Coveney criticised over new lobster conservation measures

Inshore fishery leader says Minister ‘displaying no scientific understanding’

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney has angered inshore fishermen on the west coast with new measures to protect lobster stocks that he has signed into law.

Under the new measures, a maximum landing size of 127mm for lobsters is being introduced to support the reproductive potential of the stock, Mr Coveney has said.

“The retention of very large lobsters are known scientifically to greatly enhance the reproductive potential of the stock and help to ensure its future sustainability,” said Mr Coveney, adding that fishermen would be offered financial assistance to “V-notch” lobsters and return them to sea during a two-year transition.

Measures ‘crazy’

However, North-West Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum chairman


Eamon Dixon

said the measures were “crazy”, as they would do nothing to conserve the stock and would put fishermen out of business.

“It’s like saying that the future of the human race will depend on selecting 20 pensioners, rather than 20 young people – with apologies to pensioners,” said Mr Dixon.

Inshore fishermen have been grant-aided for their support for V-notching schemes to conserve lobsters since 1994. The schemes involve removing a V-shaped notch from the tail of female lobsters to ensure they cannot be caught again.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which administers the programme, estimates that the number of lobsters V-notched in 2014 was more than double the numbers of recent years, with some €250,000 of supporting funding.

“In Mayo, where I am based, we V-notch between 30kg and 100kg of lobsters a year, at a ratio of about one male to every 20 females,” Mr Dixon said.

Lobsters under 87mm in carapace length (which excludes the claws and tail) would not have been landed, and it was proposed to increase this to 89mm, he said.

Scientific understanding

“However, in selecting 127mm, Mr Coveney is displaying no scientific understanding, and leaving older lobsters in the sea to die,” Mr Dixon said.

“This will do nothing to protect the stock, and will only anger fishermen who had asked him to defer any change until the new regional inshore fisheries forums were up in action,” said Mr Dixon.

Mr Coveney has also introduced measures for an earlier close of the shrimp fishery, on conservation grounds.

It will close on March 15th, instead of May 1st, to protect the stock during spawning.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times