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Ongoing Reviews

The following page provides information regarding the fisheries which are under review within the Southern IFC District. To view a specific section please use the links below:

Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Review

In line with the duties of the Southern IFCA, in 2020 Members of the Southern IFC Authority considered the need for a review of management of bottom towed fishing gear in the district in response to a change in the National Site Network through the addition of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and updates to the best-available evidence which had been used to inform the Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw 2016 as the current management mechanism for these gear types in the district.

The Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw 2023 was developed through Phase 1 of this review: to consider feature based management interventions for MPAs: sites designated under the National Site Network (Special Areas of Conservation [SACs], Special Protection Areas [SPAs] and Marine Conservation Zones [MCZs]). 

The Byelaw was made by the Authority at their meeting on 8th June 2023, following this a period of Formal Consultation was held until 28th July 2023. The following documents were made available as part of the Formal Consultation:
The Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw 2023
The BTFG Byelaw 2023 Impact Assessment
The BTFG Byelaw Management Intentions Document

Next Steps

The Authority agreed, at their meeting on 21st September 2023, to send the BTFG Byelaw 2023 to the Marine Management Organisation for quality assurance prior to being sent to Defra for consideration by the Secretary of State. Only once the Byelaw has been ratified by the Secretary of State will it come into force.

Pot and Trap Fisheries Review

Pot and trap fishing has been a key part of the Southern IFC District’s history for generations. Today, this fishery supports more than 220 commercial fishers who use pots or traps to collect crabs, lobsters, whelks and cuttlefish. In addition, the District’s waters support more than 40 recreational pot fishers who catch crab and lobster for their own personal consumption. 

Southern IFCA is currently undergoing a review of the management measures in the District’s inshore pot fisheries in order to ensure that they remain sustainable and support the industry for future generations. 

The review began with a ‘Call for information’, which invited stakeholders to submit views on whether any improvements could be made to management and how improvements could be achieved to support the sustainability of the pot fisheries.

A total of forty responses were received, which highlighted that further management measures were required to support the District’s pot fisheries sustainability. Since then, an Authority Working Group, consisting of Defra Appointee Members, has been carrying out this review in an evidence based, strategic and proportionate manner. In line with the objectives of the review. Members have considered the effectiveness of existing management and opportunities to strengthen it. The best available evidence from a variety of sources, including stock and catch assessments, scientific literature and the knowledge of commercial and recreational users has supported discussions to date.

Pot & Trap Call for Information Summary of Responses 2019

Following this, Members approved a 10-week public consultation on a review of management measures in the inshore pot fisheries within the Southern IFC District. The consultation considered a number of more specific management measures such as; recreational pot and catch limits, commercial pot limits, fishery closed seasons, species minimum conservation reference sizes and escape gaps. Over all, a total of 110 responses were received in response to the consultation. A copy of the summary document for this public consultation can be viewed using the link below:

Southern IFCA’s Summary of Responses to the review of management measures in the inshore pot fisheries. January 2021.

Based upon the responses submitted duirng previous consultations and other available evidence a Pot Fishing Byelaw was 'made' by the Authority in March 2022 and was then advertised publicly for two consecutive weeks. Immediatly following its advertisment, a period of Formal Consultation was open for 28 days during which objections to the byelaw could be sumbitted. A number of objections and letters of support were recieved during this time. 

Next Steps

The Pot Fishing Byelaw has been submitted to the Marine Management Organisation for Quality Assurance. Only once the Byelaw has completed this stage and been signed off by the Secretary of State will it come into effect.

Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes Review

Many commercial species caught within the Southern IFC District are subject to a Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS), previously known as Minimum Landing Size or Minimum Legal Size. This statutory measure prevents fish or shellfish below a set size from being removed from the fishery and is therefore recognised as an effective tool for the sustainable management of fisheries. 

A MCRS for a species is often set based upon the size at which 50% of the population reaches maturity. This ensures at least 50% of juveniles have an opportunity to sexually mature and reproduce at least once before potential capture. Additional factors such as market size, existing legislation, stock status and reproductive strategies can also influence whether and how a MCRS is set.

We have undertaken an extensive literature review, using published and grey literature, based upon 50% size of sexual maturity for commercial and recreational species in the District.

Size at Maturity Reviews

Best available evidence on reproductive biology, life history and the social and economic value of 25 species has also been summarised in individual Species Profiles .

To build upon the evidence collected to date Southern IFCA held a ‘Call for Information’ from the 24 th May to 20 th July 2021 to provide stakeholders and the community an opportunity to contribute evidence to the Review.

Size at Maturity Research

Since 2020, Southern IFCA have been collecting primary data in order to improve our knowledge and understanding of the following five species within the District:

Grey Mullet

In collaboration with the University of Plymouth we are investigating the size at maturity for thin-lipped ( Chelon ramada ), golden-grey ( Chelon aurata ) and thick-lipped ( Chelon labrosus ) grey mullet. Working with local fishers sample collection for golden-grey and thin-lipped grey mullet took place from July-September 2020. Thick-lipped grey mullet sampling is ongoing and proposed to continue until early 2022. Two MRes students – Callum Pritchard and Andrew Macleod are undertaking the analysis of the grey mullet, supervised by Dr Benjamin Ciotti. The main objectives of the research are to:

1.    Calculate the age and length at 50% maturity for each species

2.    Determine the time of the spawning season using the Gonadosomatic Index (GSI)

3.    Identify morphological characteristics that may be used to distinguish between species

4.    Confirm the identity of species using C01 gene barcoding and a Saccular otolith key

5.    Develop a detailed gonad maturity scale

Lab analysis began in March and includes morphometric measurements, the removal of scales to analyse the age of each specimen and macroscopic staging of the gonads using Tulkani’s maturity scale for grey mullet¹. Gonads are also weighed to calculate the Gonadosomatic Index (GSI) and tissue samples will be used for DNA sequencing techniques.

A report on the maturity of golden-grey and thin-lipped grey mullet is expected by the end of September 2021. Further samples are required to attain an accurate estimate for 50% maturity for thick-lipped grey mullet therefore, research on thick-lipped grey mullet is expected to conclude in September 2022. Reports will be published on our website and all parties involved are very keen for the research to be peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal. Very few studies have examined the reproductive biology of grey mullet species in British waters hence this research is extremely valuable in providing a greater understanding for not only the IFCA but the wider community. The results of the research will feed into our Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes review.

1.Tulkani, R. H. M. (2017). ‘Population biology of two species of grey mullet, Liza abu in central Iraq (Heckel, 1843) and Chelon labrosus (Risso, 1827) in North West Wales’, PhD Thesis, Bangor University, Wale

Gilthead Bream (Sparus aurata)

Historically, gilthead bream has not been a commercial species in the UK but within recent years a fishery has started to emerge in Dorset and Hampshire as the distribution of the gilthead bream has expanded northwards from the Mediterranean to the southern coasts of England. Very little is known about the reproductive ecology of the gilthead bream in British waters including their size at maturity (SIFCA Gilthead Bream Species Profile) . In 2020, Southern IFCA started a pilot study to collect data on the size at maturity for gilthead bream in the District. Data collection will continue until 2022 in collaboration with partner agencies and academic institutions.  

Whelk (Buccinum spp.)

The size at which whelks mature varies greatly on a small geographical scale. Previous studies have found whelk populations across the Southern IFC District mature at different sizes (SIFCA Whelk Species Profile). Working with commercial whelk fishers within the District we hope to collect samples across multiple sites in 2022 to confirm these differences.

Next Steps

Following the ‘Call for Information’, which ran for 8 weeks from the 24 th May to 20 th July 2021, all responses were collated into a ‘Summary of Reponses’ report. This report along with the maturity literature review packages and additional evidence collated to date will help inform our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) in their decision making and drafting of new measures.

Further opportunities to comment and input into the MCRS Review will be available through a period of informal consultation, to be held once draft measures have been drafted.

Review of Net Fishing

The Net Fishing Byelaw has been ratified by the Secretary of State with the byelaw introducing various measures to regulate fishing with nets.

The Byelaw was develop through the review of the District's harbours and estuarine waters in order to support the use of these areas as essential fish habitats, to provide protection to migratory salmonids as they transit through these areas, to balance the social and economic benefits of net fishers and to further the Conservation Objectives of Designated sites.

Please visit the Net Fishing page for more information on the Net Fishing Byelaw.

Supporting documentation for the development of the Net Fishing Byelaw can be viewed on the Net Fisheries page.

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