Scilly’s Crawfish Stocks On Verge Of ‘Catastrophic Collapse’

A tag placed on the back of a spiny lobster

A tag placed on the back of a spiny lobster

Stocks of crawfish in the waters around Scilly are on the verge of “a catastrophic collapse.”

That was the dire warning issued by officer Doug Holt at the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority meeting yesterday.

But a new byelaw designed to protect the crustacea, also known as spiny lobsters, has been delayed until at least June to allow further consultation with commercial fishermen.

The proposed rules would require fishermen to throw back any crawfish that are carrying eggs or are below a new larger minimum size of 110mm. That’s 15mm longer than the current 95mm limit for landing the species.

It follows a three-year research project undertaken by Scilly’s IFCA, which found that there was a scarcity of small juvenile crawfish in the fishery.

Their analysis of the catch of commercial fishermen also showed that a higher than expected number of so-called ‘berried’ females carrying eggs were being landed.

Doug told members that the species, which was abundant in Scilly in the 60s and 70s, has been gradually declining and is close to reaching a critical point.

That’s possibly due to the switch from using pots to less selective nets to catch the lobsters.

Joanna Smith from Natural England said the study showed an “alarming number” of females with eggs being landed.

And she said if new rules weren’t introduced “there won’t be a fishery here in the future.”

But industry representative Tim Allsop felt fishermen using our waters needed more time to review the data.

He said they had helped with the study but could be upset if the data was now used against them to introduce restrictions on their catch.

And he queried the evidence, saying the commercial fishermen claim they are throwing back more berried females than the data suggested.

Tim wanted to delay a decision on the byelaw for a year and instead pay fishermen to record and release all berried females they caught.

That, he said, would have the same effect as the proposed restrictions while gathering more evidence and keeping the fishermen on side.

A new byelaw could take up to two years to reach a decision stage and some members felt they should vote to start that process now, while continuing to consult with the industry.

Members of the IFCA committee eventually voted to delay a decision on introducing a new byelaw until their next meeting in June.

That would give them time to meet with the commercial fishermen to discuss the disputed data.



18 Responses to Scilly’s Crawfish Stocks On Verge Of ‘Catastrophic Collapse’

  1. Pete Carss January 22, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Firstly i’d like to say Terry is absolutely correct in saying that the crays were hammered in the late 70’s when everyone caught onto the fact that they were easy to catch in nets. Secondly, over the past few years we have actually seen more crawfish around the islands when diving since that time. We have also seen small Juvenile ones around the back of places like Bryher and the Crim. An example of the IFCA last summer (2015) when asked what they had been up to that day was ” we had heard that some baby Juvenile crawfish had been caught down on the Western rocks and had spent the day putting a LOBSTER POT !!!!! there to try and catch one!!!! You couldn’t make it up!!!! Maybe a better use of government funding would be to get rid of this utter Quango and use the money saved to pay the market price to the fisherman for returning the buried hens back into the sea ((which they do anyway as buried hens have less weight (rather like seals and whales when they have pups)). I’ve never commented on this site before but these people are complete half wits, and need to be brought to task, rather than self perpetuating themselves and putting peoples livelihoods on the line with badly informed data.

    • Angler Miracle January 26, 2016 at 8:36 am

      You are absolutely right in what you say, IFCA was the spoiled love child of former elected significant player and like other things it was all about status rather than purpose!

  2. Dave Savage January 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Hang on a minute.I thought I was responsible for wiping out the crawfish back in the sixties.At least that was the popular conception back then!
    Probably the biggest damage done to stocks was when a few locals realized their ray nets were catching more craws than rays. As a migratory species it’s not difficult to block their path into shallower water.
    Terry was right.Miles of nets to the west and you decimate the population.
    Banning the landing of berried females should surely be the way to go.

  3. Adam Morton, St.Martins January 22, 2016 at 8:43 am

    This is just people on nice fat public sector salaries carving out their little empires and scratching each others backs. They don’t care who or what get hurt and its got bugger all to do with the environment! Fishing is/was the only industry left for young islanders committed to Scilly but without wealthy family connections & property.
    It is well known that restricting one sector puts other stocks under pressure. Fishing is self regulating in that gear, boats ,fuel and crews are so expensive that fishermen cannot afford to fish stocks to extinction . Without good catches from sustainable fisheries ,they would be quickly bankrupted, look at the Newlyn fleet!
    The research on this project is shaky to say the least and the results far from assured. The lobster scheme was entirely voluntary and has made the fishery sustainable which proves fishermen’s interest in safeguarding stocks . This arbitrary introduction of needless legislation is an insult and a kick in the teeth to all the good relations and cooperation by fisherman in Scilly with research and agreements. This has set back trust by a lifetime at least ! Working against fishermen will be a lot harder than with!
    This is the attitude that makes our Council so unpopular. We all contribute to a system that is working against us and trying to undermine local knowledge, common sense, democracy, consultation and swims against devolution and grass roots policy making. These are people who are paid by the taxpayer and DO NOT have a stake in the outcome. Their wages are stratospheric by comparison with people working in industries dependent on being competitive, hence their total lack of understanding. This goes for anything necessary to survival such as transport & planning!

  4. Skewer January 20, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Farmers get paid subsidies from government departments to not farm, whilst fishermen are being crippled nationwide by illegal policies. The current latent capacity vessel capping will put a number of already struggling small boat owners out of business an on the dole. This is poor, biased reporting, from no evidence based decision making, by jobs for over-educated idiots. As already stated, the largest boat skipper has only fished 9 out of a possible 80 days, that leaves no hope for the rest of the islands fleet, that’s conservation on it own.

  5. Kathy January 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Farmers look after the countryside for us, time that fishermen did the same with the sea, all these people knocking the Wildlife Trust but without them and the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority we would lose the natural world.

    • Angler Miracle January 20, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      For goodness sake keep it real its all about burning hydrocarbons and expensive boat repairs.
      Don’t drag the wildlife trust into this at least they now act with some purpose.

    • Nimis non est satis January 21, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Kathy – am not a fisherman or involved in the industry in any way but as a consumer – But from memory weren’t most no take zones started voluntarily by fishermen and only becam regulated later – wasn’t the notched lobster scheme voluntary? Fishermen love the sea as much as a farmer loves the land (read into that what you will) – Is the natural state of Britain large open fields with boundary hedges that are sheared by cutters? Don’t think farmers look after the countryside think they manage it – the same way fishermen have been managing the sea and fish stocks as best they can.

  6. terry January 20, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Before making incorrect statements , why don’t these people talk to the locals? I totally agree with Neil Jenkins and would add that the crawfish have not been gradually declining since the 70’s. The crawfish population was decimated by the Newlyn fishermen . I was told by one of them that they were each laying miles of nets every half ‘Decca Lane’ ( as it was then ) to the west of the Islands .As I recollect there were a lot of boats involved which meant many, many, miles of nets. This resulted in the migrating fish being pretty well cleaned out from the Islands . As an ex diver (not for crawfish ) I can confirm that they suddenly disappeared . It is only in recent years that some craws are being caught which proves , in my opinion , that the stocks are improving slightly and not dwindling as stated by the expert Doug Holt ??
    I just hope they don’t act on what is obviously incorrect information which I assume they are being paid to produce

  7. Alec hicks January 20, 2016 at 9:18 am

    The cost of our IFCA for one year is more than the earnings of the boats trying to catch craws maybe the can reduce there wages and share with fishermen

    • King crab January 20, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      How much does Isles of Scilly IFCA get paid every year or how much does it cost to run IFCA thank you

      • Terry irwin January 21, 2016 at 8:19 am

        The Isles of Scilly IFCA is the smallest in England and consequently has the smallest
        operational budget. For the first two years of its existence the service was completely
        funded from the New Burdens grant of £109,726, but a levy of £23,000 per annum,
        that was the amount awarded to the Sea Fisheries Committee in its final year was
        reinstated. This was then reduced by 10% to £20,700 for the financial year 2014/15
        and the levy for 2015/16 has been reduced further to £14,274 making a total of
        £123,185, of which wages account for between £70-£75,000.

  8. Adam Morton, St.Martins January 20, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Three years is hardly going to provide conclusive evidence of anything! How are they going to know if there is a scarcity of fish in comparison to what? If you want conservation then this is NOT the way to go about it. The lobster V notching scheme was purely voluntary and has worked incredibly well. Rather than trying to stab fishermen in the back just to provide itself with bylaws to enforce, the ifca should provide tracking or marking devices to encourage the return of crawfish which incidentally we know next to nothing about the movements of . Once made ,laws are hardly ever repealed and another bylaw simply adds to the disincentive to join an industry with very few new entrants as it is.
    It is known that crawfish travel long distances. A bylaw within Scilly doesn’t mean they won’t be caught outside Scillys jurisdiction which makes the sacrifice pointless.

  9. Angler Miracle January 20, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Gossamer thin justification for what has been an “incredible” council function from the outset. A classic example of funding generating a purpose. More about outboard horsepower than brainpower.

  10. Red Lobster January 20, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Fishermen take note, it’s your future! However I can understand your comments given the questionable reliability and accuracy of the data and methods used. The biggest problem is that IFCA has no credibility.

  11. Guy Lock January 20, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Doesn’t it make more sense to limit the Maximum size of fish taken?, that way the returned fish can spend the rest of their lives happily breeding and repopulating the waters!

  12. Todd Stevens January 19, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    This is like someone being paid to tell us that World War 2 ended in 1945.

  13. Neil Jenkins January 19, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    This simply is not correct. Firstly a three year study? Due to weather people only fish for them from June till October, that’s only 5 months of the year, secondly I think there is only five boats I know that target craws, & none of them target them alone. How do they know what the fish are doing for the other seven months of the year? I’d like to know but the risk of loosing valuable fishing gear stops us all from knowing. This is nothing more than a publicity stunt to gain more funding. There is no such thing as over fishing in our waters, the local fishermen bend over backwards to help with conservation & there is not a single fisherman who wants to catch ‘all the fish in the sea’ it’s our living & we enjoy it, I have one of the largest boats in the islands & I have only been able to fish NINE days since the end of October!