Queen scallop shell on a beach Queen scallop shell on a beach

E-zine sign-up

What does the future of queen scallop fishing look like in English waters?

In response to requirements set out by fisheries policy authorities, ABPmer has reviewed information to support Defra in the preparation of an English Fisheries Management Plan for queen scallops

Scallops are the third most valuable species in UK fisheries, with landings worth £63 million in 2022 (MMO, 2023). King scallops make up the majority of this, and in comparison, the UK queen scallop fishery was worth £1.8 million in 2022. Given its relatively small size, there is little data available on queen scallop stocks, and limited management measures in place to ensure the stocks are sustainably fished.

The need for sustainable fishing of queen scallop has been recognised by Defra; to address this, a queen scallop Fisheries Management Plan development process has begun. 

The Fisheries Management Plan requirement

UK fisheries policy authorities collaborated to produce a Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS), arising from a legal requirement in the Fisheries Act 2020. The JFS sets out the ambition of the UK to continue delivering world class, sustainable management of fisheries and how it will do so.

As stated in the JFS, Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) play a key role in the UK’s commitment to sustainable fishing, as the basis for managing fishing activity so the harvesting of fish stocks remains within sustainable levels.

FMPs are considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as a best practice tool for delivering sustainably managed fisheries; they are already in use in many countries, including Canada, Australia, and the United States. The commitment in the JFS to introduce FMPs for 43 stocks in UK waters is an exciting and ambitious opportunity for the UK to demonstrate its commitment to sustainable fisheries management.

The Fisheries Act and the JFS set out the requirements of FMPs, and a list of planned FMPs, including a Queen Scallop FMP for England.

FMPs must include:

  • The relevant authority
  • Stock or stocks, type of fishing and geographical area to which the plan relates
  • The status of the stocks
  • Policies and actions to harvest within sustainable limits
  • The indicators to be used to monitor the effectiveness of the plan

The FMPs will also set out how the UK government intends to meet the objectives set out in the Fisheries Act, including considering bycatch interactions, the impact of climate change, and interactions with the wider ecosystem.

While the king scallop fishery in English and Welsh waters was prioritised as a ‘front runner’ FMP by both Defra and Welsh Government, and was recently under public consultation, the queen scallop FMP process has only recently begun.

The smaller, less targeted queen scallop fishery falls into the third round of FMPs being developed. Given the variety of fish and shellfish species present in UK waters, only Defra was able to prioritise queen scallops as a fishery requiring an FMP; Defra is now seeking to understand how best to implement an England-only management plan for a species fished across multiple devolved administration boundaries.

The Queen Scallop FMP approach

Defra commissioned ABPmer to provide support in reviewing the currently available information and management for queen scallop fishery. ABPmer’s information review will support Defra in determining how best to develop and apply an England-only FMP, ensuring management measures and approaches applied make a worthwhile contribution to ensuring sustainable harvesting of stocks.

The work includes:

  • An overview of the queen scallop fishery, including stock boundaries and stock assessment data, fleet structure and spatial activity, existing management and technical measures, environmental considerations, evidence gaps, and stakeholder representation
  • An overview of trends and performance of the Irish Sea Queen Scallop fishery over the last 10 years, including landings, stock status and markets
  • Recommendations to support the FMP development

The recommendations are based on the following criteria:

  • Evidence regarding the Irish Sea queen scallop fishery in English waters
  • Potential new management approaches and measures to improve the sustainability of the stock
  • Other evidence and/or actions required to meet the broader obligations under the Fisheries Act, such as environmental protection

The development of the queen scallop FMP for English waters will be particularly interesting, given that the stock falls into the management jurisdictions of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man, and that, although only a small number of vessels directly target this species, most are fishing in English waters and landing in Scotland or Isle of Man.

Following public consultation, the Queen Scallop FMP is due to be published by the end of 2024.

ABPmer supports policy-makers, regulators and the fisheries and aquaculture industry on marine environmental policy matters, assessment and management, including interactions between fisheries, marine protected areas (MPAs) and other marine developments.

Ready to discuss your requirements? Get in touch.