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SFPA Publishes New Fisheries Information on Spurdog Regulations for Irish Vessels Operating in North Western Waters

10th May 2023

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) announces the publication of a new Fisheries Information Notice (FIN) *as of May 2nd, 2023.

This FIN pertains to the latest regulations for Irish vessels operating within North Western Waters and is specifically focused on commercial fishing of Spurdog. The FIN is publicly accessible on the SFPA’s website (link: FFSU-FC-FIN-OC-03-23 Spurdog Regulations for Irish Vessels Operating in North Western Waters).

This comprehensive and informative notice provides key details on Spurdog regulations, including:

  • Identifying features of Spurdog.
  • Removal of Spurdog from Prohibited Species List.
  • Maximum Conservation Reference Size Guidelines for Spurdog, including how to measure it.
  • Spurdog handling instructions.
  • How the landing obligation applies to Spurdog.
  • Recording Spurdog catches in the logbook.

After five years as a prohibited species, Spurdog is judged to have recovered sufficiently to again support commercial landings this year and next year. The decision is based on International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice that Spurdog can support a sustainable fishery.

The total allowable catch (TAC) for Spurdog was set at 0 tonnes since 2011 as per ICES advice. A TAC for Spurdog has been put in place given the Spurdog's improved stock status. Irish fishing vessels may engage in a directed fishery for Spurdog. The notice outlines that the Master of an Irish fishing vessel shall comply with catch limits set in the current Fisheries Management Notice and not target Spurdog when a vessel has exhausted its available quota.

The maximum conservation reference size for Spurdog is 100cm, a guideline established to protect stocks of mature females and the breeding stock, which are vital for the species' recovery and future sustainability. The total length of the Spurdog is taken in a straight line from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail fin.

Masters of fishing vessels that catch Spurdog over 100cm must comply with the following regulations:

  • It is prohibited to retain, tranship or land Spurdog greater than 100cm in length.
  • Spurdog caught over 100cm in size must be promptly returned to the sea in a way that does not harm the individual.
  • All catches of Spurdog above 100cm must be recorded as PRO in the logbooks.
  • Prohibited landings of Spurdog over 100cm in length aim to protect stocks of mature females and the breeding stock.

The landing obligation applies to Spurdog 100cm or less in length. Spurdog less than 100cm must be retained, recorded, and landed. When catching Spurdog in the respective EU and UK zones, the following must be adhered to for catch reporting:

  • Separate catch reports (FARs) must be made for catches from respective EU and UK zones.
  • Spurdog must be recorded in the logbook using the species code ‘DGS’.
  • The weight of any Spurdog caught must be split by retained weight (kg) and discarded weight (kg) and must be entered into the logbook.
  • Any discarded Spurdog that measures greater than 100cm must be recorded as PRO.
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About the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA)

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority was established on the 1st of January 2007. The SFPA is independent in the exercise of its functions, which are below.

The principal functions of the Authority are:

  1. To secure efficient and effective enforcement of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  2. To promote compliance with & deter contraventions of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  3. To detect contraventions of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  4. To provide information to the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors on sea-fisheries law and food safety law and relevant matters within the remit of the Authority, through the Consultative Committee established under section 48 of the above Act or by any other means it considers appropriate
  5. To advise the Minister in relation to policy on effective implementation of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  6. To provide assistance and information to the Minister in relation to the remit of the Authority
  7. To collect and report data in relation to sea fisheries and food safety as required by the Minister and under Community law
  8. To represent or assist in the representation of the State at national, Community and international fora as requested by the Minister, and
  9. To engage in any other activities relating to the functions of the Authority as may be approved of by the Minister.