Berried lobster catches could force ban on fishermen

Fishermen with a shellfish licence could be banned for anything up to eight weeks if there are any egg-bearing lobsters in their landings.

Shetland will enforce Scotland’s first ban on landing egg-bearing lobsters in a conservation move driven by local fishermen.

The new regulation agreed by the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) outlaws the practice of boats keeping so-called berried lobsters, which carry many thousands of eggs.

SSMO say that preventing the removal of these lobsters will to help protect the spawning stock needed for a sustainable fishery.

SSMO inshore co-ordinator John Robertson said: “This ban is seen by many fishermen as a positive way they can boost stocks in the absence of a lobster hatchery in Shetland.

“It is going to hit their income from creel fishing significantly in the short term but hopefully it’s a sacrifice that will reap rewards for them, and the buyers, in years to come.

“It was the fishermen who called for the ban and they backed it in a vote conducted last year by the SSMO.

“Marine Scotland supports the change which the SSMO is able to impose under its own regulatory powers.”

A voluntary ban was introduced from 1st August ahead of the measure becoming mandatory from 20th September. Some Shetland fishermen chose to return berried lobsters to the sea anyway as a good fisheries practice, cutting a v-notch in their tail which makes them illegal to land under Scots law.

In England, landing berried lobsters is already outlawed.

Breaching the SSMO ban could see a shellfish licence holder suspended from fishing for anything up to eight weeks.

The trade in live lobsters is monitored by officers from Marine Scotland Compliance who check catches on boats or when shellfish is being sold for live export from Shetland. The SSMO exercises powers devolved from the Scottish government to manage sustainable shellfish fisheries within the six-mile zone around Shetland, restricting licences to 106 mainly small boats. The SSMO seeks to prevent overfishing and to promote policies which protect sensitive seabed habitats.


Add Your Comment
  • Don Cuddy

    • September 17th, 2022 12:15

    While this is encouraging, particularly since the initiative came from the fishermen, I’m incredulous that this is being adopted only now and with a penalty that does not seem to be much of a deterrent. Also, how much enforcement can be expected? Here in New England a lobsterman found with ‘an egger’ is in big trouble and the resort of the unscrupulous is to scrub the eggs using bleach. So hopefully there will be some oversight involved.

  • Barb Jackson

    • December 7th, 2022 2:46

    There are places in the US that the fine for keeping a berried lobster is $1200.00. You should definitely issue a large fine, the penalty you have isn’t much of a deterrent.


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