Fahy, E.; Hickey, J.; Perella, N.; Hervas, A.; Carroll, J.; Andray, C. (Marine Institute, 2004)
The south east inshore brown crab fishery is delimited by the boundary of longitude - 6.3, within a coastal band of approximately 18 km (10 nm) in width and it extends along the south coast of Co Wexford for a distance of approximately 55 km; evidence for the stock extending into the inshore fishery west of the Waterford Harbour estuary is sparse. The fishery, whose maximum extent is calculated at 427 km2, yielded up to 700 t per year during the 1990s. In 2002 annual landings of 959 t accounted for 8.2 % of the national catch. The average overall LPUE was 0.87 kg per pot lifted in that year. Brown crab were landed whole or as claws, for human consumption, and clawed or, of poorer quality, with claws, to provide bait for the whelk fishery. This fishery is not considered to have any discard of legally sized crab and, in consequence, a large percentage of the landings is poorly conditioned. The stock is intensively fished; the amount of gear in use increased almost 5 fold since the mid 1970s. Landings per boat declined since the late 1980s although this may be as a result of sharing among a greater number of vessels. In 2002 an estimated 60 - 69 vessels fished brown crab in the peak autumn months. In 2002 and early 2003, 3,674 crabs were tagged in the inshore fishery; of these 14.4% were recaptured (12.8% of tagged females and 20.7% of tagged males). Observations made during tagging operations in 2002 only were used to clarify sex ratio and the incidence of recently moulted animals. The crab stock consists of a migratory female component which moves into shallow waters during the summer months probably to moult and mate. The male component is more sedentary. Both sexes move at speeds which slow during the summer months and increase again as the year advances; maximum speeds of 2 km/day were recorded for both sexes in the autumn. Movements by male crab were random while females adopted a south west trajectory. The greatest distance recorded for a tagged female crab was 136 km after 287 days at liberty. Other tagged females, reported by French vessels, were recaptured in ICES division VIIg which may be the over-wintering area for the stock. These animals had moved between 69 and 75 km from their release point. Tag reporting by the industry is considered to have been low. Based on the 'rate of tag recovery, the estimated rate of exploitation was lower than expected in an intensely fished stock. Population estimates were attempted using the Petersen formula and on the basis of assumptions about mortalities which recognized the phenomena of moulting and migration. The south east crab stock moves with the current which is westerly along the southern Irish coast. Recorded migrations were also short when compared with those of brown crab in the northern stock and in several other documented fisheries. The Nymphe Bank which adjoins the south east fishery has a water current pattern which retains larvae and it is known to have a high density of brown crab in the plankton. The existence of retaining currents may make the kind of long migrations which characterise others unnecessary for this stock. The status of the south east fishery is not known. LPUE indices provided by the Roscoff super-crabber fleet for ICES statistical division VIIg remained fairly stable between 1987 and 2002 but the quantity of crab captured by those vessels has declined considerably in most years since 1995.
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