Crabs, lobsters and crawfish

The main fishery likely to be encountered on or near reef habitats is potting and creeling for crustaceans.

Reefs may be vulnerable to fishing as they are often surrounded by areas of soft sediment making recolonisation from surrounding areas difficult. A variety of types of pots and creels may be used on or near areas of rocky seabed to catch lobsters and crabs but there is limited information on their impacts on reef habitats, communities and species. A recent study on this issue in the UK noted little effect during deployment and hauling of pots and, in general, the habitats and communities investigated appeared to be relatively unaffected by this type of fishing. The Ross coral, Pentapora foliacea, which has a fragile structure and which is thought to provide important microhabitats for other species, was the only species found to be damaged after hauling when pots came into contact with colonies. The seafan, Eunicella verrucosa, which is slow growing and thought to be highly vulnerable to damage, was found to bend under the weight of pots and return to an upright position once the pots were hauled. No significant differences in the abundance of monitored species were observed at the study site after one month=s active fishing. Long-term and cumulative effects were not investigated as part of this study14. Impacts on otters are discussed in Section 5.3.

The likely effects of lost pots have also been investigated. An experimental simulation of lost parlour pots revealed that they continued to fish throughout the 270 day period of the study14. Catch rates were highest during the first month and there were some differences in the pattern of capture between the species caught. There was a slight temporary decrease in catches of brown crab after the bait was depleted followed by fairly constant capture, whereas catches of spider crab declined steadily throughout the period of the experiment. The condition of the catch in the pots deteriorated with time, indicated by the increased loss of limbs from crustaceans and fish with skin damage. A similar study in British Columbia of pots used to catch Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) reported that lost pots continued to attract crabs - catch rates were as high after 1 year as they were 2 weeks into the study84. The information to date suggests that it is clearly possible for catches to continue for a considerable period and various management suggestions are made, within the reports, to decrease ghost fishing.

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