Survey and analysis is a key part of work done by NIFCA

NIFCA's environmental team, from left: Deputy Chief IFCO (Environmental) Jon Green; and Environmental IFCOs Vicky Rae and Natalie Wallace.
NIFCA's environmental team, from left: Deputy Chief IFCO (Environmental) Jon Green; and Environmental IFCOs Vicky Rae and Natalie Wallace.
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This article is the third in a series of features about the vital work that NIFCA (Northumberland Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority) does throughout the region.

Vital surveys and analysis work is carried out by NIFCA’s team of expert officers to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish

and shellfish stocks in the area.

Surveys take place on the shore and at sea, with the help of volunteers and with the cooperation of local fishers.

Examples of the surveys conducted by NIFCA include:

○ Mussel Surveys: NIFCA carries out stock assessments on the mussel beds at Fenham Flats and Blyth estuary to monitor the population and health of these beds.

Officers map the perimeter of the mussel beds to calculate the area of the bed and from which the percentage cover, density and biomass of mussels at each site can be estimated with a good degree of accuracy. Samples are collected and all live mussels in the sample are weighed and measured.

○ Fish Surveys: NIFCA has conducted fish surveys at Druridge Bay, Aln Estuary, Beadnell Bay and Long Nanny to monitor small and juvenile fish species.

All fish caught are identified to species level and total length is measured for a sub-sample of each species. The aim of these studies is to determine the importance of each site as nursery areas for juvenile fish.

○ Lobster Stock Assessment: Monitoring lobster populations is essential to understand stock levels and to inform management of the local fishery.

NIFCA officers collect data, including carapace length and sex of lobsters caught, to model the population demographics. This helps to assess recruitment levels and help maintain a sustainable fishery.

○ V-notching Scheme: This involves removing a V-shaped piece of exoskeleton from the female lobsters of reproductive size. While a female lobster retains this v-notch she is protected from the local fishery, making it illegal to land a v-notched lobster within the NIFCA district.

NIFCA has been v-notching approximately 1,000 lobsters per year since 2000. The objective of the v-notching scheme is to maintain a healthy reproductive population in order to provide continual recruitment of lobster offspring to the stock, creating a sustainable fishery.

○ NIFCA’s custom-built patrol vessel is also equipped for research, with equipment such as underwater cameras.

NIFC is responsible for managing fisheries resources within its district, which extends from the middle of the River Tyne in the south to the English-Scottish border in the north and out to six nautical miles from the coastal baseline, including all estuaries up to their Normal Tidal Limit.

If anybody is interested in assisting with the survey work, email nifca@nifca.gov.uk