REVISED (11/9/09) FISHING AND PRODUCTION PLAN (Mytilus edulis)
The following plan has been prepared by the secretariat of the Bottom Grown
Mussel Consultative Forum in consultation with industry members in the area. It
relates exclusively to the proposed seed fishing in Castlemaine Harbour during 2009
(Map 1) and the subsequent husbandry practices associated with that seed within or
adjacent to the relevant Natura 2000 sites.
DESCRIPTION OF AQUACULTURE FISHING SITE LOCATION
The location, timing and volume of Mytilus edulis seed settlement varies from year to
year in Castlemaine Harbour. Historically seed settlements have been documented as
occurring at five sub-tidal areas at the mouth of Castlemaine Harbour near the southern
end of Inch Point and North of Rosbehy Point.
MUSSEL SEED BIOMASS SURVEYS AND PROPOSED TOTAL ALLOWABLE
A BIM survey on the 1 st - 2nd of July 2009 examined Castlemaine Harbour, from
Rosbehy Point to the inner channel between Inch Point and Cromane Point. One seed bed
was identified; it is situated at the entry of the channel North of Rosbehy Point. The
settlement is located in an area approximately 1,500 m long by 240 m wide which
corresponds to approximately 36 hectares (Map 1). The following plan relates to the
proposed fishing of this area and subsequent husbandry practices in or adjacent to the
relevant Natura 2000 sites
GRID REFERENCE OF SEED BED July 2009
52 05.675 N 009 59.713 W
52 05.696 N 009 59.079 W
52 05.667 N 009 58.347 W
52 05.515 N 009 58.390 W
52 05.610 N 009 59.670 W
A second survey was completed by BIM on the 9-10/9/2009 at the following coordinates
GRID REFERENCE OF SEED BED Sept 2009
52 05.699 N 52 05.708 N 52 05.668 N 52 05.571 N 52 05.580 N
009 59.812 W 009 59.093 W 009 58.449 W 009 59.536 W 009 59.689 W
The location of the seed mussel bed changed slightly between surveys, the mussels have
extended 100 meters seaward. The total area is approximately 32 hectares.
Mussel Biomass estimates
Combining underwater footage, dredge results and grab results, the seed density in July
2009 was estimated to vary from 6 to 20 kg per meter squared with the overall tonnage
estimated at up to 5,000 tonnes.
In Sept 2009 the biomass was estimated to be between 2000-4000 tonnes.
Average seed size increased from 16mm to 21.5 mm between July and September.
The proposed total allowable catch following the September survey is 2800 tonnes.
Mussel dredgers which are licensed to fish mussel seed for aquaculture purposes
operating in Castlemaine Harbour. The operators are members of the Castlemaine
Harbour Co-operative Society Ltd. who holds the Mussel Fishery Order from 1979. In
addition all mussel dredgers fishing seed are registered and licensed as Aquaculture
fishing vessels or work boats. The vessels also require annual authorisations to fish
mussel seed from DAFF along with the relevant movement authorisations.
DESCRIPTION OF ACTIVITY
In 2009 it is proposed that seed mussels will be fished from sub-tidal area at the entry of
the channel North of Rosbehy Point and transferred for hardening to an inter tidal nursery
site in the mussel order area for 6 to 12 months. From there the seed will be transferred
to sub-tidal plots for ongrowing until harvest.
Availability of seed in the Cromane area each varies yearly, in some years as much as
5,000 tonnes is fished. Mussel seed generally settles in one or two of the sub-tidal areas
though the specific location can vary from year to year. Generally there is mussel seed
settlement in at least two out of every three years.
The fishing usually takes place on suitable tides during late August to September, on rare
occasions (when seed is very small) it may be delayed until early October - The survey
conducted in July 2009 indicated that the seed is at a suitable size and hardness that will
The presence of starfish as reported in the BIM survey and past experience in this area
highlights a risk that the seed could be lost to the industry as a result of starfish predation
if not fished as soon as possible. In response to this risk it is important for the survival of
the industry in the Castlemaine area that the seed bed be opened on the earliest
appropriate neap tide.
The seed settles during the spring and summer and is fished at a size ranging from 5 to 20
mm. The area at the mouth of the harbour where the seed beds are found is prone to
strong currents and wave action during winter storms; as such the substrate is comprised
of high energy sandy sediments and regularly shift with a significant movement of the
sand bank over the winter period 2008-2009 noted by BIM personnel.
Vessels fishing the seed will use four single dredges each. The types of dredge used are
2m mussel dredges with a flat bar that is designed to skim the surface of the substrate and
separate mussel seed from the underlying sediment of the substrate and remove the
mussel seed. If the seed is not fished then it is most likely either eaten by starfish
(Starfish were noted on the seed bed in the July 2009 Survey) or smothered during winter
storms (It should be noted that from the survey in 2008 there has been a significant
movement of the sand bank over the winter period indicating that the seed beds, even if
they were to survive predation, do not over winter successfully).
Due to the fluctuating seed input, the output from the licensed sites varies but generally
ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 tonnes per annum. Annual returns are submitted by industry
members to BIM documenting ground usage, tonnages and the quality of harvested
Mussels are on grown on the mussel fishery order area (which is licensed in perpetuity
and does not need to be renewed) and aquaculture licences in the inner harbour (ten year
In general the details of production rotation are as follows, though it may vary slightly
with individual operators; Seed remains in the nursery area 6 to 12 months with the
majority being removed from the Nursery area between June and August. Seed is
transferred from the nursery to sub-tidal plots for ongrowing until harvest (Map 3). The
grow-out phase lasts for a further 12 to 18 months, however if there is a seed shortage in
a following year some operators hold back stock to ensure a cash flow in poorer years.
Harvesting takes place from late September until mid March. The nursery and
ongrowing areas are currently sub divided into plots determined by the Co-op and
allocated on a five year permit to the 48 permit holders who are members of the coop.
Permit holders tend to work in groups consisting of one to seven members.
Vessels involved in transplantation are licensed mussel vessels and a number of licensed
punts (1 tonne vessels). The seed is transplanted by pumping it mixed with seawater from
the boats hold onto the nursery and grow out plots. This pattern of relaying is
characterised by the vessels moving across the plots during pumping in an effort to
achieve an even distribution of mussel on each plot in order to maximise survival and
The most recent BIM seed mussel survey concluded that seed is at a suitable size and
hardness that will permit local transplanting; therefore all seed fished in Castlemaine
Harbour will only be relayed into an order area or licensed sites not more than 10 nautical
miles distant from the seed mussel bed. Within a few hours of being fished, the seed will
be relayed in the nursery area (Map 2). In contrast to the seed bed area, starfish do not
create a predation problem in this area; this is due to lower salinity and the intertidal
nature of the nursery site.
Management practices within the co-op in 2009/2010 provide for the same nursery plots
to be used on a yearly rotation (Map 2). The nursery area to be used for relaying this seed
only represents a proportion of the intertidal area in the Order (approximately 30%). The
nursery area is located on the low intertidal, with approximately 40% of the area only
being exposed at the extreme low water spring tides.
Due to the current limitations associated with available infrastructure and seed
availability there will not be 100% coverage of the intertidal plots in the nursery in 2009.
In 2009 there is also not likely to be any drift of seed outside the nursery area, this only
occurs if the seed is of a very small size, which is not the case in this year.
Once the seed has been relayed, there is no activity on the nursery areas apart from
checking the seed. A group member will walk the nursery area once a fortnight to check
the condition of the seed. Access to a large proportion of the nursery area is restricted to
vessel access at high water due to the nature of the substrate - soft mud.
The mussels will be removed from the nursery area in 2009/2010 and relayed for
ongrowing on the subtidal ongrowing area currently utilised by the co-op. Generally the
nursery area is cleaned of stock by dredging through the mussel mud that has built up
underneath the stock. However due to the nature of the harvesting activity some residual
patches may remain within the nursery plots.
Licensed mussel vessels and a number of licensed punts relay the stock by pumping it
mixed with seawater from the boats hold onto the grow out plots. This pattern of relaying
is characterised by the vessels moving across the plots during pumping in an effort to
achieve an even distribution of mussel on each plot in order to maximise survival and
This stock movement usually takes place over 4 weeks with the larger boats working 4
hours per day. It would be hoped to relay a minimum of 1700 tonnes from the nursery to
the ongrowing area in 2009/2010.
There is a green crab predator control programme associated with the subtidal plots. Up
to 6 boats are involved in the potting of the area for green crab which as a low-impact
traditional fishing method, considered relatively benign by the companies involved. No
by catch has been detected in this fishery.
Mussels are harvested to order by vessels from the subtidal plots. The owners only
remove market sized mussels from the sites after the 12-18 month grow out period and if
orders have been placed with their companies. All harvesting and sales activity is
monitored by the SFPA staff through; gatherers documents, VMS plotting, establishment
licensing, and depuration centres. As the larger vessels mostly undertake harvesting, the
amount of time they require to harvest an order of 30 tonnes would lead to vessel activity
of a few hours at high water only.
No waste is generated as the harvested product is placed directed into one tonne bags for
export, via refrigerated truck from Cromane
CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT
The fishing of seed mussel and the operation of mussel dredgers is controlled primarily
by the following legislation:- Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 (No 8 of
2006); S.I. No. 311 of 2006 Mussel Seed (Fishing ) Regulations 2006; S.I. No. 345 of
2006 Molluscan Shellfish (Conservation of Stocks Regulations 2006; S.I. No. 261 of
2008 European Communities (Health of Aquaculture Animals and Products) Regulations
2008; S.I. No. XXX 0f 2009 European Communities (Control on Mussel Seed Fishing)
(Amendment) Regulations 2009. This S.I. will open the fishery in Castlemaine and will
underpin the control strategy and further strengthens the terms and conditions attached to
each individual authorisation.
General management arrangements
Working from this legislative base and from a fishery conservation point of view and in
the interests of minimising any possible adverse environmental impact, the following are
the specific terms and conditions that will apply to all vessels involved in the 2009
fishery in Castlemaine Harbour;
Operators will specify which vessels will be fishing the seed allocation on their
behalf. The vessels will be registered and licensed to fish mussel seed and the
authorisations to fish and move seed are linked to the aquaculture operators.
Mussel dredgers over 15m in length are required to have the EU Vessel Monitoring
System (‘Blue box’), position is monitored by the Navy every two hours) as part of
the normal fishing regulations. In addition any dredger fishing seed mussels is
required to have a functioning black box system (which is a global positioning system
that via a modem relays vessel speed heading and position). This system allows the
vessels to be monitored and tracked on a more continuous basis and allows detailed
tracks and locations to be recorded. All mussel dredger movements can be viewed
and checked by base stations operated by the SFPA, BIM, the Loughs Agency and
All vessels fishing seed mussels will maintain log books as required. The Master will
inform a sea fisheries officer at least 4 hours in advance of their intention to fish for
mussel seed and give the name of the holder of the authorisation on whose behalf he
or she intends to fish. The Master will keep a record of the licensed site or place to
which the mussel seed is transplanted, the amount of seed transplanted and the date of
transplantation. The vessel must have the correct authorisations and licences on
board at all times of operation.
Operators recognise that under the Health of Aquaculture Animals, S.I. No. 261 of
2008 European Communities (Health of Aquaculture Animals and Products)
Regulations 2008, the local sea fishery protection officer has the authority to prevent
the movement of animals if they feel there will be heavy mortality.
It is recognised that the local sea fisheries protection officer must be informed of and
keeps a record of vessel entry and exit from the area. They will monitor the vessels in
the area and can direct the vessel to a specific location in order to carry out
inspections of vessel operations and log books etc. Inspection and monitoring of the
fishing activity and transplantation can take place at any time and records have to be
kept by both the site operator and the vessel operator.
The Castlemaine seed beds are monitored and surveyed by BIM. In conjunction with
industry members and BIM, the local fishery officer advises the Department on
decisions to open or close seed mussel beds on conservation grounds, i.e. if the seed
is too small or fragile to transport. Depending on local navigation and safety
conditions the numbers of vessels engaging in fishing activity in a specific location
may also be regulated along with the times of fishing.
The fishery will open on the earliest available neap tide following acceptance of the
Regulation 31 assessment.
Fishing will only be take place between the hours of 06.00 and 18.00
As the BIM survey concluded that seed is at a suitable size and hardness that will
permit local transplanting. The seed will only be relayed into an order area or licensed
site not more than 10 nautical miles distant from the seed mussel bed - therefore in
this case it may only be re-laid within Castlemaine Harbour.
Only 2800 tonnes shall be fished in total and once that tonnage has been re-laid the
fishery shall be deemed to be closed.
All vessels participating in the fishery will hold a Mussel Seed Authorisation
particular to that vessel
All vessels will have each side of the stowage hold marked in 0.5m segments from
the bottom to the top; 0 being the bottom or floor of the hold to facilitate estimation
of catches onboard.
Any authorised vessel will inform a Sea Fisheries Protection Officer in SFPA Office
Dingle 2 (two) hours in advance of his intention to re-lay mussel seed and will
facilitate an onboard inspection and calculation of the quantity of seed carried.
The vessels engaged in the fishery will make available a boat or boats at Cromane
from where the Sea Fisheries Protection Officer will be ferried to the vessel or vessels
onboard which mussel seed has been notified as being carried for relaying purposes.
A logbook / gatherers docket book will be carried onboard each authorised vessel in
which the quantities of mussel seed taken and carried for relaying shall be recorded.
Original signed copies of the log records will be provided to the inspecting SFPO for
Each of the authorised vessels is equipped with VMS / Mussel Fishery Position
Indicators (Black Boxes) and which will facilitate active monitored for the duration of
the seed fishery.