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Pot & Trap Fisheries

Pot and trap fishing have been a key part of the South Coast’s history for generations. In the Southern IFC District we have more than 220 fishers who use pots or traps commercially in the District. The largest pot fishery targets whelks, a marine mollusc, and uses small, often round, baited pots. Whelks are targeted mostly in the first half of the year from January to June. Larger D shaped parlour pots with hard circular or soft netted entrances are used to target brown/edible crab, and/or european lobster. Edible crab are targeted all year around, whilst lobsters are caught mainly during the summer. In the spring from April to June some fishers also target cuttlefish using cuttlefish traps. These are large and round, with fingered entrances.

In 2021 more than 2,105 tonnes of fish were caught using pots in ICES areas 29E7, 30E8 and 30E7 at a value of £3.9 million. This was comprised almost entirely of the four main species caught using this technique: 1,767 tonnes of whelk, 253 tonnes of brown crab, 54 tonnes of lobster and 15 tonnes of cuttlefish.

Whelk fishing occurs mainly in sandy bays such as Poole Bay, Lyme Bay and the Solent. Crab and lobster fishing occurs over or near to rocky ground. Predominantly this is found in Lyme bay, along the Purbeck Coast, and South of the Isle of Wight. Cuttlefish are caught during their spawning period, because cuttlefish die soon after spawning. Cuttlefish prefer areas near to sediment to spawn but need substrate such as rocks to attach their eggs to. Most of the District’s cuttlefish pot fishing occurs within the Solent.

Data recieved from the Marine Managment Organisation, 2022. ICES Rectangles 29E7, 30E7 and 30E8 cover the majority of the Southern IFC District and some areas outside. 

Stock Assessments

Surveyed stock assessments of crab, lobster, whelk and cuttlefish fisheries are not completed by Southern IFCA at present. However, to help inform our Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) byelaw review, whelk sampling from four locations across the district will be undertaken in 2021. The samples will be analysed to assess the size at which 50% of the population become sexually mature.

However, other stock assessments are available. In 2019, Ella (a Southern IFCA intern) completed catch assessments of the crab and lobster fisheries throughout the District and the south coast. These assessments used the data supplied by vessels on Monthly Shellfish Activity Returns. The data was analysed to detect any changes in Catch Per 100 Pots over time. You can find the assessments here:

In addition, CEFAS carry out bi-annual stock assessments of the crab and lobster fisheries around England. You can find the most recent stock assessment which covers our District here:

Marine Protected Area Assessments

Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, Southern IFCA has a duty to further the conservation objectives of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) within in the District. For each MPA, Southern IFCA must carry out an assessment of fishing activities within the site, to determine if the activities will hinder the conservation objectives. If this document finds that the activity could hinder the site, Southern IFCA must create appropriate management measure to mitigate the risks. Below are the assessments of pot and trap fishing activities in Southern IFCA’s MPAs. As of 2020, Southern IFCA has not been required to introduce management as a result of these assessments.

Credit: Guy Mitchell

Escape Gap Research

Three MSc student projects from the University of Southampton carried out escape gap trials

From 2012 to 2015 three individual students completed research projects looking at the effectiveness of escape gaps within the Southern IFC District. Escape gaps which were available on the market and new escape gap designs specific to the area were trialled in the aquarium and the fishery for lobster, edible crab and velvet swimming crab. At the time the Minimum Conservation Reference Size for these species was 87mm, 140mm and 65mm respectively.  Following the success of the projects Southern IFCA encouraged a voluntary uptake of the 45 x 87mm escape gap within the District and supplied the industry with free escape gaps. 

Click the link to see a 'Summary of the three projects'. 

For the first project see Hyland, 2012.
For the second project see Gravestock, 2014.
For the final project see Smith, 2015.   

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