Mussel seed fishery

The bottom grown mussel sector relies entirely on the supply of seed mussels from naturally occurring beds for relaying onto licensed sites for on-growing to a marketable size.  The industry operates on an all-island basis and the main seed beds have historically been found off the East coast of Ireland i.e. Counties Down, Wicklow and Wexford.

In Northern Ireland, Licences for Collecting Mussel Seed are granted under the rules of the Fishing Vessels Restrictive Licensing Scheme.  Licences are issued at the discretion of DAERA to the owners or charterers of named fishing vessels designed for the purpose of dredging mussel seed for relaying on sites licensed by DAERA in Northern Ireland, DAFM in the Republic of Ireland or sites in Lough Foyle. DAERA grants licences under the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967.

In 2007, DAERA, DAFM and the Loughs Agency commissioned an all-island review of the bottom grown mussel sector with the aim of producing a set of recommendations for the future management and regulation of the sector.  The review was undertaken by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), and produced the official report “The Rising Tide”. Since then, DAERA, DAFM and the Loughs Agency have progressed a number of recommendations contained in the Report including the establishment of an All-Island Bottom Grown Mussel Consultative Forum (BGMCF). The Forum is chaired by BIM and facilitates discussion between industry, their representative bodies and regulators on matters of mutual interest.

Licence Application Process

Owners and/or charterers of mussel dredgers are required to apply in writing for a Licence to Collect Mussel Seed. DAERA will issue application packs on an annual basis. The completed application form must be accompanied by a valid Transcript of Registry of a British Fishing Vessel for the vessel to be licensed.

In cases where the applicant is not the vessel owner, the application must be accompanied by a Charter Agreement i.e. a formal written agreement signed by the applicant and the owner of the vessel.

A Licence for Collecting Mussel Seed will be formally revoked once the seed mussel allocation specified in the licence has been fished.

Seed Mussel Surveys

Decisions on the opening of mussel beds in Northern Ireland waters including those beds at Skullmartin, Donaghadee Sound, the Feathers, Burial Island and Craigbrain Reef are informed by surveys undertaken by AFBI prior to the proposed opening date and in light of their recommendations on both the suitability and quantity of seed available to be fished.

A fishery may be closed early on conservation grounds by the Fisheries Inspectorate should the mussel to waste ratio be deemed inappropriate and likely to damage the substrate. Copies of AFBI’s survey reports (Seed Mussel Stock Assessments) are viewable at these links for the years 2021,  2020, 2019 and 2018.

Contact

For further information, contact:
Mr John McGuigan 
Tel: 028 44 618044
E-Mail: John.McGuigan@daera-ni.gov.uk

 

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