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ESFJC Meets RSA - Report

Apr 05,2007 SACN


Meeting With EFSJC 29th March 2007 At Felixstowe SAS Club House.

Representatives from local sea angling clubs , bait diggers , regional sports-casting, sea angling trade and sea anglers met with the Chief Fisheries officer Mat Mander and his deputy Duncan Vaugh from the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee at the Felixstowe SAC club house.

It was disappointing that no local county councillors who sit upon the ESFJC where able to attend.

This was the first of a series of meetings to be held within East Anglia to discuss Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) issues and concerns.

There where four main agenda items

The proposed RSA strategy, Bag Limits, Min Landing Sizes, Any other Business.

Matt Mander of the EFSJC introduced himself and his deputy; he gave brief explanation of the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint committee, its duties, the area it covers, it’s composition of committee members and funding.

He explained the RSA sub group of EFSJC had recently been formed and this was the start of a process to engage with sea anglers, to seek their ideas, views and opinions.

Matt Mander ran through the key points in the Marine Bill white paper that affected RSA , Bag limits, licensing, bait digging and sea fisheries committees, he said it would be a least two years until the marine bill came into affect and until it was finalised there was a limit to what the EFSJC could do.

Consultation on a Marine Bill White Paper, A Sea Change

http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/marinebill-whitepaper07/index.htm

However, the ESFJC were keen to have discussions with anglers to see if anything could be done under the current legislation.

Matt Mander gave a brief overview of the newly written Recreation Sea Angling strategy he ran through a number of key elements. ie, objectives ,sub objectives, more and bigger fish, bag limits , licensing, Golden Mile , RSA fish species management plans, codes of conduct.

The RSA strategy will be going to public consultation very shortly (Spring-Summer 2007).

The meeting then opened up for informal discussion, the key points are listed below in no particular order.

Mat Mander was asked about sea fisheries committees in general , and how they traditionally supported the commercial sector , he cited the "Josh Eagles" report into sea fisheries committees, which supported this view and that there is a section in the marine bill white paper to reform SFC’s, (ie powers, objectives, funding, composition)

Mat Mander was asked, what had the ESFJC done for RSA in the past, in particular the committee’s decision to stop the proposed Stour and Orwell recreational fishery and what could it do in the future.

He said that under the current system, byelaws could only be introduced as a conservation measure, and as result of this, a Tope Byelaw for the ESFJC district had been recently introduced.

All anglers present agreed that preservation of fish stocks was a priority, and expressed their concerns at the poor state of fish stocks and sea angling along the East coast, they all stated they required more and larger fish.

Concern was also raised over the use of the word "sustainable" as this means different things to different stakeholders and also would the ESFJC be looking to pursue a "large stock" policy.

The setting of nets, in the inshore waters, estuaries and close to shore trawling was seen as a major issue for anglers, reducing stocks and reducing their ability to fish.

Amongst the anglers present their was a general consensus that they would not consider the licensing of sea angling until they had seen tangible benefits in the quality of the fish they could catch.

This was an emotive subject.

Matt Mander raised the issue of bag limits and this subject probably took half the meeting, he said that if a Byelaw could be introduced for bag limits on certain species such as bass in the Stour and Orwell estuary it would enable them to catch and prosecute the unlicensed netters who were selling their catch.

He continued to explain, the existing legislation and different agencies involved (EA, MFA, SFC all with different powers) made it very difficult for them to bring a prosecution, however with a bag limits byelaw they could make arrests as netters came shore instead of having to follow them and to prove they sold their catch.

It is not currently illegal for sea anglers to sell their catch, if caught from the shore or an un-powered vessel.

He saw this as a benefit for both anglers and commercial fishermen as this current practice was undermining the price of bass as well as reducing stocks.

He suggested that a bag limit would be set, that it would be no lower than the number of bass that an angler was likely to take at present.

It was pointed out to him, that it was of no real benefit to the stock or sea anglers, as this would leave more fish for licensed commercial fisherman to catch, and there had to be restrictions on commercial fishermen as well.

There were mixed views amongst the anglers from complete opposition to any bag limits to those that might accept one if ESFJC could put forward a well thought out case showing how it would be enforced, budgets and restrictions on commercial fishing.

It was clear that until the ESFJC had demonstrated that it could provide real tangible benefits to recreational sea angling, including restrictions on commercial fishing, that sea anglers would oppose bag limits and licences.

It was a good meeting and those present put forward their ideas of how the fish stocks could be managed not just leave it to the ESFJC.


The next meeting is likely to be in Norfolk, date and venue to be arranged.



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