Local fishermen have successfully caught the allocated 100 tonne quota of herring in Manx waters within weeks of receiving Government support to diversify.
Three local crews took advantage of the financial support provided by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture following new UK quotas earlier this year.
Clare Barber MHK, Environment, Food and Agriculture Minister said: “It’s been a real success story.”
The recent catch has led to great optimism across the industry that a commercially viable Manx fishery could be a reality for the first time in 25 years – especially as the quota could quadruple by 2026.
Manx fishermen had been free to catch herring for centuries before the EU Common Fisheries Policy introduced quotas in the 1980s. But by the time stocks had recovered the island had largely been excluded – driving most fishermen to focus their efforts on scallops.
So far the oily fish caught this year have been sold fresh to local restaurants, kippered and frozen for bait to support the island’s crab and lobster industry.
Local pot fishermen normally import around 200 tonnes of herring from Scotland each year for bait, which is often caught in Norwegian waters before being transported hundreds of miles to the Isle of Man. The Manx caught fish will drastically reduce the associated transport emissions, half bait costs and save Manx businesses around £250,000 each year.
Minister Barber said: “Manx fishermen have demonstrated that they are capable of using this quota and have therefore secured long-term allocations.
“The lack of certainty meant on and off-island markets for Manx herring products were not able to be established for this year’s catch, but now we are looking at a future full of opportunities for fishermen, producers and those that want to enjoy this delicious and sustainable catch.
“A functioning local herring fishery will also reduce pressure on other stocks such as scallops in the coming years.”
David Beard, Chief Executive of the Manx Fish Producers Organisation, said: “We have clearly shown that with the technology we’ve got that we can catch the herring. We can now look at developing new markets and it is a very exciting time.
“This journey has seen excellent coordination between the Isle of Man Government, MFPO fishermen and local seafood processors. It has been brilliant.”