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2009 Scallop Season to Get Underway 30 October 2009

The annual scallop fishing season within the Irish Sea is due to get underway this weekend with the catching season running from the 1st November 2009 to 31st May 2010. The Irish Sea area is the only major fishing ground around the British Isles that has a close season to help protect the stocks and the environment. Due to the effective conservation measures put in place giving a better scallop and better catch rates more and more vessels from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are attracted during the season.

During these difficult times the scallop fishery provides valuable income and employment and is an important part of the Islands economy. During the same period in 2008/09 Islands fish processors received over 1000 tonnes of scallops making it a very busy period for them cleaning, packing and exporting and it is expected the new season will be just as busy.

This year Wales has temporarily closed its territorial sea to all scallop fishing while it tries to put new conservation measures in place to protect its stocks and with its devolved government it has the power to do this. Scotland and England also have this power if they so wish. This action will evidently result in more vessels fishing in Manx waters as the area available within the Irish Sea has been reduced.

For the Isle of Man to introduce new conservation measures it has to ask, and then get permission from all the other jurisdictions in the Irish Sea area and as a result, Phil Gawne MHK, the Minister for DAFF is disappointed that sensible conservation measures requested by the department have not been agreed by every jurisdiction and therefore cannot be implemented. The Minister feels it is an injustice that the department cannot introduce its own conservation measures without having to gain permission, while other jurisdictions can, and as a result is in the process of renegotiating the fisheries management agreement to enable this.

The Minister made clear his frustration – “From 1st November on clear nights during the coming months you may notice a mass of bright lights twinkling on the horizon and wonder what they are? The answer is they are likely to be the lights on the scallop boats from all over the British Isles harvesting our scallops. I am particularly angry that vessels from countries which are failing to introduce any meaningful conservation measures are currently allowed to come to Manx waters and undermine our efforts to develop a sustainable scallop industry. This is clearly unfair and I hope that UK Fisheries Ministers will shortly agree to a new Agreement which will allow me the same level of control in the Manx territorial sea as they enjoy in theirs.”

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