Research & Environment

Our Role

Cornwall IFCA takes effective decisions based upon the best available evidence.

Cornwall IFCA has its own dedicated research team which provides the necessary evidence to inform the management of fisheries within the District.  This is achieved through a range of physical surveys; shore and boat based, desk-based studies, fisheries data analysis, and assessment of fisheries in MPAs.

We also work collaboratively with a range of partner organisations conducting joint projects, undertaking commissioned work and providing expertise or physical assets to support research activities in Cornwall.

Cornwall IFCA research officers operate around the coast, hosted on a variety of commercial vessels and from the Authority's research vessel Tiger Lily VI.

 

Research Reports

Click here to see a full list of research reports published by Cornwall IFCA.

 

Click on the following subjects to find out more about the research work of Cornwall IFCA.

Crustaceans

The crustacea species that Cornwall IFCA focuses on are lobster ( Homarus gammarus ), edible crab ( Cancer pagurus ), spider crab ( Maja spp. ) and crawfish ( Palinurus elephas ) as these are widely targeted and the most economically important.

 

Shellfish Permit Returns Analysis

Data submitted via the Lobster, Crawfish and Crab Fishing Permit Byelaw monthly shellfish permit returns has been collated and analysed every year since 2016. The aim of the reports is to describe annual crustacean fishing activity within the Cornwall IFCA district. Reports are available for; 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The data from Cornwall IFCA’s shellfish permit returns has been analysed and presented as ‘landings per unit effort‘ (LPUE). This has been calculated by dividing the weight of shellfish removed from the fishery by the total length of nets hauled, or number of pot hauls, used. The data has been analysed and presented as summary statistics for the following; edible crab, crawfish, lobster pot fishery, spider crab pot and net fisheries, demersal shellfish net fishery and the shellfish pot fishery. 

Click here to find out more about Cornwall IFCA's shellfish permit system. 
Click here to view the list of available shellfish permit reports.

 

Shellfish Landings Monitoring 

Scientific officers undertake regular routine shellfish landings monitoring from approximately March until November each year. This sampling, alongside data from permit return forms aims to inform stock assessments of shellfish within the district. 

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

Other Crustacea Projects

Cornwall IFCA began a partner project with SeaSearch in 2018 to investigate the effectiveness of using subsea positioning equipment to track the position of divers during directed SeaSearch crawfish surveys. The method included post survey cross referencing of diver captured still image times with subsea track time data to map the exact positioning of each recorded crawfish. In 2020, Cornwall IFCA set up a project where select fishers are self-sampling all crawfish retained in their nets. The project has continued into 2021 and is raising our understanding of the size and geographic distributions of the species in parts of our district.

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

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Molluscs

 

Scallops (Pecten maximus)

Cornwall IFCA’s research team are preparing to start annual dredge tow surveys for scallops within the district.

Currently the proposal is to conduct annual survey tows at a number of inshore sites within the district which were previously regularly surveyed by Cefas along with some new sites. Data from these surveys, in conjunction with the larger current Cefas Stock Assessment program, will help to guide management of this fishery in inshore waters. A pilot scallop dredging trail was carried out off Portloe in 2019 and the corresponding report can be found in the research report section.

Cornwall IFCA will be using their research vessel Tiger Lily VI as a platform for Cefas to conduct scallop tagging trials in the future.

Click here  to view the list of available research reports.

 

Fal Fishery Order

 

Cornwall IFCA is responsible for the management of the Fal Oyster Fishery. As Grantee of the Fal Fishery Order 2016, Cornwall IFCA has a responsibility to monitor the native oyster ( Ostrea edulis ) stock in the Fishery area. Annual surveys are carried out to assess their relative abundance. Since 2016 ‘Queenies’ ( Aequipecten opercularis and Mimachlamys varia ) have been included as part of this survey due to changes in the Fishery regulations in 2017. In 2018 a quantitative assessment of slipper limpet ( Crepidula fornicata ) numbers was also added to the survey and has been continued since. 

The monthly catch statistics of native oysters ( Ostrea edulis ) from the Fal Oyster Fishery have been reported on yearly since the 2014-2015 season. The reports for the previous five seasons are available on the website and archived reports are available on request. The reports focus on the catch rates and distribution in annual dredge surveys conducted in previous years and summarises the reported weight of other shellfish species removed from the Fishery over these reported seasons. The introduction of queen scallops as a target species was also included in the 2017-2018 report.

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

Click here to find out more about the Fal Fishery Order and Fal Oyster Fishery Biosecurity Plan.
 

Mussels (Mytilus edulis)

Cornwall IFCA undertook a survey in 2016 to monitor the extent of the intertidal mussel beds in the River Lynher, a feature of the Tamar Estuaries MCZ. 

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

Cockles (Cerastoderma edule)

The cockle bed on Town Bar in Padstow was historically fished but in recent years the stock structure altered, following a similar mass mortality that was experienced in other cockle beds around the UK. From 2007, annual surveys were carried out to provide a description of the changing population. Following the southward movement of the main channel, which removed much of the bed, the last survey was carried out in 2016.

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

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Finfish

Wrasse 

Over the past few years a fishery for wrasse has developed in Cornwall. The fish are kept alive for use as cleaner fish in salmon farms as an alternative to chemical treatments in sea lice management. Cornwall IFCA introduced management for the fishery in 2019. The wrasse species ballan ( Labrus bergylta ), corkwing ( Symphodus melops ), goldsinny ( Ctenolabrus rupestris ), rock cook ( Centrolabrus exoletus ) and cuckoo ( Labrus mixus ) have been reported on but not all are targeted by the fishery.

Scientific officers undertake on board catch sampling on the commercial vessels involved. Scientific officers also carried out independent catch sampling on board their research vessel Tiger Lily VI in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, a wrasse tagging project was undertaken to determine if estimated population sizes could be calculated to provide baseline data for future monitoring of wrasse populations. A pilot tagging survey was carried out in Veryan Bay with a further tagging survey carried out in Falmouth Bay.

Click here to find out more about the live wrasse fishery

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)

A very brief study was carried out in 2015 into early 2016 which aimed to assess the selectivity of differing net mesh sizes following the European increase in the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) for bass from 36 cm to 42 cm. A report of the 2016 findings was finalised and made available in 2019.

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

Sea Trout (Salmo trutta)

Cornwall IFCA carried out four survey days in 2018-2019 aiming to catch sea trout in the south-west to support the Salmonid Management around the Channel project (SAMARCH). SAMARCH is a five year multi-national partnership project that started in 2017. The project seeks to collect biological, spatial and temporal sea trout data from both sides of the Channel to inform the future management of salmon and sea trout in their coastal marine phases. 

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

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Marine Protected Areas

Cornwall IFCA is required to conduct assessments of the fisheries activities which occur within designated sites in the district. These assessments vary in format depending on the type of designation. All assessments aim to investigate the nature and scale of the fisheries conducted within the site and assess the impact of the interaction with the ‘features’ of the site which can be benthic habitat types, i.e. bedrock reef, or individual species, i.e. spiny lobster ( Palinurus elephas ).

All assessments are submitted to Natural England for comments, the majority of which are incorporated into the final assessment. Initial assessments for fisheries within many of the sites in the District have been completed. All assessments are available upon written request to Cornwall IFCA and will be periodically reviewed.

In the majority of cases the assessments are desk based exercises drawing on fisheries activity data already held by the IFCA, for example shellfish permit returns data, enforcement inspections, IFCA officer knowledge, and habitat and species data from site reports. 

On some occasions there are knowledge gaps in the fishery scale and extent within a site, the impact of the activity on protected habitats and species, or the location and extent of the habitat and species within the site. On these occasions Cornwall IFCA has undertaken additional surveys to inform the assessment. For example, investigations were undertaken on fishery interactions (the impact of potting on seagrass and SPA bird bycatch), fishery intensity (crab tiling survey) and habitat extents (Reef; Eddystone and Whitsand Bay, Seagrass; Fal and Helford, Cawsand and Mounts Bay)..

Click here to view a list of MPA assessments undertaken by Cornwall IFCA.

Click here to view the list of available Fishery Impact Studies.

Click here to view the list of available habitat surveys.

 

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Fishery Intensity and Impact Studies

To aid in fisheries management, a greater understanding of the impact of various fishing gears with the marine environment are often needed.  Cornwall IFCA conducts desk based studies of current research, carries out its own survey work and works in collaboration with other organisations to gain a better understanding of these impacts. The outcomes of these projects are used directly in management of marine protected areas. 

Habitat Interactions

Cornwall IFCA carried out a survey in 2017 to assess the impact of potting on the seagrass habitat to aid with Habitat Regulation Assessments.

 

Fishing Intensity

Surveys have been carried out to monitor the number and location of crab tiles in the River Fowey, River Tamar and River Lynher to assist with MCZ assessments.

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

Bird Interactions

Data was provided by Cornwall IFCA from boat-based observations of bycatch during net haul observations, with a focus on the features of the SPA; Great Northern Diver ( Gavia immer ), Black-throated Diver ( Gavia arctica ) and Slavonian Grebe ( Podiceps auritus ). The data was analysed and a report written by Footprint Ecology.

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

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Habitat Surveys

 

Habitat Verification

Cornwall IFCA carry out a range of habitat verification surveys to aid in fisheries management using a range of remote sensing techniques including acoustic and visual imagery.  

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

Eddystone Reefs Project

Cornwall IFCA, the Marine Conservation Society, and the University of Exeter Environment Sustainability Institute are collaborating on a study in the Eddystone reefs part of the Start Point to Plymouth Sound and Eddystone Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The aim of this study is to collect data over time to enable a comparison of the epifaunal assemblages between areas that are open and closed to bottom towed gear using a treatment and two control survey boxes. The closure to bottom towed gears in parts of the Eddystone Reefs area of the Start Point to Plymouth Sound and Eddystone SAC was a result of the European Marine Site management measures that were introduced in January 2014 under the Closed Areas (European Marine Sites) No 2 Byelaw. The survey has been reported annually since 2016. Side-scan sonar work of the boxes was also carried out in 2017. In 2019, additional survey work (drop down video and side-scan sonar) was carried out in a fourth survey box, Box 4 which is also a treatment site. 

Click here to view the list of available research reports.

 

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Biosecurity

Cornwall IFCA has produced a Biosecurity Plan for its district. It is intended for use by all marine stakeholders in the Cornwall IFCA district and covers the prevention and control of the spread of marine invasive non-native species (INNS) and shellfish disease. It details the current status of the area, potential threats to fisheries, and suggested measures to improve biosecurity and attempt to avoid any potentially damaging effects in the future. As part of managing the Fal Fishery Order, Cornwall IFCA has also produced a separate Fal Fishery Biosecurity Plan.

Click here  to view Cornwall IFCAs Biosecurity plans

 

Non-natives

Species of particular interest for the fishing industry include:
•   American lobster  
•   Chinese mitten crab  
•   Carpet sea squirt
•   Asian shore crabs

Officers have worked with fishermen and Cefas when American Lobster ( Homarus americanus ) have been found in lobster pots in our district. If you should find one please contact us immediately.

There are various tools available for online reporting. Click here for more details.

You can also report any sightings to Cornwall IFCA: contact us

You must not release non-native species back into the wild, this is a criminal offence.

 

Fish and Shellfish Disease

The introduction of finfish or shellfish disease into the Cornwall IFCA District could have severe consequences for native species. It is therefore critical that any suspected diseases or unusual/high mortalities in either aquaculture or wild stock are reported immediately to the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI -Cefas).

Current confirmed designations in Cornwall for shellfish are:

 

Click here for further information about notifiable diseases, reporting notifiable diseases, the listed control areas in Cornwall.

 

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Partnership Working 

Cornwall IFCA has carried out partnership working with other IFCAs and a number of organisations on a range of projects;

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
Cornwall IFCA will be using their research vessel Tiger Lily VI as a platform for Cefas to conduct scallop tagging trials in the future.

Natural England
‘Verifying acoustic signals for habitat classification within St.Austell Bay, Veryan Bay and Gerrans Bay 2016 Summary Report'

Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the University of Exeter Environment Sustainability Institute (ESI)
‘Eddystone Reefs Project’

Salmonid Management around the Channel project (SAMARCH)
‘Sea Trout Netting Report SAMARCH 2019’

SeaSearch
Crawfish ‘Cornwall IFCA/SeaSearch Spiny Lobster Survey 2018’

 

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