Constructive Approach to Landings Obligation by MMO in Brixham Praised by Waterdance Ltd

Monkfish tails, such as these landed by the Waterdance vessel Barentszee, now have to be landed irrespective of size under the landings obligation

Monkfish tails, such as these landed by the Waterdance vessel Barentszee, now have to be landed irrespective of size under the landings obligation

The full implementation of the landings obligation from the start of 2019 is widely regarded as a key legislative change. As the largest beam trawl operator from the South Devon port of Brixham, Waterdance Ltd has spent significant time considering the implications for its operations and is positive about how the legislation has worked so far.

Martyn Youell, Senior Manager of Fisheries and Quota at Waterdance, said: “We found that it was key to be prepared for the new legislation and we held individual training sessions on the landing obligation with each of our skippers of the 11 strong Waterdance beam trawl fleet. We have also fitted all of our vessels with highly selective gear meaning that the majority of small fish escape the nets at sea and the exemptions available for sole and plaice apply. The high-survivability exemption for skates and rays is also important as such species are difficult to avoid with selectivity measures due to the broad body shape.”

Mr. Youell continued: “Considering the gear adaptations, exemptions and predominant species in the Western English Channel, it is only monkfish that raises a cause for concern for Waterdance: all sizes of monkfish must now be landed and small monkfish is difficult to avoid due to the large head. However, the Marina Management Organisation (MMO) has helpfully answered our questions and confirmed that this small monkfish can be marketed.”

As a company, Waterdance is fully supportive of good fish stock stewardship and would prefer to return small monkfish provided it has a good chance of survival. While we will fully comply with the requirement to land small monkfish, we have also volunteered the use of our vessels for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) to research the survival rates of small monkfish in beam trawls with a view to considering if a survival exemption in future years is appropriate. We have been informed no survival trial will be possible this year but remain optimistic that a trial will be carried out next year.

Mr Youell commented that: “I have been impressed with the willingness of the MMO Brixham officers to accept my invitations to jump aboard the Waterdance beam trawlers and explain the rules and electronic logbook implications of the landings obligation to our skippers. In particular, MMO officers have provided comments on the internal guidance we have produced for our fleet and worked with us to resolve initial difficulties in entering discards and recording undersized catches in the electronic logbook.”

Martyn Youell