

The report found that flat fish fisheries such as sole and plaice caught by static nets in the North Sea are already well-managed. It recommends that these fisheries could be ready to enter MSC assessment, aiming to win the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue Certified Sustainable Seafood label.

The Northumberland IFCA has worked closely with the Project Inshore team over several years, providing vital staff time and data.

Northumberland IFCA chief executive officer, Mike Hardy, said: “Supporting and participating in Project Inshore has been very worthwhile and has assisted ongoing planning and development of fisheries management measures in the district of NIFCA.

“Other key initiatives we have taken include a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the district’s fisheries, enhanced data collection and ongoing shellfish project work with the School of Marine Science at Newcastle University, supported by Natural England.

“In the context of the Authority’s determination and aspiration to build upon all of the work already undertaken and continuing, to ensure long-term sustainability of the stocks in the district, we will carefully consider all of the recommendations in the Project Inshore Strategic Sustainability Review, as well as continuing with all of the Authority’s other work in this very important area.”

Chloe North, MSC’s UK Fisheries Outreach Officer, said: “This is great news for Northumberland fishermen. This report is a credible resource for those who are in a position to drive greater understanding and management of our complex inshore fisheries. Having such a clear and definitive road-map for our inshore fisheries will lead to a more sustainable future for the fleet and coastal communities.”

The report is stage three of four of Project Inshore, a three-year project to map England’s inshore fisheries, identify the best performing fisheries and use their best practice techniques and management to make recommendations to further improve others. The aim of Stage 3 is to provide a strategic sustainability review for nine of the individual IFCA regions around England. The species identified as the best candidates for improvements are lobsters, whelks, cockles, European oysters, spider crabs, cuttlefish, mussels, clams, crawfish and brown shrimp. The report also identified fish stocks that straddled management boundaries, such as sea bass and lemon sole where national and European management could further improve the sustainability of these key species.

This project is a collaboration between industry body, Seafish, the MSC and the Shellfish Association of Great Britain with considerable input from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities and an expert Advisory Group. More than 450 pre-assessments were carried out around England, providing a great start for every inshore fishery in the UK to work towards a high level of sustainability.

The Northumberland IFCA is one of the 10 IFCAs in England that manage the marine inshore environment around the coast.