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Conservation Or Preservation

Aug 03,2000 Chris Pledge


Hi everybody, meet Totland Bay Angling Club member Max O'Brien. Eight-year-old Max has recently become the youngest ever winner of the Isle of Wight junior shore championships. He achieved this by catching two flounders from the western bank of the local River Medina, one weighed 2lb 5oz, the other 2lb 5 1/4oz. Both of these fish bettered the minimum NFSA specimen size for our area of 2lb 4oz.

At this point you might just be asking yourself what Max has to do with an article on conservation or preservation…well, quite a lot really.



Firstly Max and youngsters like him are the future of our sport, and unless we act quickly to protect the angling environment these kids will have nothing to fish for. Secondly, his catch, these were two very good flounders no matter what part of the country you live in. Ah, but they are only flounders I can here you saying…perhaps so, but to an eight year old this is a catch of a very short lifetime, and a memory he will always carry with him.

The question is how many more of these memories like this will Max be able to store up? If MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food) have there way not many more because from January 1st 2000 they removed any minimum landing size restrictions for a number species, including flounder, from commercial boats.

Commercials don’t need to target flounders might be your response, perhaps not but they still do. Fish markets have long been selling them and ballen wrasse for crab and lobster pot bait (as my picture illustrates) at 10p per pound - less than 20p a kilo for the metrically minded out there. One story posted on uk.rec.fishing.sea newsgroup told recently of 38 stones of flounder being trawled in Poole Harbour for such a purpose.



38 stone of flounder, that’s 532lbs or roughly 250 kilo's, being sold at market for 10p per pound/20p a kilo, so if this story is correct and I have no doubt that it was, these fish were worth just over £53. How much then did the boat that trawled them receive in payment, let's be generous and say around half of that amount, £27…if he's lucky?

What also makes this species so apt when it comes to conservation or preservation is the fact that flounders are full of roe in the winter months, ready to move out to sea and spawn future generations. And the fact that those coming generations of this flatfish are being wiped out for the sake of some beer money!

We need to look at the socio-economic implications of an act such as this. For Max and others like him who are only able to cast a few feet out into the sea it means that soon they will have little in the way of anything to fish for. The obliging flounder is one of the few regular winter visitors they can easily reach, no fish…no future angler!

Time to ask just how much those flounders from a single trawl would be worth from an angling standpoint? It’s difficult to get a precise figure because many flounder matches now operate on a catch and return system, its possible the same fish may have been caught several times, increasing its value. But if a single angler was to catch say 3lb of flounder on each trip - I know I'm being over optimistic! And lets estimate he spends out an average of £12 for bait, food and petrol on that session, then those fish are worth roughly £2000. Factor in competition and tackle costs to that and the figure could easily double to £4000. A bit different to the £27 our commercial friend gets for just one trawl then!

The Government already knows through its own surveys that rod and line angling has a greater input into the national wealth than commercial fishing yet amazingly it legislates for activities like trawling flounder to carry on virtually unrestricted.

I know these fish go on to be used as pot bait and their worth in crab and lobster needs to be included. But surely with all the massive waste from by-catches, the commercial fishing industry should get its act together and use these up first, rather than taking prime in-spawn fish for potting which is just a gross devastation of natural resources?

Of all the creatures created during the millions of years of earth's history only man has had the propensity to destroy this planets assets at will. Yet we occupy but a speck of dust on its gigantic time-scale!

As hunter-gatherers we have become the ultimate killing machines. High tech electronics using space age technology now offer pinpoint accuracy of fish shoals on a scale never before achieved. And the need to feed the mouths of ever-increasing populations has led to massive exploitation, yet lessons are still not being learnt.

One only has to look at the history of the Grand Banks, a once great fishing ground off of America's East Coast to see just how effective man is at destroying resources. The fishery that fed America and beyond no longer exists; whole communities that relied on this industry were laid waste by the over exploitation of stocks.

As anglers we have to look closely at want we want and how to achieve it. Commercial fishing has for many years perfected its propaganda machine, and they are experts at using knowledge gained to their advantage within the political system.

By reading through this most of you are probably concerned anglers, and aware that all is not well with a system allows such devastation without recourse. What you do next is the important step; SACN (Sea Anglers Conservation Network) has just been set up for anglers to participate in an active role, so please carry on to read the other items on this site.

Other moves are to join a club affiliated to one of the major angling bodies (if you don’t belong already). Then find out about your MP/MEP's and lobby them, in the past 12 months our sport has made progress in this direction but we need numbers.

To loosely paraphrase our incumbent Prime Minister complain, complain, complain. If one person complains little is done about a matter, if ten complain it becomes an issue, if 50 complain it becomes an issue to be dealt with, if 500 complain it becomes a matter for the politicians to sit up and take notice of because of the potential fallout.

Conservation or Preservation…junior anglers such as eight-year-old Max no nothing of quotas or pressure stock licences, their only requirement is something to catch. What's needed is a great leap forward in our thinking on the conservation of fish stocks; ultimately it's down to you.

If we reach the point of preservation though, we will have lost the argument!




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