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Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Soon after the 1st November we will see the return of those night lights out in Cardigan Bay indicating the presence of scallop dredgers. From 1st January they will come even closer to shore. Under Byelaw 12 - Restrictions On Fishing For Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish Variation To Permitted Fishing Areas set by the North Western & North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (NWNWSFC) , dredging for scallops will recommence in Area 3 of Cardigan Bay on the 1st November and additionally further inshore in Area 3A from 1st January. The relevant point is that these are productive lobster fisheries important to the fishermen operating out of Aberystwyth and other harbours in West Wales.

The danger that a string of lobster pots face from the powerful and frequently imprecise nature of scallop dredging is significant, indeed, the loss of expensive pots as a result of careless dredging can destroy the livelihood of a lobster fisherman. The likelihood of accidents increase as dredging comes closer to land particularly when scallop dredging is speculative and away from recognised scallop beds. I understand that the Cardigan Bay Fisherman Association and the Welsh Federation of Fisheries Associations has expressed similar concerns about the vulnerability of lobster strings. Entangling with a string of lobster pots will cost the lobster fisherman in excess on £2000 (£45 per pot and anything from 45-60 pots per string) and can easily cause significant financial loss. It is precisely as a means of preventing such damage that clearer identification of scallop boats is required.

Currently there is no requirement for scallop dredgers to carry the Automatic Identification System (AIS) or a similar satellite tracking device, which would make their position and activity visible to onshore positions. The NWNWSFC should require scallop dredgers to install identification equipment as a tool for Sea Fisheries Officers and Coastguards to monitor dredgers fishing outside designated areas and/or in danger of damaging lobster pots. Currently lobster fishermen have no legal protection when their pots are damaged short of the indirect effects of conservation legislation protecting scallop beds. The Isle of Man Government has introduced for the 2008-2009 season a requirement for satellite tracking devices to be installed on scallop fishing boats operating within its own 3 mile limit.

Only vessels under 50 ft (15.24m) registered length are allowed to fish within 3 miles of the Isle of Man and require a permit to do so. You will be automatically issued with a 3 mile permit if your vessel is less than 50 ft. Under existing conservation measures ALL vessels fishing for scallops or queenies inside the 3 mile limit are required to have an operational satellite tracking device on board. In addition all vessels fishing for scallops or queenies inside the three mile limit are required to complete and return a detailed scientific logbook as supplied by the Department.

The NWNWSFC should do the same. Satellite tracking would also allow the identification of boats fishing in the protected waters found in Cardigan Bay. I have written to the NWNWSFC with this suggestion, lets hope they take it on board.


boycem said...

Dear Mr James
I read with interest your comments on scalloping,as there are some ill informed views being presented. True, scalloping is restricted to the more offshore areas until January 1st 2009 but we have published plans for controls in the inshore areas. On the subject of tracking systems, we do not have the powers to make them a mandatory condition of an authorisation, but WAG could. Also under the current legislation we cannot make regulations to control gear conflict. If you would like a more detailed overview of the fishery, please contact me, and finally, we have not yet received your letter.
Martyn Boyce
Principal Fishery Officer
North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee,
1 Preston Street
01524 68745

Penri James said...

Thanks for the response, the letter was emailed to which came from your site on the web. I was wondering why you hadn't responded but have now emailed your new address.

The views I present are ones received from knowledgable and experienced fishermen in Cardigan Bay. You clearly define the problem that is affecting our local fishermen here - who has the power to act?, WAG seem to say one thing and NWNWSFC another. Gear conflict is the key issue here where there is indeed a lack of existing legislation to protect lobster and prawn fishermen being bankrupted by irresponsible dredging. Since that is the case then other means of identifying culprits must be used. If they can do it in the Isle of Man there is no reason why it cannot be done here. I would welcome a conversation on the matter.

Penri James said...

On the way to Aberaeron last night I counted 9 light out in the Bay, presumably scallop boats. If they are operating in darkness then how cane they avoid lobster strings set by local fishermen. They cannot and there is no legal requirement for them to take any notice or pay compensation for damage. I suspect there is no other circumstance where livelihoods (the lobster fishermen)can be endangered without those responsible being liable for compensation.