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Creed introduces industry-led conservation measure for razor clams in the North Irish Sea

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., has signed a statutory instrument to increase the minimum conservation reference size for razor clam in the North Irish Sea. 

This new conservation measure, which was initiated by local fishermen, comes into effect on 1 July 2018 and means that the minimum landing size for razor clam in the North Irish Sea will be 125mm. Razor clams are typically fished in the area extending from Howth to Dundalk Bay.

Minister Creed said: “I welcome the introduction of this measure, particularly as it was proposed and developed by inshore fishermen seeking to protect the sustainability of this important fishery.  I am pleased the Inshore Fisheries Forums are engaging with conservation issues in the inshore sector, and I would like to thank the Forum members for their support in bringing this proposal forward.”

The introduction of the conservation measure follows an extensive consultation process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums and a public consultation earlier this year. In what is another step towards sustainability for the stock this conservation measure goes beyond the mandatory standards set by European regulations. Industry members see the conservation size increase as a way of protecting smaller razor clam, which may help the razor clam stock to become more sustainable in the long term while also increasing its value.

In 2016 the value of razor clams fished in Irish waters was over €5.7 million. While they do not feature highly on Irish menus, razor clams are in favour in China and Spain. The conservation measure introduced by industry highlights the importance of stock sustainability in meeting the demands of the market abroad.

Notes for Editors

New Measure

The regulations signed by Minister Creed will increase the minimum conservation reference size for razor clam taken by Irish sea-fishing boats in the North Irish Sea razor clam fishery to 125mm with effect from 1 July 2018.  This goes beyond the 100mm minimum conservation size for razor clam set out in Council Regulation (EC) No 850/98. 

Fishermen active in the North Irish Sea proposed the increase as a way of supporting the sustainability of the fishery.  The measure is aimed at extending protections to smaller razor clam, thereby giving them more time to spawn and increasing their potential contribution to the stock's biomass.  

The measure was initiated by local razor clam fishermen bringing their proposal to the North East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum.  The measure was brought to the Minister by the National Inshore Fisheries Forum last year, and a public consultation on the measure was held earlier this year.  

North Irish Sea Fishery

The fishery for razor clam (Ensis siliqua) has been operating in the North Irish Sea since 1997.  Activity in the fishery has increased dramatically in the period since 2011, driven by the demand from Asian markets.  The fishery continues to experience high fishing effort, with more than 60 sea-fishing boats active in the fishery in 2016 and 2017.

Given the rapid escalation of the fishery, the Minister implemented management measures in 2015 to protect it from over-exploitation.  These included:

  • a weekly catch limit of 600kg per boat (Razor Clam (Conservation of Stocks) (North Irish Sea) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI No. 588 of 2015)),
  • limiting fishing to certain days of the week (Razor Clam (Conservation of Stocks) (North Irish Sea) Regulations 2015 (SI No. 207 of 2015))
  • national rules for catch reporting, location monitoring of vessels, etc. (Razor Clam (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2015 (SI No. 206 of 2015).

Inshore Fisheries Forums

The inshore sector (comprising fishing boats of less than 12 metres in overall length) makes up more than 80% of the fishing fleet and is predominately active within six nautical miles of the Irish shore.  The Inshore Fisheries Forums were set up to facilitate the development of a coherent inshore sector “voice” by encouraging inshore fishermen to discuss their fishing issues and generate commonly-supported initiatives. 

The National Inshore Fisheries Forum is supported by a network of six Regional Forums around the Irish coast.  Delegates from the Regional Forums bring forward regional proposals to the National Forum for wider industry discussion.  The Regional Forum members include inshore fishermen, environmental interests, marine leisure, marine tourism and other marine stakeholders.  The structures also provide opportunities for collaboration between the inshore fishing sector and their communities on sustainable strategies to optimise the income opportunities afforded by the coastal resource.




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