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The Marine Bill and Angling - Latest

Nov 14,2006 SACN


A couple of documents were released today reporting on issues relating to Nature Conservation Enforcement and Unlicensed Activities.

The report on unlicensed activities in particular make many references to Recreational Sea Angling and Bait Collection, and many of those references have been extracted and reproduced below.

References to issues regarding commercial fishing are also contained within the report.

It is advisable to read the full reports:

Enforcement of marine nature conservation legislation - examining the scope for improvement

Unlicensed Activities - a review to consider the threats to marine biodiversity

(A report on: Marine Species protection - a review of risk and considerations for improvement was also commissioned by Defra and will be released early December 2006 onto the SIS website.)

Unlicensed Commercial Fishing Activities
 
Some control over the public right to fish should be considered if appropriate management controls are to be applied to intertidal fisheries.

It is recommended that all currently unlicensed commercial fisheries come under a licensing regime, which would include all shore-based fishing activities.

These include the capture of fish from the shore by, for example, angling, staked nets, rod and line, hand gathering of shellfish or mechanical dredging and gathering of shellfish under the public right for own consumption does not require any permit or licence and are therefore all unlicensed.

The money derived from the licences could then be used to ensure better enforcement measures.

The use of Several Orders should be more widely applied to manage intertidal shellfisheries and provide greater environmental protection.

In the context of marine spatial planning, a system of open access, permit areas and closed areas should be included to manage all fishing activities.


3.1.7 Bait Digging / Collection

 3.13 The public right to collect bait is ancillary to the right to fish in intertidal waters and is limited to personal use only.

Collection is not licensed by fisheries legislation or by any other statute although some bait digging has been regulated through byelaws, particularly when occurring within a SAC.

Bait collection for sea angling occurs in many coastal areas especially estuaries, although some locations are more plentiful for bait species than others and may attract commercial collectors.

Different bait species are targeted according to the species of fish being caught as well as the location and time of the year.

The main collecting techniques are digging, boulder turning and bait dragging (the latter is undertaken from a boat). Bait digging, especially for lugworms, is carried out at low tide over the lower part of muddy and sandy shores (Fowler, 1999).

Peeler crabs (those undergoing shell replacement) are popular bait in the UK and are collected from beneath boulders in the low shore area of rocky coasts.

3.1.8 Sea Angling

3.14 The definition of marine recreational fishing is much broader than the popular but somewhat misleading synonym of ‘sea angling’ would suggest.

It ranges from beachcasting and inshore angling from boats within 5km of the shore, to deep sea fishing, the use of long lines and nets to diving with spear guns.

All fall within the definition of recreational fishing, the essential feature of which is that no part of the catch is offered for sale (Symes & Boyes, 2005).

Angling is a popular sport with an estimated 3-4 million anglers in Britain and the governing body in England, the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA), has approximately 570 affiliated clubs with some 33,000 individual members (Drew Associates, 2004).

The scale of sea angling in the south west of England is extensive and is widespread.

240,900 residents of the south west go sea angling and visitors spend 750,000 days sea angling in the region (Nautilus, 2005).

At present, there have been no calls to restrict and regulate the activities of fishermen, anglers and bait collectors on the shore (NESFC, 2006).


3.1.9 Unlicensed Commercial Fishing Activities

3.15 Although most fishing activities are regulated and licensed under various legislation, some activities are still unlicensed or are permissible by gaps in the current legislation and are considered by many to pose a significant threat to marine biodiversity features.

All commercial fishing from a boat, including beam trawling and clam dredging, must be licensed by a Government fishing licence required for the boat (not the individual).

It is illegal to sell fish of any sort caught from an unlicensed vessel but recreational fishing from a boat is unlicensed.

There has been considerable debate over whether commercial fishing can be categorised as an unlicensed activity, particularly in relation to the management of fishing activities in SACs.

However, for the purposes of this report, all fishing which is licensed (as above) is regarded as a licensed activity even if effort is not restricted.
 
3.16 In contrast, the capture of fish and shellfish from the shore by, for example, angling and bait collection (as discussed in 3.1.7), staked nets, rod and line, hand gathering of shellfish or mechanical dredging and gathering of shellfish under the public right for own consumption does not require any permit or licence and are therefore all unlicensed.

Some of these activities such as netting are relatively well regulated by means of SFC byelaws, authorisations and permits.

In areas subject to fishery orders, intertidal shellfish harvesting is licensed under the order and therefore better regulated (C. Eno, CCW; S. Atkins, NWNWSFC pers. comm., 2006).


Sea Angling  • trampling; • disturbance to the marine community structure in high impact areas; • littering; • damage to biogenic reefs, physical reef structures, sessile marine life such as anemones, sea fans, hard and soft corals etc by snagging with lines, hooks and weights; • injury and damage and subsequent risk of snagging of target fish species following parting of line during capture; • snagging and entanglement of mobile species (crustacean, fish) from lost or discarded equipment; • anchor damage

 4.5 The unlicensed activities of medium concern include unlicensed dredging, wildlife watching (ecotourism), sea angling, non-motorised water based recreation and land-based recreation.

Although these activities have the potential to threaten the marine biodiversity of UK waters, based on the available evidence, spatial extent, duration, scale and intensity of these activities, they are considered to be of a lesser threat than the activities identified as high concern.

6.1.6 Sea Angling

6.13 There have been calls to restrict and regulate the activities of fishermen, anglers and bait collectors on the shore.

In general, SFCs do not wish to interfere with non-commercial fishing practices, and request fishermen to observe a simple code of practice so that their activities are more responsible and less likely to affect other users and wildlife in the areas where they operate.

Codes of conduct for shore anglers are promoted through sea angling magazines and websites.

These best practice guides have been developed by SFCs, coastal partnerships and conservation bodies (see Boxes 3.17 & 3.18). CCW have a Code of Conduct for anglers, which includes information on sensitive bait collection.
 
6.1.7 Bait Digging / Collection & Unlicensed Commercial Fishing Activities

6.14 National and regional sea angling bodies and most, if not all, local clubs strongly promote a sea anglers’ code that includes guidelines for protecting the marine environment and mitigating harmful impacts (Fowler, 1999).

These codes include measures as simple and effective as avoiding moorings and other intertidal structures while digging bait and back-filling the holes and trenches produced, returning rocks and weed to their original positions when collecting crabs and shellfish, and only taking the minimum bait required for planned fishing trips (see Box 3.19).

Bait collection within Poole Harbour has been controlled using a Code of Conduct and voluntary agreement with a bait digging association, promoting voluntary refuge/important bird areas through Poole Harbour management plan (S Burton, Natural England pers. comm. 2006).

There is a Bait Collectors’ Code which offers guidance for bait collecting in the Solent European Marine Site, which includes Chichester Harbour.

The guide was developed and produced by the Solent European Marine Sites project with support from stakeholder groups, relevant authorities and members of the bait collecting and angling community (A. Fowler, Chichester Harbour Conservancy pers. comm. 2006).

 7.8 For a number of the unlicensed activities, which have a specific commercial interest, codes of conduct are less practicable or effective because of the economic incentive.

Examples of these activities include some fisheries activities and possibly other commercial interests, for example, wildlife watching operators and other tourism activities (CCW pers. comm. 2006).

The failure of fishermen to comply with bait digging codes around the UK highlights the difficulty in applying non-regulatory measures (Fowler, 1999; S. Burton, Natural England, pers. comm.; and A. Fowler, Chichester Harbour Conservancy pers. comm. 2006).

Bait digging codes of conduct may fail as most anglers are unattached to a national body.

There have also been incidences where local support for a code of conduct is undermined by people coming in from outside the area e.g. commercial bait diggers in Wales.

Many individuals participating in sea angling cannot be cautioned, and although any unlicensed anglers are advised of restrictions in place that will affect them and any “good practice” by sea fisheries committees, it is difficult to regulate them.


Unlicensed Commercial Fishing Activities

 9.14 The public right to fish continues to be a significant issue and does not reflect the nature of modern fisheries and the impact they can have on the environment.

Some control over the public right to fish should be considered if appropriate management controls are to be applied to intertidal fisheries.


 9.15 It is recommended that all currently unlicensed commercial fisheries come under a licensing regime, which would include all shore-based fishing activities.

These include the capture of fish from the shore by, for example, angling, staked nets, rod and line, hand gathering of shellfish or mechanical dredging and gathering of shellfish under the public right for own consumption does not require any permit or licence and are therefore all unlicensed.

The money derived from the licences could then be used to ensure better enforcement measures.


 9.16 The use of Several Orders should be used more widely to manage intertidal shellfisheries and provide greater environmental protection.


 9.17 In the context of marine spatial planning, a system of open access, permit areas and closed areas should be included to manage all fishing activities.

Summary

9.18 There is a wide perception of risk to marine biodiversity attributed to unlicensed activities due to their diffuse and widespread nature, however, in comparison to licensed activities their impacts are poorly documented.

Certain unlicensed activities can be controlled successfully by voluntary measures but where these fail, legislative backing will be required.

This could be either through the use of byelaws or more statutory measures or a combination of the two.

This especially may be the case where there is a commercial/economic incentive to the activity.

Sea Angling

Case studies from Literature
Recreational Sea Anglers (Nautilus, 2005)
Anecdotal Evidence
Anecdotal evidence of damage from lost fishing line (Jim Watson, BSAC).
Impact of recreational angling along Cornwall coast (Eddie Derriman, Cornwall SFC)

Cornwall SFC believe there is a large impact along the Cornish coast from the thousands of sea anglers fishing the beaches and from boats.

They believe that the collective total of fish extracted from the sea by each angler must by inference have an impact on marine biodiversity.

However the NFSA has reported that as much as 30% of the catch is now released (S Colclough, EA, pers comm. 2006).

It is also reported that litter from angling left on beaches and in coastal car parks is increasingly becoming a problem (E Derriman, Cornwalll SFC, pers. comm., 2006).

It has been noted that sites regularly frequented by anglers, have lost fishing line on the seabed, which entangles many species including crabs, lobsters as well as target fish species.

Nautilus (2005) considered that the impact of sea anglers on the environment is, for the most part, low impact.

Bait digging may have a significant localised impacts a few location; and rays and sharks are prone to over fishing


The sea bass fishery is currently legally defined as an unlicensed commercial fishery with the definition appearing in government reviews for the first time in 2004 (Defra, 2004d).

With a growth of sea bass stocks in inshore UK waters, there is some confusion over recreational fishing for sea bass, and that which is in fact unlicensed commercial rod and line fishing.

The true recreational sea angling is often associated with this unlicensed activity (Environment Agency pers. comm., 2006).

However, increased liaison between the SFCs, the MFA and EA is likely to have a positive impact on this fishery.


Bait Collection & Recreational Angling


Fowler (1999) reported that, in practice, only a minimum of bait collectors actually adheres to most of the guidelines set out in these codes in many areas.

Fowler (1999) reported that, in practice, only a minimum of bait collectors actually adheres to most of the guidelines set out in these codes in many areas.

It is rare to see bait diggers back-filling holes, and most individuals searching for crabs do not replace rocks and stones.

The majority may not even be aware of the existence of national or regional codes of conduct and their importance for conserving stocks and maintaining access to collection sites.

In the Solent, the bait digging Code of Conduct whilst developed with input from bait diggers, is purely voluntary and hence its adoption is non-statutory.

The code has therefore, had little impact (A. Fowler, Chichester Harbour Conservancy pers. comm. 2006).

Within the North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee’s remit, the intertidal fisheries Code of Conduct has had limited effectiveness, with few fishermen or individuals applying the provisions of the code (L. Stockdale pers. comm. 2006).

It is felt that many of the individuals carrying out the recreational angling can not be cautioned and although any unlicensed anglers are advised of any restrictions in place that will affect them and any “good practice” by sea fisheries committees, it is hard to regulate them (E. Derriman, Cornwall SFC, per comm. 2006).


Voluntary ‘refuge’/ ’important bird areas’ are currently being promoted through the Poole Harbour management plan, however the scheme is in its infancy and the feedback has only just started.

Natural England believe these voluntary agreements allow a face to face opportunity for nature conservation bodies to meet recreational users and discuss each others concerns to try to find a satisfactory agreement.

However sometimes the compromise is unsatisfactory with respect to protecting habitats/species adequately.

There is sometimes unwillingness by recreational groups to change their activity, especially when the areas highlighted for voluntary management schemes are likely to significantly affect or exclude a particular activity (S. Burton, Natural England, pers. comm. 2006).

The crab tiling Code of Conduct in the Exe estuary and other Devon estuaries although making fishermen aware of the issues, is not believed to have been a success due to the expense of enforcement.


CCW’s Code of Conduct for angling was very successful in raising awareness in local recreational anglers who may have an interest ensuring the sustainability of their local environment.

However, there have been incidences where commercial bait diggers from elsewhere in the country have used Welsh intertidal areas to take large amounts of bait from sensitive habitats, not only negatively impacting these habitats but reducing the support for the Code of Conduct if it can so easily be undermined.



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