The Scottish Crab sector comprises a small full time offshore Vivier (live holding tanks) sector, a seasonal offshore/inshore sector (some with vivier capacity) and smaller traditional inshore boats. There are approximately 1400 vessels engaged in crab fishing, employing around 2000 people and annual landings in the region of 8200 tonnes worth £20 million.
It is acknowledged that the science base for crab stocks is sparse, but the best available evidence would show that on all the identified stocks catching is at or above the level of fully exploited. This is further complicated by the market being grossly over-supplied at peak times, leading to a collapse in prices. Therefore the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation strongly believes it would be appropriate for industry, in the spirit of sustainability to adopt a precautionary approach to these fisheries.
Evidence from the public meetings held as part of the process to develop industry preferred options for a management regime as part of the report ‘Future Management of Brown Crab in the UK and Ireland’, suggests participants in the fishery are keen to manage the fishery in a sustainable manner and keep control of the resource in their own hands. There is a general aversion to the fishery being subject to a quota management system similar to that developed under the Common Fisheries Policy. There is general agreement that subject to over-arching national strategy, crab stocks will be best managed on a regional basis, with a clear difference between the main Inshore and Offshore fisheries.
All the evidence points to effort increasing, with creel numbers climbing steadily. The SFF, therefore, supports the principle of controlling the number of vessels involved in the fishery and helping new entrants.
The SFF is also fully involved in the Atlantic Crab Resource Users Network – ACRUNET – which has been created to develop a transnational approach for the catching, transport and selling of brown crab (Cancer pagurus) that will ensure the supply of a high quality and sustainable product to the main European markets. Objectives include the building of an industry/science interface that will feed into management and policy for crab at regional and international levels, and to develop the widespread adoption of an accredited brown crab standard to ensure the delivery of a high quality and sustainably caught product.
In summary, the SFF supports and is working towards implementing the following crab management measures:
- Regional management areas with appropriate scientific backing.
- Pot limits on inshore grounds; Pot limits & Landings cap for offshore.
- Support well designed data collection system.
- Oppose introduction of CFP style quota management.
- Gear Marking compulsory, as far as practical and safe.
- Bans on landing berried crabs, soft crab, claws.
- Support for escape hatches and other selectivity measures.