The towns of St Abbs and Eyemouth have commercial fishing deep embedded into their history. In order for this long standing tradition to continue and thrive in the future, the fishery and fishing practices must but be sustainable.
With a large emphasis on Brown Crab and Lobster fishing in Berwickshire, in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation and St Abbs Marine Station, we are conducting research to try and understand the populations of these two commercially important species to help inform and feed into decision making and management, and ensure a sustainable and productive fishery for generations to come.
This research is broken into three main projects:
Information for commercial fishers asking them to participate in the study
Assessment of the local crab and lobster population including Juvenile Brown crabs and understanding their movement through a tag and recapture study.
Catch Per Unit Effort:
Using on board local creel boat surveys to assess catch related to fishermen’s effort / time.
Assessing different creel/pot types on their respective catches following different soak times and bait types used (undertaken by St Abbs Marine Station).
BLUE Project Officer Joe tagging an adult Brown Crab to give it a unique identity
We have braved the elements and the frosty mornings to spend the day out at sea with the local fishers to assess the size, sex and health of the animals they are pulling up in their pots – or creels. By linking this to temperature collected at various locations within the boundary of the Reserve, we can build a picture of how this is affecting catch rates over time.
In addition, a selection of adult crabs and lobsters of legal landing size have been tagged to give them a unique identity. Relying on the local fishers to inform us when they catch a tagged individual in their pots, we can track their movements throughout the Reserve. We have had a hugely positive
response to this study, and so far our furthest travelled lobster made it all the way to Pittenweem in Fife!
Marine Ranger Genine and Assistant Reserve Coordinator Katherine conducting a juvenile brown crab survey
Juvenile Crab Surveys
But it is not just the adults we want to keep a check on. Juvenile brown crab live hiding under rocks and in crevices on the intertidal rocky shore, and we have been collecting the same data about them. Through these surveys, we assess the health of the juveniles and the ratio of males and females found. One incredible and exciting result to come from the surveys is that female crabs are almost nowhere to be found on the rocky shore in winter. Why we are finding significantly fewer females is still unknown, however one suggestion could be that they are following the adult crabs on their migration into deeper waters during the colder months. Further research into these findings is still ongoing, so watch this space!