The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is to increase the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) for crawfish (palinurus spp) in ICES area 7 from 95 mm to 110 mm from 1 January 2024.

The new measures are coming into force to ensure the long-term sustainability of crawfish stocks in the waters of south-west England, the MMO says.



Concerns were raised following a sharp rise in the numbers of crawfish being landed in the region over the last five years while the fishing season has extended into winter.  There has also been a rise in the number of larger vessels with a bigger catching capacity targeting the species.

The decision was taken after a co-design workshop with fishers and considering consultation responses from the draft crab and lobster fisheries management plan. On 3 October 2023, the MMO brought fishers and government together to discuss short-term solutions after industry raised concerns about changes to the fishery that they feared threatened the sustainability of stocks. Full outcomes of the workshop are rationale behind the MCRS increase are available here.

Boom and Bust

Richard Hoskin, MMO head of sustainable fisheries, said: “The recent changes in the fishery, alongside its previous history of cycles of boom and bust, suggest that urgent intervention is required.

“We have worked closely with industry to understand their preferred solution and held a workshop to go through the benefits and disadvantages of two potential measures – an increase in MCRS and a seasonal closure.”

The potential closure would seek to prohibit the retaining and landing of crawfish in English waters of ICES area 7 for all UK and EU vessels using all gear types. The consultation is open from 13 November to 27 November 2023.

Crawfish, a relative of the lobster, are mainly found around Cornish shores. Populations have recovered since the early 1970s, when overfishing caused their numbers to crash. According to the MMO, about 38.3 tonnes of crawfish were landed at Cornish ports in 2021 with a value of almost £1m.

For further information read the MMO news story here.

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