May is a notoriously difficult month for Berwickshire’s prawn fishermen, but this one has been particularly bad with landings down by a third.
Eyemouth Harbour Trust has confirmed a downturn in landing dues this year, and according to Eyemouth prawn fisherman Alan Blackie catches so far in 2013 are around a 30% down compared to 2012.
Marine Scotland confirmed last week that in the first four months of 2013 prawn landings were at an 11-year low, particularly at the North Sea Fladens fishing ground. Their scientists are aware that there are fewer than normal prawns to catch in the Fladens. While they haven’t identified the cause, they have noticed water temperatures are unusually low.
Although fishermen agree that water temperature is playing a part in the prawn shortage, they say the low numbers are also because of the abundance of cod, which feed on the prawns, to the north of Arbroath.
Mr Blackie said: “We are thinking it’s the temperature of the water, but in the Fladens fishing in the north it’s probably a lot to do with the abundance of fish, including cod.
“There’s not yet an abundance of cod around here, but if you go north of Arbroath fishermen can’t catch clear of them.
“We’re down about 30 per cent up to now but the next two months could be big fishing.”
Eyemouth only has seven fishing boats left – four large and three smaller boats, all primarily fishing for prawns.
In previous years if the prawn fishing has been poor the large boats, such as the Rebecca, have switched over to catching fish rather than prawns in May, Mr Blackie explaining that to do so they have to ‘hire in’ days at sea to stay within European fishing quota rules.
Marine Scotland scientist Nick Bailey said: “Unusual environmental conditions appear to be limiting the emergence of the nephrops from the burrows in which they live.
“The reasons for this are unclear, but may be because of lower than usual water temperatures or prolonged spells of severe winter weather.”