SHELLFISH stocks in the Outer Hebrides are to be protected through new conservation measures.
The controls, which were developed by the local fishing industry and implemented by the Scottish Government, will help to protect the future of crab and lobster catches off the west coast of Scotland.
Shellfish are very important to the local economy of the Outer Hebrides, with local fishermen landing on average £2.7 million of crab and lobster each yearRichard Lochhead
The Hebridean fisheries are worth an average £2.7 million to the local economy every year.
The minimum landing size of key shellfish species will be increased, while the landing of female lobsters larger than 145mm, and those missing one or both claws, will be restricted. This is expected to help breeding of the species and increase yield and egg production.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Shellfish are very important to the local economy of the Outer Hebrides, with local fishermen landing on average £2.7 million of crab and lobster each year.
“The management measures coming into force will help in securing the long-term sustainability of these stocks.
“This Order is a great example of what can be accomplished when local fishing interests and government work together, and demonstrates how Scottish fishermen are leading the way in Europe with their commitment to sustainable practices.”
Duncan MacInnes, Secretary, Western Isles Fishermen’s Association said: “We are pleased that implementation of management measures identified in the Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group management plan are now being enshrined in legislation.
“Increasing shellfish minimum landing size provides predicted increases in yield and egg production which will result in increased profitability for fishermen in the short to medium term.
“In addition, no new additional resources will be required, as both industry and enforcement officials are all familiar with compliance procedures already in place for enforcing minimum and maximum landing sizes.”
Mr MacInnes said the new measures would benefit around 150 shellfish fishermen in the Western Isles. He added that the cost of lobster and crabs were currently on the increase and protecting the most vulnerable of the species in the seas would only benefit them in breeding.
He added: “The measures will mean the chances of the shellfish breeding successfully will be enhanced. The more shellfish in the sea will mean the livelihoods of our members will continue to be profitable.
“This was carried out on the back of our members seeking a change in the conservation members and will result in a better product being landed and then enjoyed by the consumers across the world.”
Donald Nicholdson, chairman of the Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group, said: “We welcome this new law wich will assist in the continuation of the industry in the Western Isles for many more years.”
The minimum landing sizes have increased for brown crab from 140mm to 150mm, velvet crab from 65mm to 70mm, and lobster from 87mm to90 mm over two years
The measures were developed by the Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group (IFG) as part of its management plan to improve the sustainability of local fish stocks.
The IFG approached Marine Scotland last year to legislate on its proposals, which have now been introduced following the successful outcome to a public consultation. Copy here