Research Projects

Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd. is committed to undertaking rigorous and comparable scientific research which can be used to sustainably manage Orkneys inshore waters. Currently there are a number of projects investigating different aspects of the fishery and the population biology of stocks within Orkney.

Projects currently encompass Brown Crab (Cancer pagurus)European Lobster (Homarus gammarus) and both King Scallops (Pecten maximus) and Queen Scallops (Aequipecten opercularis) .

Current information regarding species specific research can be found on its research page.

Logbook Programme 

Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd. is currently running a voluntary logbook scheme, as part of its Orkney Fisheries research project.

There is currently a small financial incentive associated with this project.

If you are interested in taking part in this project please contact

Kate Rydzkowski:

Matthew Coleman:

Brown Crab Tagging

Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd. is currently running a Brown crab tagging scheme. By tagging soft or white faced crabs we aim to understand the movements of Brown crab in Orkney’s waters. We have had this scheme running since 2010 and have had encouraging participation from local fishermen and results. Our most famous crab moved 125miles from Orkneys inshore waters on the West Coast to the Butt of Lewis.

We are always looking for additional fishermen to aid in the tagging of crabs. The technique involves using a simple cable tie around the upper part of the crabs claw, pulled tight with the excess cut off. These ties will not normally last a moult so it is important to get newly moulted crabs.

If you are interested in being a part of the tagging scheme please contact:

Kate Rydzkowski:

Crab tags will be sent out to any participating fishermen. The information we need is the GPS location of where the tagged crabs are released and the GPS location of any tagged crabs that are caught in creels.

Tagged Crab

Crab being measured

Q: What measures are taken to ensure a sustainable shellfish fishery?

Regulation measures

The principle mechanism of preventing over exploitation of important stocks is through the enforcement of a minimum landing size (MLS) under EU regulations. The MLS for the commercially exploited species in Scottish waters are:

Brown crab (Cancer pagurus) – 140mm Carapace Width
Velvet crab (Necora puber) – 70mm Carapace Width
Lobster (Hommarus gammarus) – 90mm Carapace Length

These sizes were decided upon for the species based on scientific advice that protection will allow the population to mate and reproduce at least once in the lifetime before they can be legally landed. MLS can differ in some areas due differences in fishing practices, regional biology of the species and through local fisheries committees.

Other such regulatory measures are:
A maximum landing size of 155 mm for female lobsters
Claw removal of crab restricted (1% for pots and maximum 75kg for static gear)
Must behold a licence with shellfish entitlement
Prohibited landing of v-notched lobsters

Most merchants and processors in Orkney do not buy female crabs at a size of less than 153 mm (6”).

Q: What is a v-notched lobster?

V-notching is a voluntary measure taken by fishermen who recognise the importance of ensuring a healthy brood stock remains to benefit the future of the fishery. A notch is made by the fishermen to a segment of the fantail, which will be detectable for up to 3-4 years (around 2 moults). Any lobster that has a visible V marking to the tail is illegal to land in return safeguarding the female lobster to reproduce successfully.

V-notch1  Left: A previously v-notched lobster which has moulted, but v-notch still detectable Right: Lobster tail with new v-notch V-notch2

Q: What about crabs, can they be notched for protection also?

Berried female brown crab with claws clasped protecting her brood
Berried female brown crab with claws clasped protecting her brood

Crabs cannot be notched in the same way that a lobster can but unlike berried lobster berried brown crab are rarely seen in creels. This behaviour is due to the female moving offshore to spawn where they will half bury into softer sediment, moving and eating very little during this time. A berried brown crab is extremely noticeable due to the bright red colour of its eggs (see below) and if caught is returned to the sea. Berried velvet crabs are frequently caught but are unfavoured by market buyers (fortunately) and are discarded also.

Q: Is there any by-catch and what happens to the discarded catch?

Creels2 Urchin

The issue of by-catch for mobile gear fisheries continues to be a threat to the fishery and problematic to its successful management. Creels or “pots” on the other hand are passive gear only catching surrounding marine life that are foraging and attracted to the fisherman’s chosen bait. A variety of species can be found to have entered the creel with most frequent being starfish, urchins, hermit crabs and fish which are returned to sea alive when removing catch or fish kept as bait for the following days fishing. All undersized and out of condition crab/lobster are also returned.

Q: With all these measures does this mean the fishery is sustainable?

These regulatory and voluntary measures all contribute to a sustainable future but this cannot take away from the importance of the fishermen themselves conducting their fishing practices in a responsible manor to ensure Orkney a viable and prosperous fishery for generations to come.