Whelk Management Group gathers knowledge from UK fishers

Whelk Management Group gathers knowledge from UK fishers

The Whelk Management Group (WMG) has launched an online survey to gather information from fishers on their local whelk stocks.

What is the WMG doing?

The WMG is an industry-led group which brings together stakeholders from across the seafood supply chain. It also has members from industry, government and the research community, with a shared interest in management of UK whelk fisheries.

One of the priorities of the WMG is improving our understanding of whelk stock boundaries and how this impacts effective fisheries management. To achieve this the WMG is collecting information from whelk fishers on their local whelk populations. The aim of the work is to help understand local variations in whelk populations and how this affects long-term sustainable management of the fishery.

Photo of four whelks

Why is this research important?

The life cycle of the whelk means that there can be variation between local populations over even a small sea area. Whelks are not able to travel long distances to breed. Unlike many other shellfish species, they do not have a dispersive phase of their life cycle where eggs or larvae are carried by ocean currents to new areas.

Understanding the variation between local stocks is important as whelks in some areas may grow or mature at different rate to whelks in a nearby area. This can make it difficult to manage whelk fisheries over a large sea area. Management measures, such as a minimum landing size, may be appropriate in one area but in a neighbouring area it could disadvantage some fishers, or put extra pressure on a stock.

Aoife Martin, Director of Operations at Seafish and Chair of the Whelk Management Group said:

Whelk fisheries around the UK are an important coastal resource, with 20.3 thousand tonnes landed into the UK and abroad by UK vessels in 2019.

By carrying out this research the Whelk Management Group hope to better understand the extent of variation in whelk stocks around our coast. Whelk fishers from all over the UK are invited to complete the questionnaire to help build a better picture of the stocks that support this important fishery.

Gathering information from fishers, who work with these animals every day is essential. It will help the WMG to carry out targeted biological sampling in the future to make sure that important populations are monitored and managed sustainably.

What information is being collected and how will it be used?

The survey was developed by the Lyell Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Bangor University, and Cefas on behalf of the WMG.

Whelk fishers are being asked to provide information on:

  • their fishing vessel and fishing activity,
  • where they fish for whelks,
  • the whelks they catch such as typical size, shape and unique features.

The survey will take no more than 15 minutes to complete and can be done on a laptop, tablet or mobile device. It is available online from the link below:

The survey will run until August 2021. All responses will be anonymised and stored securely by Heriot-Watt University. Only aggregated responses will be shared and exact fishing areas will never be published so individual fishing grounds will not be identifiable.

A final report will be published by the WMG and shared on the Seafish website later in 2021.

How can you help?

UK fishers who target whelks are invited to complete the survey to share their knowledge of their local whelk stocks. Seafood industry stakeholders with an interest in whelk fisheries are also asked to share the survey with any whelk fishers they work with to help gather as much information as possible on this important fishery.

Further information

For more information visit the Whelk Management group webpage from the link below:

You can also contact:

Lewis Tattersall
Head of Fisheries Management
07970 154 238