New vessel to float the boat for fishermens’ research

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SHELLFISHERMEN should have scientific evidence to challenge poor quality reports by wind farm developers in future through the use of a new research boat.

The vessel will be run by fishermen to get an accurate picture of habitats on which crab and lobster stocks depend, as well as carrying out other research and “seeding” the seabed with juvenile lobster hatchlings, from the new hatchery which is to be developed in Bridlington.

The boat, which will have a full-time skipper and crew, will be owned and operated by the Holderness Fishing Industry Group (HFIG) in partnership with the North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and the University of Hull.

Bridlington is home to one of the most successful shellfishing fleets in England, netting a catch worth more than £5.6m last year, and it is the country’s leading lobster port, landing more than three-and-a-half times the tonnage of its nearest rival. However, the fishery is having to contend with unprecedented levels of development from offshore wind farms, new pipelines, gas storage developments as well as plans to extend dredging areas even further.

The chief executive of the HFIG, Mike Cohen, said there are concerns over the quality of some of the environmental impact assessments used by windfarm developers. One had even suggested there was no lobsters in part of Europe’s biggest lobster fishery.

Mr Cohen said: “In some cases they are good, in others shoddy, using poor methodology. In one they didn’t detect any lobster in one of our best grounds; they’d only taken one sample, put a grab down and hauled up a chunk of sediment.

“When someone is applying to do something that will potentially damage fishing grounds or exclude fishermen from part of their traditional areas we want to be able to challenge it properly. At the moment all we can do is look at the evidence they have gathered and say that doesn’t fit with our experience or their methodology isn’t very good.”

Mr Cohen claimed that the university’s involvement would ensure data was gathered in a scientific manner, and added: “Without that objectivity there would always be a danger that we would be accused of presenting data that suited our own interests.”

The £160,000 vessel, called the Huntress and which is currently based in Grimsby, is expected to be operational by the early part of next year.