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Roker Restrictions

Feb 12,2007 SACN


Inshore Fishermen on the East coast of the UK have been shocked to learn that an EU regulation that applies retrospectively from 1st January 2007, has outlawed the targeted fishery of skates and rays, and now only allows them to be landed as a bycatch of 25% of other species.

Last year and this year, both commercial fishermen and anglers have reported an upturn on catches of Thornback rays (commonly refererred to and sold as 'skate') in places like the Thames estuary, and have been taken by surprise by the new conservation measures, especially as there appears to have been little effective communication of the new regulations to catchers.

We understand that there will be an 'education period' and that fishermen who have landed skates and rays, unaware of the new regulation, will not be penalised.

Fishermen are pointing out that Thornback rays (also known as roker), are a mainstay of the inshore fishery at certain times of the year, especially now as the sole quota is gradually being lowered, and are concerned that this will effect the viability of many inshore fishing operations.

In some instances orders for new boats and skate nets have had to be cancelled.  

They also point out that many fish now being returned alive as 'unwanted' (ie spotted-dogfish and whiting) will now be retained to justify the landing of roker, which can often be around 10lb in weight, and that catching an unexpected haul of roker will mean extra effort on other species to legitimise a bycatch.

DEFRA have noted that their negotiations as part of the New Year EU fishery talks have resulted in the initial proposal for just a 10% bycatch of skate and rays having been uplifted to 25%, reducing the effect that the initial proposals would have had, particularly on the inshore fishing fleet. 

The lack of consultation, and lack of communication of the new measures are being strongly condemned from a number of quarters.

(The new regulation which applies to areas IIa and  IV can be viewed at page 77 at:http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2007/l_015/l_01520070120en00010213.pdf ) 

Our understanding is that the restrictions only apply to registered fishing vessels and will not affect anglers or angling chart boats, although SACN urges anglers to consider returning elasmobranchs (shark and ray species), because of their vulnerability, being slow growing, long-lived and of producing relatively few young, and their importance within healthy marine ecosystems.

See Also:

http://business.edp24.co.uk



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