Marine scientist named 'Admiral of the Manx Herring Fleet' in 420-year tradition on the Isle of Man

  • ITV Granada Reports' Isle of Man reporter Joshua Stokes went to meet Dr David Beard.

A marine scientist has been named 'Admiral of the Manx Herring Fleet', in a historic tradition dating back to the 1600s.

Dr David Beard is the latest Admiral to take on the ceremonial role on the Isle of Man, which is more than 400 years old.

It has been reinstated after local fishermen started to catch herring in Manx waters again following a deal with the UK governments in 2023 to allocate a quota.

It is hoped that decision will lead to a commercially viable herring fishery in the island for the first time in 25 years

Dr Beard said: "I am incredibly proud to take on this role which holds immense historical significance. It is a real honour.

"The quota only became available due to the persistence and hard work of DEFA, particularly the Sea Fisheries Manager, Jack Emmerson, with the full support of Minister Clare Barber.

"I would also wish to recognise the efforts of the Manx fishing community in responding to the opportunity and catching the herring quota within a five-week period last summer.

"This is co-management at its best and a further example of the sustainable management approach adopted by both Government and the fishing industry within Manx waters."

Fisherman in the Isle of Man started fishing for herring again in 2023. Credit: Isle of Man Government

Traditionally, the Admiral of the Manx Herring Fleet was responsible for ensuring that the island’s farmers and boat owners followed the legal requirement to have their nets and vessels ready for the opening of the fishing season each year.

They were also tasked with monitoring fishermen’s conduct at sea with any misdemeanours dealt with by a land-based Water Bailiff.

At that point in history, the herring fishery was a largely directed activity, almost like a military operation, to ensure food security and economic prosperity.

Nowadays, the support of the recently reinstated Manx herring fishery is undertaken collaboratively between the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) and the Manx Fish Producers Organisation (MFPO), of which Dr Beard is the Chief Executive.

There are hundreds of Manx fisherman working in the industry on the island. Credit: Isle of Man Government

However, Dr Beard plays a significant role in ensuring Manx fisheries are sustainably managed by working with Government to ensure regulations are fit for purpose.

Clare Barber MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: "The appointment emphasises the significance of the Manx fishing revival in recent years.

"David’s appointment is symbolic of our efforts to preserve and sustainably manage our herring fishery, ensuring its prosperity for generations to come.’

Despite the herring fishery employing more than 2,000 people at its peak in 19th century, the Admiral’s duties slowly diminished and eventually ceased altogether.

"Although it was briefly revived in the 1960s and 1990s, nobody has held the role for more than 30 years.

Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Lorimer said: "Dr Beard’s appointment is a fitting way to celebrate the reintroduction of herring quotas in the Isle of Man and honour an important Manx tradition."

A new quota for langoustines is also due to become available to Manx boats in 2024.

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