The Irish whelk industry is worth more than €4 million to the economy - consumed and considered a delicacy in many parts of the world; the whelk rarely makes an appearance on Irish menus. Even though whelk is not consumed often in Ireland, this large sea snail is highly prized in the Far East including: South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, China and Singapore. Whelk represents one of Ireland’s most economically important and voluminous inshore landings. This whelk fishery is therefore extremely important to smaller inshore vessels. However, whelks are particularly susceptible to over exploitation – whelk remain in one location and therefore overfishing can mean less juvenile recruitment. This has lead to a collapse in the Irish whelk population in the past. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) want to ensure there are jobs into the future in whelk fisheries and there is a sustainable fishery.
In order to achieve this, fishermen must be responsible and not land undersize whelks. The minimum landing size for whelk is governed by EU Regulation as well as National legislation which include the Whelk (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2006. Under EU regulation, it is prohibited to retain, land, transport, store, sell, display or offer for sale a marine organism below the minimum size - in the case of whelk, this measurement is 45mm along the long axis. In addition, under the Whelk (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2006, it is prohibited to retain or tranship whelk under 25mm, as measured across its broadest part. Responsibility for compliance rests with the master of the fishing vessel. Processing plants also have responsibility under the regulations. It is prohibited to display, sell, offer for sale or store for the purposes of selling, any whelk under 25mm across its widest part. Under sized whelk must be carefully handled and immediately returned alive to the sea.
The SFPA would prefer that fishermen recognised how important they are in conserving this valuable species and refrained from landing undersize whelk. To promote a culture of compliance with National and EU legislation, shellfish landings are routinely inspected by the SFPA in Irish ports and in approved processing establishments. The preferred result of any inspection is to confirm full compliance with the legal requirements however, if under-sized whelk are discovered, they will be returned live to the sea and the master of the vessel and/or the processor may find themselves under enforcement action which may result in prosecution.
Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA said: “Whelk is a high value and highly prized fish species creating jobs in inshore fisheries. This species is a significant source of income for fishermen and needs protection from illegal exploitation so that it continues to be a key revenue source for the Irish fishing Industry. The SFPA continues to work hard to detect cases where a certain minority try to circumvent the legislation and take unfair commercial advantage over their fellow fishermen.’
For further press information, please contact Eleanor Buckley, Communications Manager, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority on 023 88593 46/ 087 920 3658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.