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Monkfish tails, such as these landed by Waterdance’s beamer Barentszee, now have to be landed irrespective of size under the Landings Obligation. Image: Waterdance

Brixham’s largest beam trawler operator, Waterdance Ltd has invested time and resources in examining the implications of the Landings Obligation on its fleet – and has identified small grades of monkfish as the only cause for concern.

‘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 eleven-strong Waterdance beam trawl fleet,’ said the company’s Senior Manager of Fisheries and Quota Martyn Youell.

The Waterdance fleet already uses highly selective gear, allowing the majority of small fish escape, and exemptions available for sole and plaice apply.

He added that the high survivability exemption for skates and rays is also important as the body shape of these species means that they difficult to avoid with selectivity measures.


Waterdance’s beam trawler Barentszee

‘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 Marine Management Organisation has helpfully answered our questions and confirmed that this small monkfish can be marketed.’

He commented that 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 it will fully comply with the requirement to land small monkfish, Waterdance has also volunteered the use of its vessels for the DEFRA and 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,’ Martyn Youell said.

‘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.’