FEARS have been raised that a ban on crayfish fishing in local waters would be the final nail in the coffin for small boat fleets.

The Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority are currently progressing what they call an “informal consultation” on introducing by-laws to prevent the removal of crawfish/spiny lobsters in the marine conservation zones of ‘The Manacles’ and “Padstow and Surrounds” which includes the area around Trevose Head.

The consultation ends on May 17 and the authority is requesting to hear from anyone whose livelihood will be affected.

The consultation follows Pollack fishing being banned on January 1, which has been “wreaking havoc” on inshore fishermen.

Councillor Joanna Kenny said: “Another nail in the coffin for Cornwall’s less than 10 metre boats?   

“These proposals are being viewed with despair by the local small boat fleets in Newquay, Mevagissey and elsewhere in Cornwall.”

“Nobody disputes that there is a need to preserve stocks whether it is Pollock or Crawfish when there is good scientific evidence that populations are vulnerable to over-fishing.

“But there seems to be no differentiation between the big boats out at sea taking huge catches all year round with the relatively few in number small boats with inevitably smaller catches fishing in a limited season.

“And these specific proposals for the inshore areas of the marine conservation zone seem aimed directly at the small boats while the large boats carry on unrestricted.”

“The Newquay under 10 metre fleet is particularly affected by the nearby North Coast proposals and our fisherman are also concerned that it will be the Newquay marine conservation zone next. 

“The small fleets in Newquay and Mevagissey have had a particularly bad year with the loss of the Pollock fishing, on average 25% of their total income with no compensation, the collapse of the crab and shellfish industry since Brexit and now these proposals. 

“It is difficult to see how our traditional inshore fleets, so much a part of our local heritage and already on their knees will be able to survive.”

Geoff Brown, long-time Newquay boatman and former Cornwall councillor and Cabinet member said: “Out of the blue the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority are "consulting" on a total crawfish ban in the Trevose and westward and Falmouth to the Manacles areas.

“This comes close on a recent increase in size limits which were accepted by the fishermen but the new proposal will potentially bankrupt the under 10 metre fleet in the affected areas especially Newquay.

“Whilst there is "concern" about the pressure on stocks hence the increased size limit these new proposals will do nothing to sustain the stocks which are mostly under pressure from larger 'vivier' boats working well outside the six mile limit with thousands of pots/nets.  

“Further the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority have allowed no time to see if the new size limits have been effective in supporting existing stocks.”

“The government recently introduced a total pollack ban and latterly offered a grant scheme to diversify. Some vessels were already fishing crawfish and others had purchased equipment to do the same.

“The new Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority idea would make this gear worthless and leave many small boat fishermen with no alternatives.  

“The spider crab market has already collapsed thanks to Brexit and the crab stocks have diminished significantly with very low prices for lobster.

 “The Newquay fleet can only fish for crawfish for a very limited season starting after the spider crab have gone in mid May and ceasing in September due to the continued battering which the storms give to the north coast all winter.

“Meanwhile the larger vessels can continue to fish in these adverse weather conditions.

“This is an ill thought through proposal which will have a serious and detrimental impact on the local fleet and must be resisted.”

Meanwhile fishermen in Cornwall are set to be the first to benefit from extra post-Brexit fishing quota as part of new trial schemes announced by the government.

A community trial will give fishers in the region access to an extra 240 tonnes of quota, which will be leased to them at below market rates with priority given to new fishers and those looking to operate larger vessels.

The trial, which is being delivered by the Cornish Fish Producer Organisation, Duchy Fish Quota Company, and Cornwall Council, will span stocks including cod, place, skate, rays and sole.

Funds raised will be reinvested back into the scheme to support fishers in the trial through training in project management, monitoring and reporting and marketing and promotion.

Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said: “The introduction of these two new trials will be another step for UK fishers to reap the benefits of our post Brexit freedoms and utilise this additional quota in a way that works for them.

“These trials will be a vital step in helping us decide how we allocate our quota in the future, ensuring the necessary support is provided for a sustainable and profitable fishing industry”.

CEO of the Cornish Fish Producer Organisation Chris Ranford said: “The CFPO welcomes the approval of the Cornwall Community Quota trial.

“Allocation of additional quota at a regional level for the benefit of active fishermen and coastal fishing communities is in line with the Cornish Fishing Strategy and we look forward to delivering this new approach.

“The expertise of the CFPO will ensure the additional quota is managed in a fair and equitable way and give consideration to different fisheries, seasonality, markets, innovation, supporting career progression and the long-term economic benefit to coastal communities.

“A second trial will use a newly formed Quota Application Mechanism (QAM) to invite producer organisations with English members to apply directly for a share of the post-Brexit quota. Producer organisations will put forward and explain how they would use extra quota and their applications will be assessed against environmental, economic, and social criteria with the highest scoring applicants being awarded the quota.

“Work carried out will build on the trial in 2025 and beyond, with an eye to supporting the sustainability of the UK’s fishing stocks and the wider interests of fishers.”

Applications to the Cornwall Community Quota Scheme are expected to open soon.

Applications to the QAM trial are expected to open this June, with a view to allocating quota in late summer.