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Issue No 4 - October 2002

Oct 03,2002 Leon Roskilly

In this Issue:


Anglers cross the Pond
Jim Donofrio of the US based Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) recently met anglers from across Europe.  The bonds formed then will strengthen us all. 

The Common Fisheries Policy
The current and failed CFP is running out of time, and there are bitter battles being fort to decide what will replace it.

A new structure for SACN
Nothing can stay the same; the pressure is on for SACN to move forward.

The NFSA puts conservation first
The bulk of the NFSA membership now believes that restoration of the fish stocks is the most important issue, and the NFSA responds. 

Report on a Meeting with DEFRA to discuss CFP reform
Back in July, some ‘stakeholders’ got together with DEFRA to discuss the proposals for reform of the CFP. Mike Heylin of the Specialist Anglers Alliance, and a member of the SACN Executive Group, was there and gives his report.

Bits and Pieces

The Eel Study Group
Science is trying to tell us something

Your Letters 

The Hammering of Spawning Stocks 


Rigs to ReefsNicky Jago
When a student at Nottingham University was writing her final year thesis, she turned to anglers for help.  We publish her conclusions. 

The Dolphins of the Moray Firth - Moray Firth Partnership
SACN was asked for it’s input to creating a plan to protect the world’s most northerly population of dolphins.

Fish Farms - A Cancer at the Heart of the Coastal Environment - Roger Baker
A solution to overfishing, or a deadlier peril?  SACN Executive Group member Roger Baker gives his views.

Environmental Policies - Neil Foley
Neil Foley
(SACN Science and Academic Co-ordinator) comments on the CFP review

Anglers cross the Pond
Fishmongers’ Hall, on the banks of the Thames, by London Bridge reeks history, fish and fishing. SACN were invited to a Meeting of World Angling Organisations on the 27th September 2002. 

Unfortunately, the representatives from Australia and South Africa were unable to attend, for good personal reasons, and the actual meeting comprised representatives of angling organisations throughout Europe, and from the United States. 

The meeting was addressed by Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) of the USA (http://www.savefish.com). 

The RFA have a fiercesome reputation for defending the rights of anglers and the marine environment, and for bringing together the voice of anglers, and the companies dependent on angling revenues, to make an effective political fighting machine. 

As Jim said ‘It’s not about science, it’s about politics!’  (An RFA car sticker reads ‘I Fish, I Vote’)

European angling organisations cannot help but be envious of the way in which the RFA have mobilised American anglers to come out fighting, and of the war-chest of dollars and expertise they have amassed.

Jim Donofrio is a man worth listening to, and listen we did.

During a long day, many issues were discussed.  Issues of mutual concern were identified and ways of addressing those issues together were identified.

At the end of the day, it was agreed that it was important for angling organisations across the globe to communicate together, and to provide mutual support.

When an American angler’s right to fish is threatened, that threatens the rights of anglers around the world.

When a European angling organisation wins a battle to be recognised as a stakeholder, that strengthens the hands of anglers across the globe.

Outside of Fishmongers’ Hall, the Thames flows past.  Less than fifty years ago, it was a lifeless poisonous river.  To turn that flow back into a river of life seemed a hopeless dream.  But as we met on that day, sea fish and freshwater fish mingled together in the tide. 

The coming together of Anglers from around the globe on that day brings closer the day when the ‘impossible’ dream of restored stocks will be realised.

But, as with the cleaning of the Thames, it’s going to take plenty of hard work and involvement from everyone.

The review of the common fisheries policy 

Anyone who has been following the review, from the consultation stage, through the EU proposal stage and now toward implementation, will have gathered just how complex the CFP is, and how dirty the politics are now becoming.

At the end of this year, the old CFP expires, along with the ‘transitional arrangements’ designed to protect the traditional fishing rights of joining neighbours.

If new arrangements are not agreed, then we face the oft’ quoted nightmare situation of Spanish trawlers, right up our beaches.  (Not that anyone really believes that will happen).

But such brinkmanship cards are now coming out of the pack to be played, especially by the nations comprising the self-styled ‘Friends of Fishing’ group (or as Jan Kappel of the EAA more accurately tags them, the ‘Friends of Over Fishing’ group.

The ‘Northern’ countries, who are battling hard to keep the EU CFP proposals on track, particularly those important from a conservation perspective, need nerves and backbones of steel.

Political courage comes in the shape of support from voters.  If you haven’t done so already, now would be a good time to drop a line to your MEP! 

A new Structure for SACN 

When SACN was first formed few anglers had access to the Internet and it’s potential for ‘delivering the message’ was in its infancy. 

SACN came into being to support the campaigns of other angling organisations and individuals, and to spread the word, using the Internet. 

Things change. 

SACN membership grew, along with knowledge of SACN by others.  The organisations we were formed to support learned the power of the Internet, and how to use it. 

In some ways our original mission became less necessary, yet we were being expected by many to become more and more involved, and the workload steadily increased. 

We had become too big to be effective, run by one man and his dog. 

A consultation with the membership was undertaken, and a pathfinder document issued. 

It became clear that SACN needed to expand it’s remit and to ideally become a properly constituted and funded organisation, but as often is the case in angling politics, plenty had ideas and were willing to lend a hand, but there were few who felt ready to take on the responsibility of specific positions within SACN. 

So, a halfway house has been arrived at, while SACN gathers itself and becomes stronger. 

All of those members who expressed a desire to help out have been co-opted into an ‘Executive Group’, now with collective responsibility for the day to day management of SACN.  Some members of the Executive Group have undertaken to fulfil specific roles, with the support of the wider group and membership. 

The structure of SACN will be kept under review, and the Executive Group remains answerable to the SACN membership. 

Until such time as SACN moves onto becoming a properly constituted organisation, the Executive Group remains open to anyone who wants to volunteer their services, either as an executive member without portfolio, or taking up a vacant position.  The Executive Group will collectively decide whether any member is to be included.  And please remember this is about bringing willing hands to share the work, and there’s plenty of that!  

The SACN Executive Group is currently comprised of the following people (God help them all!) 

Roger Baker                                                                 rogerbaker@Eircom.net

Frank Beaugendre – Political Co-ordinator                   beaugendre@aol.com

Mike Connor (Germany)                                              Mike-connor@t-online.de

Neil Foley – Science and Academic Co-ordinator         foleyna@medscape.com

Mike Heylin                                                                  saauk100@hotmail.com

Nick Noble – Website Editor                                       Nnoble@nildram.co.uk

David Platt                                                                   Dave@babs45.freeserve.co.uk

Leon Roskilly – SACN Co-ordinator                            FishSense@aol.com

Alan Stubbs                                                                  Aps4fun@yahoo.com

Gerard Twigger                                                            gt2000@lineone.net

Simon Yorke-Johnson                                                  Swidge@supanet.com

NFSA puts conservation first 

Students of management theory will be familiar with the ‘Boiled Frog Syndrome’.  Drop a frog into a shallow pan of hot water, and it hops right out.  Put a frog into a pan of cool water, and slowly heat it and the frog will sit there until it’s boiled alive.  The change happens too slowly for the frog to recognise the danger. 

Many organisations, good at what they’ve always done and grown large, fail to see the world slowly changing around them, fail to see that they must change direction and follow another path, if they are to survive in a changing world. 

Many folk in sea angling, not in so many words perhaps, felt that was the way that the NFSA was headed. 

Not so. 

Listening to its member’s views, the NFSA recognised that there was an overwhelming desire for NFSA to address the declining stocks.  To paraphrase Jim Donofrio ‘No Fish, No Fishing, No NFSA’  

The introduction of Individual membership, the re-allocation of resources to the conservation effort, that was a brave move and many were holding their breath.  Would this be a new beginning, or an end to the NFSA? 

Over 6,000 anglers have signed up for Individual or Personal membership, two thirds of them have confirmed that Conservation is their number one concern. 

That is a success! 

But, let’s not be complacent.  There’s much work to be done, and that needs financing, and many more hands to the pump. 

If you haven’t yet joined NFSA, go here: http://www.nfsa.org.uk/membership/membership1.htm

For heaven’s sake, it only costs a tenner!!

Report on a Meeting with DEFRA to discuss CFP reform 23rd July 2002


Steven Wentworth Fisheries Director DEFRA
Peter Boiling Head of Fisheries DEFRA
Mark Holden Sea Fisheries Conservation Division DEFRA
Association of Frozen Food Producers, National Federation of Fishermans Organisations, South West Fish Producers Organisation, Thanet Fishermen, English Nature, RSPB, Sussex Sea Fisheries Committee, Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee, RSPCA, Association of Sea Fisheries Committees, Parliamentary Sea Fisheries Committee, European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, Angling Trade Association, Specialist Anglers Alliance, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Fishmongers, Shellfish. 

Steven Wentworth was in the chair. 

DEFRA is keen to see the end of counter-productive subsidies on fleet and effort reductions. 

There will be European Council meetings held in September, October, November and December this year.  The meetings will be of a merged Agriculture and Fisheries Council so Fisheries may not always be an agenda item.  The merged Council meeting in July had no Fisheries content.  The Danes, who have the Presidency at the moment, are keen to reach a conclusion of the CFP by November this year, leaving December to set TACs and quotas. 

The producers, Frozen Food and NFFO, complained that the proposed CFP no longer seeks to regulate the market or express concern for consumer prices. 

Access to waters and resources 

There was common ground between angling, other NGOs and the commercial sector on industrial fishing and aquaculture being non-viable in the long term if the CFP is to produce results in better stocks of fin fish and other target species.  Our objection to aquaculture is based on the ratio of 10lb of food fish taken to produce 1lb of farmed fish.  Atlantic Salmon Trust supports SAA in this stance. 

The Sea Fishery Committees want control of the 12 mile limit above all else.  They expressed concern over the expansion of foreign effort with ever larger vessels and gear.  Sea Fishery Committees only have control of the domestic fleet at the moment. 

SAA and ATA supported the SCFs and RSPB on administration of the 12 mile limit. 

Fleet Policy 

The commercials are concerned at the huge impact of effort/vessel cut backs.  DEFRA explained that the figures for decommissioning published by the Commission had been used by the Commission to produce the budget and were not for any other purpose.  It would be down to National Governments to determine how fleet/effort reductions were to be achieved.  DEFRA would be insisting that cuts to date be included in counting back to proposed reduction levels. 

Thanet fishermen wanted the10 metre fleet included in the fleet effort controls to improve the chances for the remaining “inshore” fishermen using vessels of under 10 metres.  SAA made the point that the vessels subject to fleet reduction could be recommissioned as angling charter boats and used for sustainable fishing effort.  DEFRA pointed out that the rules would have to be changed to allow that but they would look at it.  The commercials saw the benefits to coastal employment of such a move. 

Thanet reported thirty/forty stone of fish landed by angling boats and sold on by the skippers, with anglers retaining only two fish each.  SAA pointed out that such actions were illegal and should be subject to policing by the relevant bodies.   DEFRA was not keen to be spending more money on policing – this was a recurrent theme through a number of the following topics.  So much for our increased tax bills then! 

Angling boats were travelling up to forty miles from ports to make these catches, which was beyond the range of many of the <10 m fleet.  The angling boat was paid for by selling the catch.  The problem is particularly bad in Holland and Belgium with vessels carrying as many as thirty anglers aboard for 8/12 hour trips. 

The <10m fleets was concerned that effort control should include catch limits for sports anglers.  Consensus was reached with commercials on the basis of;  

No selling of catch by anglers

Bag limits per species for anglers, say three fish per rod per species per days effort

Policing and enforcement regimes

Adequate sea stocks 

Multi Annual Management Plans 

The Commissions proposals include the following; “Targets for management of the stocks concerned in terms of population size and fishing mortality rates;”  

SAA wanted size and sexual maturity included as a parameter in these rules.  This proposal was agreed by all at the table, everyone understood the importance of allowing target species at least one breeding season. 

Environmental Aspects 

We expressed concern at 3rd country impacts on artisanal fishermen and coastal communities.  Others were shocked by what they heard from SAA regarding the depletion of stocks and deaths caused by European fishing effort in West African waters and the killing of turtles by European prawn fishermen in East African waters. 

RSPB wanted Environmental Impact Assessments to be conducted on fisheries and effort before new fisheries could be developed or increases in effort allowed. 

Salmon – migratory fish are in danger from pelagic fishing.  Pelagic effort can wipe out whole year classes of smolts as they shoal to head for the feeding grounds. 

RSPCA raised the cetacean by-catch and asked for an outline of the UK plan and strategy to limit by-catch.  This sounded like a prepared question and DEFRA refused to answer on the basis that it was not the intention of this meeting to discuss DEFRA policy. 

All agreed that the removal of aggregate by dredging should be banned from fishing grounds and specifically from breeding and nursery areas. 

English Nature agreed on the need to protect these vital habitats and went on to say that EN is a fan of the CFP proposals and that the UK must champion many of these environmental aspects if we are to avoid the rest of the world pointing the finger at us in the future for mismanaging the resource. 

Thanet raised the issue of endocrine disrupters being discharged to sea via long sea outfalls.  SAA asked for any science they had, to add to the work being done by SAA, the EA and others on EDs.  They had none but anyone working on EDs in riverine systems should also be looking at the effects of these chemicals at sea. 

Effective and participatory decision-making 

SFCs are in favour of RACs but a little concerned about non-commercial inputs to them.  We need to show the SFCs that angling can make a positive, knowledgeable, contribution to the development of sustainable fishery policy. 

There is, as yet, no definition of the areas these RACs will cover.  Concern was expressed that they should be local enough to be effective yet large enough to be purposeful. 

DEFRA said that RACs will need to be focussed, numbers involved may be massive and that practical issues may make them unwieldy.  Present SFCs have problems getting representative views from fishermen. 

Michael Rankin M.P., PCFC, made the point that he thought Advisory Councils were a waste of time without executive power to effect change.  DEFRA said this would not happen at this stage in CFP development. 

Other Issues 

Concerns were expressed over the merger of fisheries and agricultural interests on Council Committees. 

There was a demand for Preferential Quotas for low impact hand line fisheries like those in the South West. 

It was suggested, by DEFRA, that the Commonwealth Secretariat would be interested in our data on the 3rd world fisheries problem. 

Comment from Mike Heylin 

These notes are not exhaustive.  I was involved directly in a lot of the discussion and had to make notes between inputs. 

It was a very positive meeting and I found many points of common interest with the commercial fishermen present at this meeting.  This may not always be the case. The inshore guys from Thanet had reservations about angling effort but listened to our points and found them acceptable, at least to the point that open warfare did not break out and some useful dialogue followed the meeting.  They were interested in the SAA/WWF/EA/NAFAC/NAA research into EDs. 

The NGOs were for the most part singing from the same song sheet, shared by angling; that of conservation of stocks, habitat protection, effort modifications and participation in RACs.  RSPCA was surprised at our positive stance and the knowledge angling had of the issues. 

SAA built some bridges and made what may prove to be useful contacts.  By keeping an open mind and dealing with open minded fishermen angling could develop useful dialogues with the commercial inshore fleets and use this understanding to further our cause regarding the pair trawling of breeding stocks of bass and other issues. 

We made the point that a 10lb bass to a sport fisherman is probably worth £500 to the economy, to an inshore fisherman is probably worth £4.95 a pound, i.e. £49.50 and is worth only about £20.00 to the pair trawler.  It was obvious that many at the table had never thought of, or heard of, the economic power of sport fishing put like that. We used the £5 billion figure for the value of the sport in the UK and the Nautilus Report to justify the figures we were quoting. 

Mike Heylin
23rd July 2002

Bits and Pieces 

The Eel Study Group 

If there’s a better bait for tope than fresh eel section, then it’s one that I don’t know about.  They also make excellent pike baits! 

The fact that I no longer use eel for bait, either sea fishing, or fishing in freshwater, is largely down to the information which the Eel Study Group has led the way in publicising. 

Did you know that, once in a freshwater lake, an eel can live in excess of 70 years?  Or that they can grow to around 10lb?  That the silver eels caught off our coasts are the same species that turn a golden colour and live in freshwater for a large part of their lives? That eels are thought to return to the Sargasso sea to breed (but no one knows for sure?), and their fry make the return journey back to our coasts, coming back into our rivers as elvers? 

The more I learn about these fascinating creatures, the more respect I have for them. 

It’s a pity then that overfishing for the eels, at all their life stages, in both marine and freshwater environments, has taken such a toll.  Not to mention the damage done by upriver power stations etc. 

Now we learn that European eels seem to have picked up a parasite of the swim bladder which may be making the long trip back to the spawning grounds an impossible journey for many. 

Studies have shown that eels particularly pick up and store in their bodies many harmful chemicals and heavy metals.  Eating too many of them is definitely not a good idea. 

Those that are caught and are to be released should be treated with care.  If they are deep hooked, the best advice is to snip the line as close as possible (they have easily damaged vital organs not far down their throat – poking about can easily be fatal). 

Otherwise, try the old trick of laying them on their back and gently stroking them until they become supine.  It makes unhooking far easier.  If they are to be released, forget the advice to lay them on dry newspaper, or grasp them with a dry cloth.  This removes their protective slime and seriously compromises their chances of survival. 

If there’s two of you, I find that if one grips the eel in two hands, pushing forward and down at the front, and back and up at the rear, the eel’s wriggling instincts are totally confused and it will stay still whilst your companion removes the hook. 

Although comprised mainly of Freshwater Anglers, the ESG have recognised that the battle for the preservation of their favourite species starts out in the deep waters of the sea, and in the estuaries of our rivers.  SACN is glad to welcome the ESG to membership, and to work together with them on the issues that affect the fishing of us all.

Science is trying to tell us something 

Jim Donofrio of the RFA will tell you that it’s not about science, it’s about politics, and that is very true. 

However science is the argument, politics is what carries the argument.  And it’s interesting the things that science has to say about our fish stocks. 

A time of plenty? 

Fishery Managers look back on the years following World War II as the time when fish stocks had been allowed to ‘recover’.  Not much fishing went on in the dangerous waters of the North Sea, the English Channel, or the European Atlantic continental shelf during the period of hostilities. 

And after the war, the previously depleted stocks were back to abundance, a great time to be a sea angler. 

Those years are regarded as a baseline for fishery management.  But palaeontological evidence shows that even then, we were looking at stocks that were just a fraction of what nature intended. 

Palaeontologists now believe that the oceans, before man learned to exploit them, were (in their words) ‘fabulously abundant’.  And the palaeontological record shows that even in the very early days of man’s ability to fish, most of the damage was already done. 

Depressingly, they claim that even if all fishing were to cease, it will take tens of thousands of years for the oceans to return to their natural abundance. 

Fish ARE getting smaller!  

It’s been suspected for some while now that a fishery policy that concentrates on removing the larger specimens from a population, produces an evolutionary pressure that drives the mean size of a species down. 

This wasn’t too much of a worry for the commercial fishing interests as, as long as overall productivity wasn’t affected (a larger number of smaller fish), smaller fish are more marketable (plate/tin size!). 

However, recent research shows that the number of fish in a population is not increased as the average size decreases, so overall production is decreased, and that the reduction in average size effect is measurable over just a few generations. 

Reduced biodiversity  

Again, recent research has shown that when a population of fish is over-fished before many of the individuals being taken have had the opportunity to breed, there is a dramatic reduction in the genetic diversity of the species. 

That is particularly dangerous when the species is suffering environmental stress (such as due to global warming).  Lack of genetic biodiversity damages the ability of a species to adapt to environmental change, and makes it more likely to become extinct as conditions change. 

The message is clear, species should not be taken until they are well above their spawning age.  


The Hammering of  Spawning Stocks 

Dear Editor,

I have a charter boat in a small village called Porthleven, situated in the heart of Mounts Bay ( most southerly port in Cornwall ).

I am sure that others have already mentioned this, but I thought I would put my 'two peneth worth' in.

The months between December and February are general associated with the Pollock and Ling carrying their roe (i.e. weighing heavy) and generally congregating together in the hope of making lots of little Pollock and Ling to fuel our sport for years to come.

These months, last year in particular, Newlyn Fish Market was flooded with the above species, with most vessels landing 100 stone of fish, per boat, per day.

The year before last, between two charter boats, we caught approximately 40 - 50 Pollock over 10lb and 20 - 30 ling over 15lb this year, so far, I doubt if we have had more than 20 Pollock over 10lb and 5 ling over 15lb.

I would have thought there must be a member of DEFRA who has done enough angling over the years, or seen some evidence of the decline in fish stocks, to inform the rest of his colleagues ( who obviously go around with blinkers on ) that this kind of gill net hammering can not be sustained at the particular time these fish should be protected.

If I am speaking out of turn and there is something being done about it, someone please inform me.

Yours sincerely

Stuart Athay (A truly concerned man)

Hi Stuart,

The concerns you have raised go to the heart of why SACN has been formed.

Once the seas were thought to contain an inexhaustible and self-sustaining bounty, the only problems were how to harvest it, and how to bring it to everyone.

Well, those problems have largely been solved.

Now there is no hiding place for any fish, our technology can find them and reach them. Our technology can freeze and process them, so that anyone with change in their pocket can buy them, even in the hottest places of the world far distant from the sea.

The trouble is that our premise that the wealth of the seas is inexhaustible has found to be wrong.

Too many people, too many boats, too much equipment - not enough fish.

Yet all of our organisations regulating the catching of fish came into existence long before we learned that truth. The premises and culture on which they are founded still apply.

To change means pain for someone.

A lot of pain now for some, to prevent even greater pain in future for the many.

But of course, if you are the one who is expected to take the pain now, you fight against that tooth and nail.

Logic, ethics, common sense, morality, science. None of these matter, only political will.

It's SACN's job to support others in developing that political will.

And we try very hard to do that.

Unfortunately, there is no protection for fish gathering to spawn.

And when fish are scarce and they gather together, unfortunately for them they become an easier target.

As evidenced by the devastation of the bass shoals, gathering to spawn each winter in the south-western approaches and 'harvested' by the pair-trawlers.

Fish that can live 25 years, exceed 20lbs, spawn 15 times, taken at the time of their first spawning, many still full of the roe and milt they were carrying.

Fish that are worth many, many times the price they fetch as protein, when exploited for their recreational value, or as bycatch, grown larger, by small inshore fishermen.

Yes, and the species you mention too Stuart.

And when we protest, the pat answer we receive from DEFRA often contains the phrase 'the needs of recreational anglers must be balanced against the livelihoods of fishermen and their families'. What about your livelihood Stuart? And all the other livelihoods dependent upon recreational angling? We never seem to get an answer to that question.

Nor are the authorities inclined to fund a study into the value of the Recreational Fishery.

Such studies that do exist, overseas and regionally in the UK, overwhelmingly demonstrate that the socio-economic benefit of recreational angling far exceeds that which comes from the commercial fleet, especially when shellfish, nephrops, monkfish, and all of the other species that are of no interest to recreationals, is stripped out.

Many whose livelihood is entwined with the administration of the commercial sector cannot believe that, and cannot commit to a course of action that will reveal the truth of it.

They still do not see that the 'political will' that will bring about change is growing, the message is spreading, and more and more anglers are beginning to take political action - such as writing to their MP and MEP.

Tight Lines –Ed

Rigs to Reefs – Nicky Jago 

Hi! I've finally finished my rigs-to-reefs thesis, and thought you might be interested in my conclusions (see below). I also want to thank you again for all your help-I'm sure you were at least partly responsible for the fantastic response I had from anglers to my qestionnaire! 

Thanks again,

Nicky Jago


In many regions rigs-to-reefs programmes have been found to provide a number of benefits, including enhancement of commercial fish stocks, protection of habitats, and an attraction for sports anglers and divers. While so many of these programmes have proved successful, it may seem strange that so little research has been carried out into the use of such a scheme in the North Sea, a region where extensive over-exploitation has led to declining fish stocks and lost seabed habitats. 

Part of the reason for the apparent lack of interest is the controversy over the potential impacts on already dangerously depleted fish stocks. Some evidence suggests that rigs as reefs would retain fish, and help them grow. They could also protect juveniles from indiscriminate fishing practices, increasing juvenile survival rate and hence adult fish stocks (Picken, 1992). Others however, suggest that rather than increase biomass reefs would primarily attract and concentrate fish, making them more vulnerable to exploitation (AUMS, 1997).  

Other obstacles that have prevented initiation of a North Sea programme are the concerns of the important stakeholder groups, such as the navigational hazard posed by sub-surface structures, lost fishing grounds, potential for pollution, and liability issues. However, the results of the questionnaire and interview survey show that while stakeholders understand the importance of distinguishing between careful placement of materials to create a reef, and dumping/disposal of structures, many would support a rigs-to-reefs scheme, and are keen for further research to take place. Perhaps the outcome of such research could be used in the reappraisal of the OSPAR ban on dumping, which currently prevents the development of a North Sea rigs-to-reefs programme. 

The most interesting aspect of the results of the survey is the response from sports anglers and divers. Although it had been suggested that a North Sea rig-reef would not be a suitable attraction for these groups, the overwhelmingly positive response obtained by the survey suggests that the recreational angling and diving community could in fact play an important role in such a scheme. The study initially set out to attempt to assess the impacts of a North Sea rigs-to-reefs programme aimed primarily at increasing fish stocks. The results of the survey indicate that while the scheme could (arguably) have benefits for commercial stocks and certainly provide benefits for marine communities and habitats, there could also be important socio-economic benefits gained through use of the rig-reefs as attractions for sports anglers and divers. 

It is important to remember however, that despite a generally positive and enthusiastic response to the concept of North Sea rigs-to-reefs, the opinions expressed in the questionnaire survey may be based on low levels of information. This obvious (although potentially misguided) support for a North Sea rigs-to-reefs scheme could however be perceived as another reason for policy-makers to carry out the necessary research to provide evidence to confirm the true feasibility of such a scheme.  

The results of both the literature review and the questionnaire survey have highlighted the need (and enthusiasm amongst most stakeholders) for further research in this area, and also a number of issues which stakeholders feel must be resolved, prior to deployment, namely: 

- Effects of rig-reefs on local and regional commercial fish stocks

- Potential contamination effects

- Physical integrity issues

- Navigational and safety issues 

The most useful data that could be produced would come from a full-scale, in-situ test programme. This study therefore attempted to design such a programme based on the information obtained through the investigation. The test programme would involve the deployment of a single steel jacket, in an area 15 miles off the UK coast, north east of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and at a depth of >80m. The lattice-type jacket would be separated into several units and laid on the seabed, and a commercial no-take zone would be enforced around the site. A 5-year monitoring programme would be established, with assistance from the recreational angling and diving communities, who would be allowed strictly controlled use of the reef.  

However, if such a programme were to go ahead, much opposition could be expected, particularly from environmentalist groups. While these groups may by swayed by positive results of a long-term monitoring scheme, many of the other issues involved (particularly regarding the fishing community) are socio-economic, and are not likely to be altered by additional biological research (Steinbach, 1991).  

For these reasons, extensive planning must take place prior to any deployment, and involvement of all interested parties is essential.

The dolphins of the Moray Firth 

From time to time SACN is asked to take part in various consultations.  Having campaigned on the plight of the dolphins of the Moray Firth, whose numbers were dwindling (partly suspected as a result of decreasing food supplies) SACN was asked to take part in the consultation aimed at putting in a new management scheme to secure their future. 

Most of the issues and comments identified by SACN were incorporated into the final document.  These comments were largely directed at taking a ‘holistic’ view of the ecology supporting the dolphin population, ensuring protection for the environment supporting the entire food chain. 

This is an example of one of the ways that anglers can make a contribution to the environmental cause, and at the same time protect the health of the stocks we are interested in. 

SACN is proud to be acknowledged as contributing to the consultation, particularly representing the words ‘Sea Anglers’. 


A new Management Scheme has been launched, aimed at securing the future of the  dolphins in the Moray Firth. 

Organisations, businesses and individuals have worked together to develop the scheme, seeking to ensure that management of activities taking place in the Firth is compatible with the dolphin interests.  The Scheme addresses a wide range of potential threats to the dolphins caused by disturbance, contamination, disease and depletion of food resources, and includes activities such as contaminant discharge, boat traffic, dredging and sea disposal, fishing, military activity and oil industry operations.  Widespread public consultation on the scheme has resulted in around 100 agreed management actions, with a focus on codes of practice and specific actions by individual organisations, rather than blanket bans or prohibition. 

The Scheme also highlights many associated benefits.  Work to protect the dolphins is essentially work to protect the whole Firth ecosystem.  Improving the environment for dolphins may also improve it for many other wildlife species, including, for example, commercial fish stocks.  Furthermore, many people travel to the Moray Firth each year to catch a glimpse of the dolphins and revenue from the tourist industry surrounding the dolphins makes a valuable contribution to the area’s economy. 

The Scheme has been developed in response to a large part of the Moray Firth becoming a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) under the EC Habitats Directive.  The cSAC recognises the national and international importance of the Moray Firth dolphins.  They are one of only two known resident populations in the UK and are the only resident population in the North Sea.  They are also the most northerly group of bottlenose dolphins in the world.  

In 1999, a research project commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage showed the population to be in decline. 

Development of the Management Scheme is overseen by the Moray Firth SAC Management Group.  The Group comprises representatives of the relevant authorities with statutory responsibilities in and around the cSAC, including The Cromarty Firth Port Authority, The Crown Estate, DTI (Oil and Gas), Fisheries Research Services (Marine Laboratory), The Highland Council, Inverness Harbour Trust, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, North of Scotland Water Authority, Northern Constabulary, MoD (RAF Kinloss), The Moray Council, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, with scientific advice from the University of Aberdeen.  The Moray Firth Partnership (MFP) has facilitated development of the scheme through provision of a Moray Firth SAC Project Officer, with sponsorship from the EC LIFE Environment fund and the relevant authorities. 

Completion of the Management Scheme is just the start of the process of securing a future for the dolphins in the Moray Firth.  Implementation of the Scheme has already begun and will continue over the months and years ahead.  Only time will tell how successful it will be, but continued monitoring and review of the Scheme will help to ensure its positive impact on the dolphins. 

The scheme will also be developed over the coming months through further public consultation to take account of the sandbanks, the other qualifying feature of the Moray Firth cSAC. 

Copies of the Moray Firth cSAC Management Scheme are available from the Moray Firth SAC Project Officer, telephone 01349 860360, e-mail mfp@sepa.org.uk, or from the MFP website at www.morayfirth-partnership.org.

Fish Farms - A Cancer At The Heart Of The Coastal Environment
- Roger Baker

 (I recommend a visit to Roger’s website http://www.cloghvoola.com - ed) 

"Intensive industrial scale aquaculture has become synonymous with pollution and destruction of the marine environment, conflicts with other resource users, and high levels of toxins in the fish produced. The spread of aquaculture, a cause of increasing concern and growing alarm, has been described as a cancer at the heart of the coastal environment" (Tudela: 2002)

Introduction and Background

As a sea angler, you may feel that your sport will be unaffected by fish farms or may even improve because of them. Certainly during my campaigning days for bass, one of the UK government’s expert advisers in MAFF tried to have me believe that the bass farms of the Mediterranean would be the panacea to my problem. Now, from available scientific evidence, this would appear not so.

For most of the 80’s decade, I worked and commuted to London from my smallholding in Devon, where at  weekends I fished for sea trout and salmon in rivers such as the Teign, the Exe and Dart. I witnessed firsthand a decline in salmon and sea trout fishing felt all around the British Isles. A problem better understood by anglers but largely ignored by successive governments and others on the gravy-train. 

On the back of the 1990 legislation to protect sea bass (another love), I jumped off the corporate merry-go-round in London, sold the smallholding in Devon and bought an old Cornish Inn named after the ocean it overlooked. To learn more about sea bass, I fished ‘commercially’ with local hand-liners from 18ft Pilots in what could have been, a sustainable fishery. I caught bass from the shore on lures and flies and practiced catch and release, which I prefer. We developed plans and bought holiday cottages and boats to develop angling tourism, based on sea bass. However, the plans were soon dashed. 

Opening the bar one February morning in 1995, two regular customers, commercial fishermen from Newlyn who had just come ashore, brought news of an armada of French and Scottish vessels pair-trawling and plundering the mother lode of migrating bass, 15 miles south-west of Lizard. A campaign was weighed, it brought like-minded anglers together who still campaign, but the fishery  could not attract tourist anglers today. Each successive winter’s exploitation by trawlers has reduced the fishery to recruitment-sized bass of 1-2 kilos, only. Where it was not uncommon to catch a dozen 6-8lb bass in a single morning with a single hook, one fish of that size in a season is a feat for an angler today! 

In March 2002 we sold up in Cornwall and moved to South-West Kerry, Ireland. A remote Irish farmhouse close to Lough Currane and Ballinskelligs Bay already att


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