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With the crab and lobster fishery having reopened for recreational fishers on May 1st, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Ireland’s sea-fisheries regulator, is reminding all fishers of the importance of compliance with the regulations and best practice that govern the catching, selling and buying of crabs and lobsters.

EU regulations were updated last year to help in the conservation of fisheries resources and the protection of marine ecosystems and are part of a range of conservation measures to help ensure the viability of the commercial in-shore fishing industry.

Crab is an important component of Irish seafood exports, with an export value in excess of €60 million making it Ireland’s third most valuable seafood export. Crab and lobsters are not only in demand overseas but domestically also, and are popular amongst recreational fishers during the summer months.

Dr Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA, is urging everyone involved to pay particular attention to the regulations regarding the size of shellfish caught and the quantity of crab claws without bodies which can be retained onboard a vessel.

These are regulations that go to the core of ensuring a sustainable fishery. Being physically large means they have long enough to have a good chance of contributing to the next generation, and having the whole body landed ensures that such an assessment can be made.  Taking small crabs out of the population damages future breeding potential and retaining only claws can be a method of evading the minim mum size requirements.

The regulations concerning the size that can be caught in Irish water apply to all fishers. The minimum size for crab in Irish waters is as follows; edible/brown crab 140 mm, spider crab 120mm and velvet crab 65mm while European lobster have minimum size of 87mm and maximum of 127mm (carapace length).

A crab or lobster outside these sizes limits must be returned immediately to the sea. Undersize shellfish cannot be retained on board for any reason including for use as bait. Furthermore, lobsters that have been V-notched or have mutilated tails must not be retained on board either.

For edible crabs caught in pots or creels, a maximum of 1 % by weight of the total catch of edible crab may consist of detached claws. For edible crabs caught with any other fishing gear other than pots or traps, a maximum of 75kg of detached crab claws may be landed.

Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers continue to be available to assist fishers and they are contactable on their mobile numbers and by email. The SFPA can be reached at its usual main landline numbers or by email at sfpa_info@sfpa.ie.

Dr Steele also urged anyone who had concerns around fishing activity that might be illegal or against best practice to contact the regulator directly or by calling the SFPA confidential telephone line at 1890 76 76 76.