21st March

Long-term lobster storage: fact file

Oliver Tully, BIM
Annuall lobster production in Ireland has varied in recent years from 600-850 tonnes. Ireland produces 22% of the European total landings. The unit value, to the catching sector, varies from a minimum of €12 in summer to a maximum of €30 per kilo in winter. Total potential value to Irish producers, therefore, is between €7.2 and €25.5m.
The difference in the minimum and maximum potential value is €18.3 million − equivalent to the entire value of the national crab fishery for instance; the actual value depends on total production and unit price.
Total production can be safeguarded and stabilised with better fisheries management. Unit price can be increased by switching a proportion of summer production to the winter and spring markets; this is where technology for long-term storage comes in.
In 2007, long-term storage capacity in Ireland was approximately 50 tonnes or 6% of national production and about 1% of total European production. This level of storage capacity is unlikely to upset the current seasonal trends in price or the forces of supply and demand.
Last year, holding trials in cold water recirculation systems were successfully completed by BIM and MRI (NUIG) at Carna. During the trial, mortality over 5-6 months was 10%; weight loss 2%; quality was not significantly different to freshly caught lobsters and taste and texture of stored and fresh lobsters were similar.
Operating costs of storage, including the cost of mortality was approximately €4 per kilo. Net profit, excluding initial capital costs per tonne stored and assuming normal differences between summer and winter prices, is about €8,000.
Storage temperature needs to be less than 4oC and ideally 2oC, to reduce decline in condition, incidence of spawning and ovary resorption. Fish can be transported dry following storage, provided blood protein levels are adequate. Using a very simple measurement of blood protein as a quality control step, guarantees can be provided to buyers on meat content and fitness to survive prolonged dry transport.
A detailed report on the trial is available on request. Contact Oliver Tully, BIM, 0879093272.

Greater stakeholder involvement in fisheries management

A key component of the new Common Fisheries Policy, which was reformed in late 2002, was the formation of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) to give stakeholders a greater say in the way fisheries are managed in areas they cover. The first of six bodies, the North Sea RAC, was created late last year, writes Gillian Mills.

According to the European Commission, these bodies will provide a permanent framework linking stakeholders at regional and local level and the Commission and the member states concerned. “They will enable the fishing sector to work more closely with scientists in collating reliable data and discussing ways of improving scientific advice.”

The RACs will also provide a forum for the fishing industry to enter into dialogue and to work with other interested parties on identifying options regarding the management of specific fisheries. Their recommendations and suggestions can then be submitted to the Commission and to the relevant member states.

Read more: Greater stakeholder involvement in fisheries management

Industry and science working to rebuild Celtic Sea cod

Dr Paul Connolly, Marine Institute, explains

The latest assessment for Celtic Sea cod is given in the figure below and shows the stock size since 1971. The graph indicates that the stock is ‘just at’ the safe limit of 10,000 tonnes (green dashed line); however it is predicted to go below this limit over the next few years (blue line) at current levels of fishing. The latest scientific advice for Celtic Sea cod calls for a 17% reduction in fishing mortality in order to rebuild the stock by 2006. This corresponds to a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 5,200 tonnes for 2005.

The cod fishery
Celtic Sea cod are taken in mixed trawl fisheries. Landings are made mainly by French trawlers targeting cod, haddock and whiting. In 2003, total international landings were 6,000 tonnes, with France accounting for 84% and UK and Ireland 6% each. Belgian vessels take about 2%. Cod landings occur throughout the year, but mainly in the winter months during November-April, with a peak in February-March.

Read more: Industry and science working to rebuild Celtic Sea cod

Taking stock

Overview by Edward Fahy, Fisheries Science Services, Marine Institute

Since 1999, the Stock Book has had an inshore section. It is impossible to have too much information on a wild fishery, especially in a world of rapidly changing environmental conditions and ever-increasing catching power of a versatile and hungry polyvalent fleet. In the absence of a TAC regulation mechanism for inshore species, and given the case histories of some inshore stocks, it is highly desirable to have an annual review of the status and the scientific advice for inshore species.

The inshore sector in Ireland is less precisely defined than elsewhere in the EU. Large fishing vessels work close to the coast whereas in Britain there is a policy of confining exploitation of waters inside 6 n miles to boats of less than 10m. Some landings of TAC species are made close to shore in Ireland; on the other hand, species like brown crab, which were traditionally a mainstay of the inshore sector, are now being harvested outside 12 n miles.

Read more: Taking stock

A new approach to shellfish management

BIM’s inshore fisheries coordinator, Oliver Tully, explains

A large proportion of Ireland’s inshore fishing fleet and segments of the offshore fleet fish for crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimps) and molluscs (scallop, whelk, clams, cockles). These vessels account for over 80 per cent of the national fleet, provide 70 per cent employment in the catching sector and prosecute fisheries valued at approximately €50m per annum at first sale.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has largely ignored management of these fisheries, and national governments have also been slow to react to the vacuum in policy. In Ireland, however, the industry has taken the initiative in many instances by providing, for example, local co-operative management plans for lobsters.

In 2001, the Irish Lobster Association submitted an application to the marine minister for limited entry to lobster fisheries. The support for management remains strong in the industry despite an increasing level of frustration at the lack of progress. The State has been slow to follow industry initiatives, but for a valid reason.

Read more: A new approach to shellfish management

Overall status quo on 2005 whitefish quotas

The Irish whitefish industry has broadly welcomed the outcome of the annual TAC and quota negotiations; however a 27% cut in the mackerel quota has been hailed ‘an absolute disaster’ by the pelagic industry.

In his first major engagement as marine minister, Pat the cope Gallagher said he was “reasonably satisfied with the outcome”, but did acknowledge that the situation was not “ideal” across all stocks. “I know that reductions in some species, especially mackerel, are going to have a negative impact for some fishermen in the short-term,” he said.

An industry-led conservation plan for Celtic Sea cod by the UK, France and Ireland sees a three-month closure in a 4,500 sq mile zone off the Waterford coast until the end of March. A last minute derogation to Belgium, however, will allow their beamer fleet to fish this zone for one month during this closure.

Read more: Overall status quo on 2005 whitefish quotas

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