MFRI Suggests a Total Ban on Langoustine Fishing

Iceland‘s Marine & Freshwater Research Institude (MFRI) has suggested a total ban on langoustine fishing in 2022 and 2023.

Langoustine numbers in the country‘s fisheries have been extremely low in the past few years. The size of the langoustine population has shrunk by 27% since 2016 and this year, the total catch of langoustine was the smallest ever recorded.

See also: Langoustine Numbers at Record Low

Because of the declining population, MRFI introduced significant fishing limitations on langoustine last year, which entailed a ban on fishing more langoustine than needed to maintain scientific research. If their new suggestions will be heeded, no lobster fishing will be allowed for at least two years to protect the population, not even for scientific purposes.

The MRFI has also suggested a ban on bottom trawling in defined areas in Breiðamerkurdjúp, Hornafjarðardjúp and Lónsdjúp, in order to protect the langoustine.

Langoustine may disappear from the Icelandic market

Langoustine is the only species of lobster that can be found in Iceland’s fisheries. The species is mostly caught in the fisheries off the south coast of Iceland, by companies based in Höfn, Þorlákshöfn and Vestmannaeyjar.  It is considered a delicacy in the country and is commonly eaten at Christmas and other festive occasions. Through the years, langoustine has been a popular dish at the country‘s seafood restaurants.

See also: Poor Langoustine Season Could Mean Restaurant Shortage

Scientist do not know what has caused of the decline of the langoustine stocks around Iceland. In an interview with RÚV, a deep-sea specialist at MRFI said that full recovery of the langoustine population would take at least five to ten years. He warned that if the langoustine population fails to recover, it may disappear completely from the Icelandic market.

Langoustine Numbers at Record Low

Numbers of langoustine around Iceland have plummeted, RÚV reports. Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute suggests an 80% reduction in harvesting between years.

If MFRI’s suggestions will be heeded, the langoustine quota will be reduced to 235 tons this year. Furthermore, langoustine fishing will get banned in Lónsdjúp and Jökuldjúpi to protect young langoustine. The institution also suggests a total ban against fishing with a bottom trawl in selected parts of Breiðarmerkurdjúp, Hornfjarðardjúp and Lónsdjúp, to alleviate strain on langoustine stock.

Last year’s fishing season the quota was 1.150 tons, which was an all-time low at that time. Despite this, only 728 tons were caught, another record low for Iceland’s fishing industry since steady langoustine fishing commenced in the 1960s. Most langoustine was caught in 2010, around 2.500 tons, which was double the amount caught in 2004. Over the past years, numbers have been falling rapidly.

MFRI’s report says that the density of langoustine spots is among the lowest they know or about 0.07 langoustine holes per square meter. Furthermore, the report indicates that numbers among new generations of langoustine are dwindling, and have been critically low since 2005. “If practices don’t change we can expect a further reduction in langoustine numbers,” the report concludes.

Lobster Stocks Historically Low

Lobster numbers in Icelandic waters have reached a historic low, RÚV reports. Numbers of lobsters under five years old are particularly low, showing the stock may be having trouble reproducing.

“We are at almost eight years where young lobsters have been little to none. And there are few populations that can handle that for long.” Jónas Páll Jónsson, ichthyologist at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute stated. Norway lobster, also known as langoustine, is the only type of lobster found in Icelandic waters. While langoustine can be found as far south as the coast of Morocco, they reproduce slower in colder environments. Females in Icelandic waters lay eggs only every other year.

While five years ago, 2,000 tonnes of lobster were caught in Icelandic waters, last season the amount was just 820 tonnes. A lobster fishing ban is one measure authorities are considering to combat the issue, as well as closing off lobster nesting areas to other kinds of fishing activity.

A lobster fishing ban would be a blow to at least three companies who provide employment to many Icelanders over the 7-8 month season of fishing and processing. Vinnslustöðin, in the Westman Islands, is one of those companies. “People get employment out of this and lobster is a valuable product. The income it generates is truly important. It would be a blow if we couldn’t catch any lobster,” said Sverrir Haraldsson, a department manager at the company.

Jónas says more research is needed to know exactly what is happening to the lobster stocks. Continued fishing, in modest amounts, could provide scientists with helpful data.