Lobsters to benefit from series of protective measures

Reefs and sandbanks in the North and Celtic seas are to become the first three of a network of "special areas of conservation" (SACs) along the English coast in the Government's latest effort to protect marine life in coastal areas.

Environment minister Ben Bradshaw announced the plans during a visit to the marine reserve of Lundy Island, off the Devon coast, on Thursday. Since Lundy Island became a “no take zone” in 2003 its marine ecosystem has flourished, with lobster numbers doubling and their average size increasing dramatically.

Defra hopes to reproduce the successes of Lundy Island in the new SACs, planned to be created in the Haig Fras reef off the isles of Scilly, Dogger Bank sandbank and Saturn Reef in the North Sea, subject to a consultation next year.

The minister also announced further measures to protect the biodiversity of Lyme Bay, off the Devon and Dorset coasts, which is under threat from scallop dredging.

Mr Bradshaw said: “I am impressed with the way in which the Lundy no take zone is protecting marine wildlife, especially lobsters, crabs, corals and sponges. Evidence from the 2004/05 monitoring programme suggests that lobsters in the zone appeared to have increased in size and doubled in abundance.

This is not the first Defra announcement benefiting lobsters this week – the crustaceans were awarded further protection, this time not limited to specific areas, when the Government decided to ban fishermen from landing individuals smaller than 90mm in order to give populations more time to reproduce.

The minimum permitted size of landed lobsters has so far been 87mm, and although a 3mm difference may not seem significant, according to Ben Bradshaw it should “result in a significant boost in egg production and would be relatively easy to enforce.”

“The European clawed common lobster is one of the most valuable commercial species on the UK market,” he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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