Wrasse – Further Update & What You Can Do

During the last couple of weeks more information has been obtained by Devon and Severn IFCA regarding the emerging Live Wrasse Fishery.

It is not illegal to target LIVE wrasse – there is no commercial minimum size or catch limit

Wrasse are required in the farms  at a recommended rate of 1 wrasse to every 20 salmon to control sea lice – in lieu of chemical treatment, which was used in Norway up until a resistance to the treatment built up in 2007/2008 [there was also concern with the chemicals effect on the environment].

The salmon farms are involved with programs “to make themselves self sufficient in  farmed wrasse ” –  The question is WHEN? – this has been said for some time.

There is a relatively small existing commercial interest in wrasse for the table and a larger one for their use as bait for the crab pots.

The mortality rate during transport has apparently been improved

The areas that DSIFCA are particularly concerned about are:

The effect that removal of such a large number of wrasse will have on their native environment and their own species survival. little information is available from earlier fisheries. We know that wrasse tend to be territorial and all bar one species make nests and then guard them. What is the consequence of removing fish during this process? The breeding season for the different species of wrasse range from April to August. We also know that the smaller species of wrasse actually clean the larger Ballans

Target areas for the fishery are predominantly reefs and sea grass areas in depths of up to 10 meters [for fish survival] usually in MPAs [Marine Protected Areas] ?  It has been recorded that where wrasse populations have been severely reduced, crabs /parasites etc. increase to the detriment of the environment and other species. Kelp beds and seaweeds etc. also suffer.

The physical effect of the intensive potting operation itself in the most delicate of MPA’s is of great concern. The trap demonstrated was comparatively small at 72Lx40wx28h, and being lightweight  is claimed to do little damage to the sea bed [unlike the heavier and larger crab pots].

 More Thoughts:

The wrasse – I still am not clear how they end up  –  do they survive or do they die? –  do they escape  and flourish ?

The information provided by the fish farms /agents seem to vary considerably and is not consistent – there are adverts for more direct suppliers. I am sure that the numbers will be much higher than we have been led to believe.  Whilst writing this I have heard of another approach to three Brixham boats, and a report that 60000 wrasse were supplied from Weymouth last autumn.

History does tell us that the biggest killing of wrasse occurrs in the first couple of years in each new area, and I have not seen anything yet on recovery periods. This presents the risk of irreparable damage being done before we can act on anything except a precautionary basis, which IFCAs do have the power to do.

 My Suggestion:

Trial the fishery in limited areas with a limited number of vessels and pots and measure the effect before deciding how or if the fishery could proceed

From a Sea Anglers point of view, the wrasse is not usually a table fish, but is one that we all consider a nice fish to catch, it pulls well and looks good when we release it, great for the kids on holiday.

Will the pots appear even closer to the shore at our popular / regular / holiday venues – impeding our fishing ?

What to do:

Contact your local IFCA and express your concerns and thoughts. Ask the sort of questions that I have, and more importantly those of your own. They are concerned, but need to know that we are, or they will assume we have no view on the matter.

They are responsible for Inshore conservation and they need to know your views, the more the better.

Depending on the route taken by the IFCAs there will be opportunities to formally respond to any proposals that will be sent out in a consultation process, but do not wait, the season is about to start.

The IFCAs are each responsible for their own areas, so you may want to ask questions of more than one

Local Contact Details

Devon Severn IFCA   www.devonandsevernifca.gov.uk

Email    office@devonandsevernifca.gov.uk

Cornish IFCA   www.cornwall-ifca.gov.uk

Email    enquiries@cornwall-ifca.gov.uk

Southern IFCA   www.southern-ifca.gov.uk

Email    enquiries@southern-ifca.gov.uk

John May.


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