John Pollock, Chief Executive of the Loughs Agency, has signed a declaration to suspend native oyster fishing in the Foyle area for the expedient for the conservation and protection of shellfish.
The declaration states that fishing for native oysters is suspended for the entirety of the Foyle area from 1st March 2017 at 06:00 hrs to 31st March 2017 at 18:00hrs.
A survey and review of the Native Oyster population remaining in the Lough after the fishing period (October to December 2016) was undertaken in January / February 2017. After consideration of the results from this survey it has been decided that the fishery will be closed for the entirety of March 2017. This closure is to ensure the retention of the remaining stock on the beds in order to contribute to the adult broodstock and improve potential spawning and settlement in the 2017 season and beyond.
Removal of 100% of the stock above the minimum landing size is not sustainable. It is advisable to retain a proportion of the spawning stock above 80mm in the fishery in order to allow for stock replenishment and the achievement of effective spawning for the 2017 spawning season and beyond.
Stock assessments over the last number of years have shown a reduction in the frequency of young age classes of native oysters in the population with a shift towards the older demographics. This shift is as a result of poor settlement events in 2015 and 2016. Removal of further stock over 80 mm, from the fishery, this season, could exacerbate the situation by further reducing the density of reproductive adults potentially contributing to the population. Therefore, fishing activity in March 2017 could have a highly detrimental effect on future recruitment to the population.
A full copy of the declaration can be found here.