Fisheries Areas Network

Good Practice Project

Trialling more selective lobster pots

Official Title: 
Holderness Coast Escape Gaps
FLAG cooperates with local fisheries management body to encourage uptake by fishermen to trial lobster pots with specially designed escape gaps, providing both environmental and commercial benefits.


In England, the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) are tasked with the sustainable management of coastal sea fisheries resources in their local area. In the Holderness FLAG area, a minimum landing size system is used to manage shellfish stocks. The commercial fleet mainly comprises of static gear operators using baited pots which target shellfish on the seabed for 24-72 hours at a time. Both ‘size’ and ‘undersize’ shellfish, along with bycatch, are kept in the pots until hauled and sorted by hand onboard fishing vessels.

This project, led by the North East IFCA, aimed to address the unnecessary and unproductive retention of undersize shellfish by allowing for their release from pots whilst in situ, minimising undersize mortality and limb loss. The objective was to improve the stocks of targeted commercial species (Homarus gammarus and Cancer pagurus) and reduce handling costs by introducing ‘escape gaps’ into static gear.

The escape gaps are small plastic rectangles which are sown into the corner of the lobster pots.  Research and trials carried out by the North East IFCA determined that escape gaps of 80x46mm significantly decreased the retention of undersized shellfish, whilst having no significant effect on catch rates of ‘size’ target commercial species.  With the support of the FLAG, the NEIFCA ran a one-year pilot project trialling the distribution of 42 000 free ‘escape gaps’ to local fishermen to reduce bycatch and the retention of juvenile shellfish. 

Two meetings were carried out to provide information on the escape gaps and to distribute them. The FLAG provided almost sixty percent funding which allowed NEIFCA to negotiate a bulk discount rate securing the required number of escape gaps which improved the long-term impacts of the project. The fact that the escape gaps were provided free to commercial fishermen was key to ensuring take-up.


The inclusion of escape gaps in pots was beneficial to conservation and to industry profits. The escape gaps helped improve spawning stock biomass and egg production; decreased in-pot mortality and limb loss; and increased the proportion of ‘acceptable’ size landings.  Reductions were seen in handling and clearance times of fleets, fuel consumption and operating costs as well as increased bate longevity.  Following the pilot project, NEIFAC approved a local by-law requiring the inshore fleet to fit escape gaps in all lobster pots.


FLAGs can play a valuable role in supporting the development and/or uptake of more sustainable fishing techniques in many areas, especially where they are recognised as legitimate partners of the fishing industry. Cooperation with existing fisheries management bodies is fundamental to ensuring legitimacy and uptake of new ways of fishing.

Lessons & contribution to CLLD objectives: 
  • Lessons: There was some resistance from the industry in the early stages as there were concerns that the escape gaps would reduce the number of size shellfish. The resistance reduced once the project was implemented and the results proved positive. It is important to get buy-in from the industry and take into account the time it takes to fit the escape gaps and the associated costs.
  • Contribution to CLLD objective: strengthening the competitiveness of the fisheries area


Total project cost €12 557
FLAG grant €7 534,2
  • EU contribution (EMFF): €3 767,1
  • Public contribution (national): €3 767,1
Beneficiary contribution €5 022,8

Project information

Timeframe of implementation From Jul 2012 to Sep 2012
Sea Basins
Type of area

Contact details

Publication date: 
PDF Version