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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

NOT a lot of people know that I know a lot about nephrops, but in view of the increasing popularity of José P Ribas rival column on the whizbang Ibiza History Culture pages, I thought I would introduce some eco culture here.

Nephrops (Nephrops norvegicus, as it is generally known to scientists and industry, is a decapod (10-legged) crustacean related to the crab, shrimp and lobster.

It can grow to lengths above 24cm (not including the claws though, of course not) and varies in colour from watery orange to a pale red, sometimes with banded claws.

It lives in complex burrows dug into soft muds and emerges only at night.

It reproduces every year, the female carrying relatively few eggs (500 to 5,000) compared to other crustaceans such as the crab which produces 200,000 to three million eggs a year (Bannister, 2001).

For part of the day, the burrows protect nephrops from trawling and it is mostly the males who are caught during the night when they are more active. There's a lesson to be learnt here, methinks.

Huge slow marine eddies (not Eddies or even Eddy's) known as gyres retain the planktonic larvae in areas close to where they hatch. As a result, distinct stocks are being identified by the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland (DANI) and others with a view to attaching a separate TAC to each stock.

I'm telling you all this because Nephrops (prawn) fisheries are some of the most important and valuable fisheries around the whole of the British Isles. All of them, every one.

Major grounds (not Major Grounds) are found in the Minches, the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea. The proximity of the grounds to the UK means that local fleets are able to land the freshest whole or live nephrops in the EU and can therefore command a high premium. The UK also has the largest share of the EU quota (Bannister, 2001).

The conflict between mobile and static gears is a significant factor in this resource, as are the starkly different values given to catches caught by creel.

The ocean going trawl and inshore creel fishery can be easily characterised as good and bad fishery practices. However, it should be remembered that there are very few fishing communities that are not under threat and that all working vessels are helping to support a community and hinterland associated with its home port. Whitefish trawlers also trawl the offshore grounds, which are trawled by the nephrops trawler, i.e., the trawler of nephrops, and it is unlikely they will ever be open to the creelers.

Both types of fishery can apparently co-exist without damaging their target species at their current levels of effort (eight out of ten, go to the front of the class) - but they could also improve their level of sustainability by reducing their environmental impact.

The good news is that Sober Life thus becomes the first of the two columns to use the phrase "environmental impact."

Thanks must go to Dr. Susan Gubbay and Allen Searle who produced the Oceans Recovery Campaign document "Fish of the Day" - July 2001.

Also the Sea Fish Industry for their diagrams (not reproduced here, but no doubt showing nephrops at night).

For further information contact the Living Seas Programme at the World Wildlife Fund-UK, Panda House, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1XR.

Tel. 44 1483 426409.
Website www.wwf-uk.org

Sinclair Newton