Cod Conservation measures in the Irish Sea

Cod stocks continue to recover in the Irish Sea but require ongoing careful management. DAERA remains committed to further improving this stock and is maintaining the existing cod conservation measures into 2021.

Cod is managed as a by catch only species- it cannot be directly targeted. It remains a potential by catch in other fisheries and approaches have been taken to reduce or avoid unwanted catches in the directed Nephrops and haddock fisheries. These approaches include the use of technical measures and the ongoing closed period in the Irish Sea.

Technical measures

For the Irish Sea Nephrop’s fishery a number of highly selective gears are mandatory. These gears are set out in the UK Discard Plan. For 2021 the Discard Plan remains unchanged from last year, the existing 2020 EU Discard Plan has been retained, and is now part of UK legislation.  A consolidated version is not yet available but he original text can be accessed here.

A practical guide to these options can be found on the fish landing obligation page.

The same discard plan also sets out the current gear requirements for vessels targeting haddock (i.e vessels with catches of more than 10% haddock, cod and skates and rays). Currently the discard plan requires bottom trawls or seines to use either a 120mm cod end or an eliminator trawl. Additional information on these gears can be found here.

Irish Sea Cod Closure

There is a standing closure in the Irish Sea from the 14th February to 30th April. (retained EU Regulation 2019/1241). During this period it is prohibited to use:

any demersal trawl, seine or similar towed net, any gillnet, entangling net or trammel net or any fishing gear incorporating hooks within that part of ICES division 7a enclosed by the east coast of Ireland and the east coast of Northern Ireland and straight lines sequentially joining the following geographical coordinates, which shall be measured according to the WGS84 coordinate system:

  • a point on the east coast of the Ards peninsula in Northern Ireland at 54°30′ N
  • 54°30′ N, 04°50′ W
  • 53°15′ N, 04°50′ W
  • a point on the east coast of Ireland at 53°15′ N.

However, fishing gears that have been scientifically assessed as being highly selective can be permitted to continue. The gears in use in the Nephrops Fishery, as required by the Discard Plan above, are considered to meet this requirement and can continue to be used during the closed period.

A further derogation has been provided in 2021 for a directed haddock fishery, again using the gears identified in the Discard Plan, above, as being highly selective.

To ensure cod conservation objectives are not impacted a number of additional conditions for this fishery have been agreed with the Producer Organisations. The conditions for this fishery can be access here.

Vessels wishing to take part in this fishery must be notified to DAERA through their Producer Organisation.

Additional Cod Conservation Measures

In addition to the above, AFBI continue to maintain an enhanced scientific observer programme to collect data on catches, and to monitor the development of cod and other stocks in the Irish Sea.

Additional technical measures and avoidance options are also being explored. The Northern Ireland Gear Trials project is a collaborative, industry led project that aims to design, trial, and implement more selective fishing gears into the Northern Ireland commercial Nephrops fleet. Both Northern Ireland fish producer organisations, ANIFPO and NIFPO, in conjunction with DAERA, AFBI and Seafish oversee the project with a project manager being responsible for the day-to-day activities.

The purpose of the programme is to support the fishing industry in developing ways to avoid catching juveniles of all species, reducing the catch of unwanted quota species whilst maintaining viable commercial fisheries. A number of gear trials have been undertaken and more are planned shortly, the programme can be followed on Facebook by following this link.

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