Each year up to 35,000 adult female lobsters caught by Irish inshore fishermen have a v-shaped notch removed from their tail by trained Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) staff. This ‘V-notch’ marking is supported by legislation that makes it illegal to land, hold or sell these lobsters and as a result, if they are caught again, they must be returned to the sea. This allows them to continue to reproduce on up to three more occasions before the notch is repaired, helping maintain Ireland’s lobster fishing industry. Ireland was the first country to introduce this measure in Europe in 1994. It arose from concerns by members of the Irish lobster fishing sector in the early 1990s about the sustainability of the Irish lobster stock. The programme has grown in each year since that time. Participating fishermen receive financial support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund administered through BIM for a proportion of the value of the v-notched lobsters returned to the sea. They also contribute themselves in the form of the remaining proportion of the value of the lobsters.
Additional protection is provided for the lobster stock in the form of a Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) of 87mm carapace length. This is measured from the back of the eye socket to the back of the carapace and aims to protect lobsters that are not yet sufficiently mature to reproduce and contribute to the lobster stock. A Maximum Landing Size (MLS) of 127mm also forms part of the conservation.
By V-notching larger lobsters which produce much higher numbers of eggs, the lobsters are afforded the chance to grow large enough to exceed the maximum landing size and gain permanent protection.