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Draft Marine Bill Consultation

Jul 11,2008 SACN


The Sea Anglers Conservation Network has over 600 members, many of these being sea angling clubs and federations etc whose own memberships total to tens of thousands.

Members of SACN recognise that their enjoyment of the sea is directly related to the overall health of the marine environment, and particularly inshore fin-fish species, the stocks of which have declined considerably both in number and the size of individual fish) in the last decades, and with few exceptions continues to do so.

We look to the Marine Bill with hope that fundamental changes to legislation, and the organisations with responsibility for restoring and maintaining our natural marine heritage, will result in seas that are restored towards their historical productivity, and which can be handed on to future generations with pride.

The proposals within the Marine Bill are far ranging but we will confine our discussion to those aspects that we believe will mostly impact upon Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) activity, and the inshore Recreational Sea Fisheries upon which participation in RSA activity depends.


Once (and not so long ago) considered boundless and infinitely forgiving of abuse, in recent years our understanding of the marine environment has changed considerably, and we have now begun to realise just how vulnerable that environment, and the resources that it contains, is.

And just how valuable the marine environment, and the resources it contains, is to a growing number of sometimes competing interests.

That understanding comes at a time of change that challenges those vulnerabilities like no other time in history, and at a time when the pace of change itself is accelerating.

Laws, regulations and institutions created in other times to deal with other seeming realities are now increasingly unsuitable for the effective management of both the challenges and opportunities presented by our new understanding, both in terms of their scope and their timely responsiveness. 

As with generations before us, we hold the future viability of our marine resources in trust for future generations.

And yet previous generations have not had to shoulder the burdens of the kind we must now deal with, as population and economic pressure drives competition to extract maximum value from available resources today, at a time when our increasing knowledge and technical expertise increases our capacity to cause long term damage in the pursuit of short term gains.

To meet both the opportunities and challenges of the future, it is becoming increasingly vital that our laws, regulations and management institutions be made fit for the purpose ahead, able to operate effectively in dealing with new realities, responsive to change and new threats.

We believe that such radical reform can only be accomplished through the introduction of a Marine Bill.

The danger is that we allow an instrument that seeks to be effective in managing the new realities to become overly influenced by established interests seeking to maintain a status quo that is beyond its ‘sell-by-date’ and in catering for the current situation, neglect to make provision for the challenges of the future.
Provisions for the Development of Recreational Sea Fisheries and for the Development of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector.

It is understood that much of the Marine Bill is concerned not with delivery of policies, but in providing the legislation to enable the government of the day to pursue various courses of action should it wish to do so in future.

The Recreational Sea Angling sector has discussed various options in the past with the view to maximising the significant social, environmental and economic benefits that could ensue from future policies aligned to the intention of promoting the development needs of the Recreational Sea Angling sector.

Much of this would be difficult to do under existing legislation, and therefore the introduction of a Marine Bill presents the opportunity to amend legislation in a way that will give policy makers the option of meeting some aspirations of the sector in future years, without the expense of legislative tinkering.

Such items that need to be considered are the legislative changes needed to make the following possible.

- Management of some species of marine fish wholly or primarily as Recreational Species, perhaps with the introduction of a classification of those fish as Sports Fish.

- Where management plans are considered for the management of any species of fish, or marine ecosystem, there should be a statutory requirement to consider the impact upon Recreational Sea Fisheries, and an obligation to consider options which could enhance the Recreational Sea Fishery.

- Organisations responsible for the management of inshore fisheries should be obliged to be responsible for the proactive development of Recreational Sea Angling. 

- Some areas to be defined as Recreational Sea Fishing areas, where commercial fishing is prevented, either wholly or partially, including the establishment of a Golden Mile, and protection of important Recreational Sea Angling Areas such as estuaries and coastal areas important to Recreational Sea Angling.

- The obligation, when planning coastal developments and structures, or when these are being re-furbished etc, to consider access by Recreational Sea Anglers.

- There should be provision for financially supporting organisations that provide representation of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector, much as SEAFISH exists to promote the development of the commercial fishing industry.

- Funding should be able to be made available to enterprises involved in developing Recreational Sea Fisheries. 

- Fisheries Science should be obliged to also consider species of interest to the Recreational Sea Angling Sector, and the information needs of fisheries managers concerned with the development of Recreational Sea Fisheries.

- Organisations concerned with the management of marine resources should be obliged to regularly review the social and economic value of the Recreational Sea Angling sector, the potential and opportunities available from further development of the sector, publish plans for future development of the sector and review progress.

As stated above, the debate regarding the implementation of such measures is perhaps for another time, however the opportunity to enable legislative provision for such measures should be embedded within the legislative changes proposed within the Marine Bill.  

Comments on the Draft Marine Bill

Marine Management Organisation.

We would prefer Marine Management and Conservation Organisation, to ensure that the culture that is developed within the MMO fully recognises the primary purpose of their existence.

Sea Fisheries Committees/Inshore Fishing and Coastal Authorities

We welcome the long overdue reform of Sea Fisheries Committees and the intention to provide them with a much clearer mission definition.

However, fundamental change requires radical change.

We believe that many of the problems of the existing Sea Fisheries committees are as much as a result of the way that these institutions are funded and populated, and that simply changing their name and attempting to address some of their shortcomings by making some changes to their remit will not result in the kind of change needed to best manage our marine resources in the face of the challenges that now exist and will be forthcoming.

We understand that the Government prefers to deliver funding through local authorities, and this necessitates local political representation.

However delivering funding this way (which originates from central government anyway), perpetuates the problems of councillors with stakeholder interests, adding weight to DEFRA appointees with those same interests, to the detriment of representation of other interests.

And for this reason we would prefer to see a genuine and radical change that will not allow such ‘back door’ representation to develop.    

If however it is decided to proceed with the creation of IFCAs as presently envisaged, we feel that a stronger message should be delivered in describing their new duties that their future role is principally one of conserving, protecting and enhancing the inshore marine environment, and that management of access to the resources contained within the marine environment by various stakeholder is a secondary consideration.

And that their future duty includes ensuring fair and equitable access by all stakeholders, rather than any particular stakeholder, taking into account the differing social and economic value to be attained from competing interests when considering the overall management of the resource or any specific proposals.

And a greater accountability for decisions undertaken.

We very much support the name change, to reflect both their new mission, and to drive home the fact that there is a change.

We believe that councillors appointed to the committees should be free of any pecuniary interest in the business of the committee, either directly or through association of family or friends, and serve to represent the best interest of all ratepayers in the management of the marine environment.  Simply declaring such interests when a particular item of business arises is not enough, as both developed relationships within the committee and the resulting culture of the committee can be tainted by the interests of individual members.

We believe that there should be a statutory review of how the new legislation is working, with mechanisms to adjust the institution of IFCAs should they be found to not be working in the best interest of the Marine Environment.  It is unlikely that radical change will prove to be totally successful at the first attempt, and there should be provision within the Bill to make any changes that may appear to be necessary at a later date. 

Co-ordination of issues across IFCA districts

Certainly with management of many fin-fish stocks, and probably with the introduction of Marine Conservation Zones, their will be many issues that are trans-IFCA.

Even now such issues arise where SFCs are reluctant to unilaterally introduce needed conservation measures because it would put commercial fishermen within their district at a disadvantage to those from adjoining districts.

There must be a mechanism whereby a higher authority (and we suggest the MMO) should be able to impose such measures on a trans-IFCA basis, rather than the issue being referred to the Secretary of State for national legislation.

Management of Estuaries

Estuaries are of extreme importance to both the inshore coastal environment and the river basins that empty into them.

The ecology is very complex, and can be easily damaged by many activities.

We must avoid a complex shared management situation within estuaries where different agencies have different responsibilities for different aspects and no one is certain who is to be made responsible for delivery of overall good management.

We feel that the proposals to make IFCAs the authorities within estuaries is wrong for three reasons.

1. IFCAS are unlikely to have the knowledge or expertise to integrate their management of fisheries within estuaries with the needs to protect, maintain and recover estuarine environments, important both upstream and downstream.

2. Given that estuaries are far more complex than the coastal sea, with far more interactions taking place that need to be monitored and managed, there will be a disproportionate requirement for funding and involvement that will be to the detriment of both good estuarine management and adequate marine management.  Funding for good management of estuaries will be especially burdensome for those IFCAs who will find themselves responsible for management in a number of estuaries.

3. If IFCA boundaries are to follow political boundaries, these often fall down the middle of estuaries.  Having one authority responsible for half the width of an estuary and another for the other half is clearly totally impracticable even if there were theoretical mechanisms to resolve such problems (best not to allow the creation of such problems in the first place).

Establishment of Marine Protected Areas

We broadly support the proposals to create powers to establish Marine Protected Area (MPAs).

However, though acknowledging that there will be circumstances where it will be necessary to exclude all activity, other than scientific research, we cannot stress enough that exclusions and restrictions should only be considered when specific activities are likely to significantly impact upon the attainment of the objectives for establishing a particular MPA.

As well as areas that are protected we would also like to see other areas where the intention is to proactively enhance the biodiversity or productivity of an area (ie by the construction of spawning areas, artificial reefs, repair of areas degraded by bottom trawling or mineral extraction etc)

Where it is necessary to curtail Recreational Sea Angling in a particular area that is valued by the RSA community, we would like to see powers within the Marine Bill for the establishment of ‘compensatory’ areas as part of the establishment plan, which would provide areas of at least equal size and productivity.

There also needs to be provision for identification and full consultation with grass-roots’ stakeholders (ie individuals directly affected as well as representative organizations), and efforts to attain understanding of the purpose of such areas and a buy-in of the benefits to be attained, at the very earliest stage of any particular proposal.

Perhaps our greatest concern is with displacement of fishing effort that is likely to occur as MCZs  become established.

Given that most productive areas are already pressured too much, if (say) 30% of the currently fished area is put out of bounds then, unless there is a proportional reduction in fishing capacity, effort which would previously have taken place in the closure areas will now be forced to compete in the remaining unclosed areas, or new fishing grounds opened causing damage to previously relatively pristine areas of seabed etc

Any plans for closure must also include an assessment of likely displacement on other areas and include mitigation measures (reduction in fleet capacity, compensatory enhancement of areas outside the closed area to cushion against the increase in pressure etc).

We would especially like to see within the legislation provision made for protection of the marine environment and inshore fish stocks, specifically for the purpose of reserving areas and fish for the development of Recreational Sea Angling, especially within the ‘Golden Mile’.

Whereas commercial exploitation of fish stocks is possible across the entire area of the sea, most Recreational Sea Angling occurs very close inshore, and it is from this small area that so much value is attained both in social activity and in the provision of many thousands of livelihoods and business opportunities servicing the Recreational Sea Angling sector, with minimal environmental impact.  

MPAs and MCZs should be reviewed to ensure that they are attaining their objectives with extensions or extinguishments applied as necessary. 

Coastal Issues

It is pleasing to see within the Marine Bill proposals an emphasis on the ecological management of resources and protection of the vulnerable marine environment.

However we have concerns that much of the emphasis of the proposals is with management of the marine areas, but little attention is paid to addressing the greater issues within the estuarine, coastal, and transitional areas.

Given that there are problems in dealing particularly with fisheries conservation issues outside of 6 and 12 miles, it is surprising that not more is being made of the opportunity to better manage problems within the area directly under UK control.

Particularly so, that it is these areas which contain so much of value, and that the health of the close inshore regions often fundamentally affects marine areas and resources further offshore.  

Perhaps there is an assumption that the Water Framework Directive adequately covers concerns within this area, although close examination of the WFD shows that without additional powers and co-ordination of authorities that determine activities within coastal regions, there will be considerable difficulty in delivering the requirements of the WFD, and the WFD itself does not cover so much of what could be achieved within the ecology of estuarine and coastal areas.

There is an opportunity presented by the Marine Bill to examine more closely the many issues that need to be addressed, and to introduce legislation giving authorities the powers needed to protect and enhance the close inshore areas, as well as ensuring that co-ordination is effective between the different authorities that are responsible for the land/coast interface.

Some opportunities that we particularly want to see addressed are: 

Defence of transitional habitat ��" Saltmarsh, Estuaries etc

Squeezed between onshore coastal development, flood defences, and rising sea levels, these extremely valuable habitats are increasingly threatened, leading to a loss of marine bio-diversity both near to shore and offshore, as spawning, feeding and nursery grounds are lost, as well as a source of generation of ‘bottom of food chain’ organisms reliant on shallow, nutrient rich areas, protected from the full force of storms and deep water swells.

To adequately protect and to regenerate such areas requires close co-operation between both marine and onshore planning and development agencies, which needs to be specifically addressed within the Marine Bill proposals.
Impact of Coastal Developments

Increasingly coastal developments, including along estuaries, are impacting on the inshore environment, not only directly by changing the physical characteristics of the land/sea interface, but indirectly by introducing increased pollution, recreational water use, etc.

Again, onshore planning authorities must take into account effects on abutting coastal and marine environments, and this can be accomplished by including such proposals within the Marine Bill.

Discharge consents ��" Chemical and other contaminates, Sewage, Water-temperature, Water Abstraction

Even if discharged far inland, within river basin catchment areas, such discharges can have profound effects far downstream within estuaries and inshore areas.

When permission is granted for such discharges, the combined effects of such discharges should be assessed on a regional basis and the effects taken into account through consultation with both river basin management and coastal management authorities.

There will also be many other issues which though characteristically considered of only interest in land based planning management, also have profound effects on estuarine, inshore and offshore environments, and upon the stakeholders dependent upon the resources within those environments, and proposals within the Marine Bill should adequately reflect the importance of co-ordination of onshore planning consents upon the coastal environment.

Onshore Planning

A particular weakness of the current proposals we feel is the lack of any real integration of land based and marine based planning systems and feel that land based planning should also be amended to identify and take into account effects on the marine environment, especially coastal and estuarine developments which are likely to impact upon the marine environment.

Regulation of Recreational Sea Angling 

Bag Limits

Recreational Bag Limits are often used in other parts of the world to ensure the health of Recreational Fish Stocks and are usually part of a package to limit the total take of fish by all exploiters of the species.

Few would argue with the sensible implementation of reasonable bag limits upon anglers’ catches where this is for essential conservation reasons and is applied proportionately to all takers of fish.

However, it would be unacceptable to limit the take of fish by anglers if there is no proportionate limit placed on the take of others, or where such bag limits are imposed simply to reserve the availability of fish to other sectors, or to protect their markets from illegal selling of fish caught by unlicensed fishermen when other legislation makes that illegal.

Here we would want to see a clear statement that bag limits will only be imposed on Recreational Sea Anglers for essential conservation reasons only, and applied proportionately to all who take fish of those species.

And in determining the ‘share’ of a stock that is used to determine the bag limit to be applied to Recreational Sea Anglers, that the social and economic value obtained from the catch of Recreational Sea Anglers be considered, as well as the need to maintain the viability of local angling charter fleets and regional RSA infrastructure.

We strongly object to the proposal for imposition of bag limits other than for genuine conservation reasons, ie ‘for enforcement purposes’ alone.

If there is an enforcement problem of preventing the sale of fish by unlicensed commercial rod and line fishermen, it would be draconian to penalise the vast majority of genuine Recreational Sea Anglers by restricting their ancient rights, and such powers would be far to easy to abuse by those who simply want to restrict recreational sea angling for reasons that have nothing to do with conservation objectives or genuine concerns of problems of enforcement.

As well as being a huge sledgehammer to crack but a very small nut such draconian measures would only serve to drive a wedge between the recreational sea angling community and endanger any hope of ‘willing compliance’ and ‘participatory enforcement’ of measures genuinely needed to protect fish stocks.   

If bag-limits are applied, then  enabling  legislation encompassed by the Marine Bill  should require that they are not to be imposed without first carrying out a full needs and impact assessment, including social and economic impacts,  as well as environmental, together with a consultation involving affected stakeholders.

 Legislation within the Marine Bill should also specify that any bag-limit that is imposed should be time-limited to ensure that they do not remain in force beyond the period where they are effective and needed.  We would suggest a maximum of three years, and thereafter they will be reviewed or expire.

Bag limits should be restricted to species, time of year, and areas where there is a demonstrable problem, rather than being used as a blanket tool applied universally, where the problem that they are meant to address is quit specific to an area, a species, or at certain times of the year.    

Bait Digging

We note the proposal to include regulation of bait-digging within the remit of the Sea Fisheries Committees.

Whilst we recognise the need to protect the marine environment from over-excessive bait digging and collection, and the need to ensure that such operations are carried out with the least environmental impact possible, we must stress the importance of being able to provide Recreational Sea Anglers with natural sea baits.  Often there is no other real alternatives.

Rather than simply regarding the issue as one of ‘management, enforcement  and restriction, we feel that the Marine Bill should also place responsibilities for ensuring that there is access by sea anglers, and the professional bait diggers who supply the market, to adequate, well and  sustainably managed bait beds, similar to the excellent work by some sea fisheries committees in ensuring well managed access to shellfish stocks. 

Access Issues

Shore anglers generally require access to deep water marks that contain good stocks of quality fish (size is important to the angling sector!).

In many areas this means access to man-made structures, piers, harbours, jetties, marinas etc.

(In many countries, ‘angling piers’ are built specifically to provide access to angling opportunities, with additional value being attained through tourism, shops and restaurants etc)

However, increasingly access to such structures is being lost as a result of fears of public liabilities in case of accidents, and restriction to port areas because of security fears etc (albeit the presence of anglers actually increases security!).

The needs of anglers for access to such structures should be recognised and enshrined in proposals within the Marine Bill, and in the planning regulations relating to such developments (including refurbishments) on the coast and estuaries. 

Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network 

See also Evidence to Marine Bill Select Committee


Related news

» SACN Response to the Marine Bill White Paper
by SACN posted on Jun 06,2007
» Evidence to Marine Bill Select Committee
by SACN posted on Jul 11,2008
» The Marine Bill - Next Steps
by SACN posted on Apr 21,2008
» Draft Marine Bill Launched
by SACN posted on Apr 03,2008
» SACN in Parliament
by SACN posted on Nov 20,2007

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