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Issue No 1 – March 2001

Mar 01,2001 Leon Roskilly

Editor’s Mark

Welcome to the very first issue of the SACN’s e-newsletter.

I had thought about using Desktop Publisher to produce something really sexy, full of graphics and pictures, but looking at the pile of other work I’ve got on my plate, I decided to stick with something plain and simple �" for now!

SACN is growing rapidly, both in terms of the number of members, and in the concept. Just to remind you, we have our origins in using the technology of the Internet to protect our sport, by pushing out the conservation message and encouraging anglers to get involved.

In just over eighteen months, the environment in which we have chosen to work and campaign has changed rapidly.

Internet technology is said to have the fastest take up rate of any such previous communication technology eg radio, television, telephone. It is estimated that 49% of adults now have access to the net, either at work or home, and that figure is growing almost daily.

Digital technology, spreading to TVs and phones is also increasing peoples’ ability to access the Internet, and to communicate by email, and this is predicted to be the start of an explosion of such access.

At the same time, the power and speed of PC’s are increasing month on month and, if it wasn’t for a certain telecommunications giant dragging its heels, we would all by now probably be experiencing the benefits of ‘all the time on’ high speed internet access �" and I mean high speed!

That in itself will change the nature of the Internet. Live high quality video and sound streaming, downloading huge amounts of information, near instant real communication (as opposed to short text emails), and many other developments we can’t possibly begin to imagine, are just around the corner and will change our lives in unimaginable ways.

With such easy access, the Internet community is also changing fast.

From a couple of websites, the odd newsgroup and email based club; the offerings to the angling communities have also exploded. Forums abound everywhere. Trying to keep up with discussions, links, sites, is becoming more and more difficult, but the possibilities for getting the message across are expanding rapidly.

And it’s in this environment that this newsletter will be competing for attention to get our message across. There’s a huge potential, and a huge challenge to be addressed and I hope that over the next eighteen months we can harness that potential, ultimately to improve the sport for all of us.

You will be key in meeting that challenge.

This first issue of the newsletter will be pretty basic, mostly me droning on. We need to change that, but change will only happen if you get involved. Member of the SACN or not, I’ll be relying on you to send in information and articles to be published in future issues. Let us have your ‘letters’ expressing you points of view, information on what you have been up to, any conservation successes you might have had locally, any problems you need help with.

Please title any contributions for the next newsletter ‘For SACN Newsletter.

It’s your magazine, let’s make it a good one.

Tight Lines - leon

Does the NFSA have a future?

The NFSA is the governing body of our sport. Long established, with attitudes, procedures and a constitution written long ago, it has a huge task to complete in maintaining relevance to the sea anglers and the sea angling environment at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Under Mike North’s leadership, they are certainly working hard to bring about the necessary transformation. But to do that, to play the role required of them within the new National Angling Alliance, and to pursue the conservation aims that the majority of the membership has said should be given priority, they need a massive boost to their resources and income.

That means that more anglers than ever before will need to contribute more per angler than they have ever done before.

The proposal is that all members move to a system of individual membership. Instead of contributing 60p per member per year (the price of 2 postage stamps), through a club levy, NFSA members will be asked to take out Individual membership of £10 per year (less than the price of a charter trip, for me the price of petrol to the coast and back, the price of peeler and lug for a single session, or a single round of drinks).

When this proposal comes up for ratification, make sure that your club supports the proposal. The future of the NFSA, and of our sport may depend on the outcome.

What’s happening out there?

There can be very few people unaware of the disaster that has befallen North Sea cod. What many laymen are unaware of are the years of ignored warnings preceding the disaster, the cynical ‘negotiating’ over uncatchable quotas, the head in the sand attitude of fishermen and their representative organisations, insisting that their right to fish transcended any calls for conservation.

The (now) unusually cold spawning conditions of 1996 produced a huge brood of cod. Had they been left to grow beyond spawning size, there would be plenty of fish now. But no, as soon as a proportion of them reached legal size, they were scooped up, undersized fish, nearly 50% of the catch, dumped back dead. The fishery’s ability to cope with environmental stress destroyed.

Now large areas of the North Sea have been put out of bounds. But without compensation, fishermen have to fish so they are doing exactly the same thing now to the huge brood of haddock that was meant to be a lifeline for the industry. And fishermen are calling on the government to ‘stop the slaughter’ not by closing this fishery as well, they would never allow that, but by offering ‘compensation’ for boats to tie up. The government has been caught like that before, paying for ‘days in port’ while boats sheltered from bad weather, paying for boats to be taken out of commission, to see the compensation from rotting hulks finding its way into paying for modern fish-killing technology.

So, a standoff appears to be happening. The government patiently waiting for fishermen to cheaply fish themselves out of a job. The fishermen destroying yet more stocks and blaming the government.

SACN has received news that a number of displaced Dutch vessels are heading down to join the French and Scottish boats hammering the spawning bass shoals in the SouthWestern approaches.

Spring normally brings the transition from winter to summer species around our coasts. In past years, it’s been possible to use the calendar to plan trips, knowing when the run of spring cod would take place, when peeling crabs in the estuary would bring in the big bass.

But there are so many changes taking place out there, it’s becoming more and more difficult to predict our fishing. Some fish disappearing from usual haunts, ‘exotics’ almost becoming common.

A particular feature of last year was the appearance of huge numbers of small fish. Locally, in the Medway, tiny pout reached almost plague proportions, off the Essex coast it was whiting.

Perhaps the absence of large predators, in any numbers, is the reason, as the cod and bass have been hammered. It’s called fishing down the food chain. Those hoping to adjust their fishing by scaling down their tackle and expectations may be living in a fool’s paradise. The situation isn’t stable. Smaller fish multiply when the predators are gone, yes but then the food supply becomes exhausted and the place of the pout and whiting are taken by prawns and other neophrops, soon we’ll be fishing for planktonL

Let’s see what this year brings.

Bass & Dolphins

One of the successes of the SACN model has been our promotion of the issues surrounding the by catch of dolphins by the pair trawlers targeting spawning bass. We have made many contacts amongst concerned non-angling organisations and have worked to get this issue more widely publicised, and to mobilise public opinion. This work, as well as promoting our objective of getting this fishery stopped, has also done much to promote the image of angling amongst environmental organisations and campaigners.

The following is a recent SACN article that was sent out to many people concerned with cetacean issues and conservation……

Bass, often referred to as Sea Bass, designed by nature to fit well into an ecological niche.

A voracious predator and scavenger, nature designed this fish to live some 25 years, to grow between 10 and 20 pounds in weight and, in that time, to spawn up to 15 times. And so it has been, for countless generations, fulfilling the species’ role in the interaction between bass and many other sea creatures, maintaining the fertility and productivity of the ocean.

Bass, the premier sports fish of Europe.

Prized by recreational anglers for its fighting qualities. A lot of time and money is spent in pursuing this beautiful fish, often just for the pleasure of unhooking it, and watching it return safely to the sea, to spawn again, to grow larger and to provide sport for others.

Spread around the coasts, it was never much of a commercial catch. Not until shortages of other, tastier species had the chefs of Europe imbuing the species with a kind of mystique, and not until the commercial boats discovered the places where they gather to spawn each winter, far out in the South Western approaches to the English channel.

Chefs are not interested in magnificent hard fighting specimens, and so the commercial fleets are happy to catch solely plate sized juvenile fish, at the time of their first spawning. It didn’t take them very long to all but wipe out most bass grown beyond their first spawning year (around four years old). Then to hammer the species to the point of unsustainability, and perhaps beyond.

Only recreational sea anglers seemed to mourn the passing of these beautiful and magnificent large fighting fish from around our shores, they and the important recreational industry founded on good bass fishing.

Except that it was not only bass being caught in the huge pair trawl, pelagic nets. A quarter of a mile wide at the mouth, a half mile long. Fine monofilament mesh that can be dragged through the sea at high speed, strung between two powerful boats, sweeping up entire shoals of many fish, gathered together to spawn.

Fortunately for them, fish are too primitive to know anything that we could possibly recognise as suffering. Not so dolphins. These intelligent social animals, possessing strong bonds, one with another, have long preyed on the gathering bass shoals.

The sweeping nets do not distinguish between cold-blooded fish, or warm bloodied intelligent mammals. Anything in the water, in the path of the nets, has no escape. Dolphins need air to breathe, they need to surface. Once in the nets, their last breath has been taken. It’s only possible to imagine at their fear, their distress, their dying agonies.

Imagine the outcry, the prosecution, which would follow if an organisation were to fill weighted sacks with live dogs and cast them into the Thames to drown, perhaps for the sake of some profit. Yet those charged with protecting these creatures under international agreements stay stonily silent.

For some time now, environmentalists have become increasingly concerned at the number of dolphins washing up on the beaches, many showing the signs of their entrapment in nets. Old and young together. Many, many more bodies are believed to have sunk below the waves, hidden forever.

Calculations of the possible number of casualties lead to the realisation that it is not only sea bass that are being killed in unsustainable numbers. It is feared that our Atlantic dolphins may all be gone within 20-25 years or so.

Reacting to the growing concern from recreational anglers, conservationists, and dolphin groups alike, MAFF (who have been given dominion over the ecosystems around our shores) embarked on a customary delay…. er, three year scientific study, now taking place.

The good news

A recent statement from Franz Fischler (European Commissioner for Agriculture and Fisheries), in a letter to the EU states, recently expressed the Commissions concern on the sea bass fishing and the dolphin bye catches.

No doubt in response to the many letters that they have been receiving on this subject, keep it up please, it’s working!

The bad news

MAFF have placed observers on Scottish pair trawlers fishing for sea bass. The catch from pair trawlers is hauled aboard one of the boats. Yes, you guessed it, not the one with the observers aboard.

Drop a line to MAFF and ask them what they are playing at!

The majority of the boats pair trawling for spawning bass are French. It seems that, following the publicity generated over dolphin casualties, someone has suggested that the dolphins be pierced with a knife, to make the evidence more likely to sink beneath the waves.

Having allowed the stocks of North Sea cod to be fished close to extinction, the authorities have closed large areas of the North Sea to fishing. Without compensation, fishermen feel that they have no other choice than to make a living fishing elsewhere, for other species.

Dutch boats are heading down to the bass spawning areas to join the French and Scottish boats in the slaughter.

For all of this, who should we blame?

The fishermen for their greed, the authorities for their incompetence, the politicians for their cowardice, or ourselves for our lack of action?

The only thing, which is going to stop this annual slaughter, is when enough people care enough to demand that it be stopped.

To make that happen is the job of us all.

Let’s do it. Let’s get that fishery closed.

The Nautilus Report

Visit http://www.restorewildlife.org/dollars/ and you will get some idea of the huge economic contribution which angling makes to the economy.

Unfortunately, there is no such breakdown available for the UK, or for Europe for that matter. The nearest is an estimate produced by the labour party some time ago which estimates that some 3 million anglers contribute around 5 billion pounds to the UK economy.

There are moves afoot by angling bodies to obtain EU funding for such a study to quantify the social and economic impact of angling within Europe.

However, a recent report, commissioned from Nautilus Consultants by the Welsh Government, gives some indication of what the true impact could be �" and it’s huge.

Let’s try to get politicians and authorities to shed the image of angling as a few solitary individuals doing no one any harm, shivering on the end of a pier, and get them to realise the very real political and economic force which a cohesive angling movement is becoming.

Download the report (in PDF format) from http://www.nautilus-consultants.co.uk/pdfs/wales.pdf (note: you will need Acrobat Reader to read the PDF file, if you don’t have the software, you can be download it from http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html

Forthcoming Events

The Marine Conservation Society Conference on Recreational Angling will take place for a second year, at Cardiff University on 12th May. Yours truly will be giving a presentation on behalf of the SACN. This conference carries the prestige of angling. If we want to be taken seriously by MAFF etc, we need a good attendance (around 100 people attended last year). I’ve got a draft agenda, if anyone wants to see it, otherwise look out for further details on the SACN or MCS websites. I’ll post full details when these have been confirmed.

Greenwich Forum �" International Fisheries agreements and the CFP. Friday 11 May, Fishmonger’s Hall, London EC4. Further details from The Conference Business Ltd 01444 416678

Common Fisheries Policy �" The Scope for change - 23-26 June. Conference organised by Wilton Park Conferences. 01903 815020

What do you want from SACN?

So, what do you think of SACN so far? Have you got ideas on how we should develop? Is SACN interesting or boring? Do you feel involved?

Come on; let’s have your feedback. SACN belongs to you. It’s up to you to make it better, to make it more effective.

Remember to pop along to the website from time to time, to see what’s new. In fact why not submit an article of your own, or persuade someone else to?

Fancy a discussion? Then use the conservation forum at http://www.anglersnet.co.uk

Do you know anyone who should be in the SACN?

Send them an invitation to join, and attach a membership form (which can be downloaded from the SACN website). There are a lot of anglers out there, who have strong opinions on conservation, and many of them have hidden skills needed by angling to carry the day �" sign them up!!

And if you are reading this, and not yet a member, remember that membership is open to anyone and is free!! Visit the SACN website at http://www.sacn.org.uk for details.

SACN vacancies

The more time I have to think, the more jobs I find for myself to do. In truth, I only get around to doing about 10% or 25% of the work I feel needs doing. So many letters that never get written, contacts made, articles prepared. And I have a full time job and family too (I haven’t been fishing since September!). But the work I do get done is work that needs doing, and wouldn’t get done if I didn’t do it. So rather than, as many of us do, sinking into depression and a sense of hopelessness at the tasks that don’t get done, I keep sane by taking delight in what does get doneJ

But I could do with some help!

So, if any of you have some time available, even just a couple of hours a month, and feel like getting more involved, please volunteer for any of the posts advertised below. (You can fight amongst yourselves if there is a rush for any particular positions!).

Newsletter Editor

I should imagine that anyone could do a better job than I’ve managed with Issue number one!

I’d like to see the newsletter come out 4 or 6 times a year. The job would involve hassling individuals and organisations for input, writing an editorial, and pulling it all together to be emailed out to the world.

I’ve always been impressed at the quality of the magazines produced by voluntary editors for angling organisation mags, and the articles written by ‘amateurs’.

A free e-magazine (anyone who wants a copy can apply for free membership to SACN and choose option B!) with a world-wide distribution system (the Internet), in the right hands, this could not fail to be a winner. So if you fancy a crack at the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, email me.

Taking on the job of editor would certainly remove a load from my back (altogether now Ahhhhhhh!)

Events Organiser

Although we are an Internet based organisation, I can foresee us wanting to get together now and again, if only for a social gathering, preferably involving some fishing at some point. This won’t happen unless someone takes on the job (and whoever does take it on gets to choose the ‘central’ location!)

Promotion & Publicity

To be fully effective, we need the world to know about us, and what we do. This job might suit somebody with good media contacts, but don’t worry, step into the role and you’ll soon fit that job description.

Fisheries Liaison

We get a lot of enquiries from anglers and clubs concerned that their local marks are being poached, or illegally netted etc. Although most cases turn out to be trawlers trawling close in for shellfish etc. It would be nice to have someone able to respond more authoritatively. Perhaps someone with a good knowledge of fishery regulations prepared to talk to local Sea Fisheries committees and support any moves, or just give advice on dealing with illegal incidents.

You choose

If you have a bee in your bonnet, or feel like taking on any job not listed here for the SACN, please feel free to volunteer by emailing SACN@go-fishing.co.uk


Related news

» September
by Leon posted on Aug 03,2000
» Issue No 3 - July 2001
by Leon posted on Jul 01,2001
» The End For European Dolphins?
by Leon posted on Aug 03,2000
» Getting Involved
by Leon posted on Aug 03,2000
» Issue 2 May 2001
by Leon posted on May 03,2001

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