Aug 08,2006 00:00
The ‘Golden Mile’
Written by the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network
(Last Updated August 2006)
It has become known as the 'Golden Mile'.
It is because that first mile from the shoreline is so important to RSA activity, and because it is shallow warm water, nutrient rich, encompassing estuaries and bays, the nursery and spawning grounds of so many creatures, that it has become commonly referred to as 'The Golden Mile'. (Defined by some as the area encompassed by the Water Framework Directive that extends out much further than 1 mile in some circumstances ie closing lines of estuaries and bays)
And yet, it is those properties that also attract the attention of unlicensed and illegal netting from part-timers, and is sometimes heavily fished by licensed netters.
A greater part of the attraction of Recreational Sea Angling is spending time interacting intimately with the natural marine environment, enjoying the day and its freedom from hassle and issues that make the blood boil.
At the end of an unproductive session, there is nothing worse than to see nets revealed by the falling tide, just beyond casting range, closing off the beach being fished to any reasonable sized fish that might otherwise have taken the angler’s bait.
Or to have excitedly planned a trip for a week or two, settled down to fish, and then have a trawler come close in, often within casting range, and sweep the sea clean in front of you.
The principle of ‘equal access’ is often touted as an excuse for not taking action to protect the interests of one stakeholder over another, but what this often means is hundreds of anglers standing dumbfounded along a beach, as a single boat hauls in nets in front of them.
That one boat having spoiled the day for many people
Not only that day, but in the days that follow as that length of coast recovers from the removal of most of the fish, only to be repeated over and over again.
And for a fraction of the economic benefit that comes from attracting so many Recreational sea Anglers to that locality.
Sometimes it is the first mile of many miles of shallow water, uncovered at low water.
In other places you are immediately into very deep water, many fathoms deep, at the base of cliffs or steeply shelving ground.
In some places there is very little fish, in others there are seasonal congregations with thousands of fish crowded together.
Some areas will not see any significant angling activity for years, in other places children will crowd together competing for wrasse, or a winter beach at night will be lit from the glow of hundreds of anglers lamps.
To put in a blanket ban everywhere and on all activities within an arbitrary one mile of the shore would be unnecessary and overly restrictive in some circumstances, at certain times of the year, on certain methods.
Rather we have in mind a principle similar to the ban on fixed nets under the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries act whereby the placing of any fixed net is illegal unless the local Sea Fisheries Committee has made a byelaw enabling it to take place, in that area, at that time, using certain mesh sizes etc.
What we would envisage is that the ‘Golden Mile’ becomes an area tightly controlled by the district Sea Fisheries Committee (or by whichever authority acts as the SFC in that district) where by default all net fishing (including trawling) is banned, unless an ‘enabling byelaw’ is put in place.
Such ‘enabling byelaws’ would only be implemented after consultation with all stakeholders, and approved by the Secretary of State, to ensure that there were special reasons to enable netting within a given area, subject to necessary restrictions.
(Examples would be an MSC certified drift-net fishery for herring, sustainable extraction of fish from an inshore area where there would be no significant impact on local angling activity etc)
Too much is made of the competition that has developed between the Recreational Sea Angling sector and the catching sector over diminishing shared resources.
It has to be borne in mind that RSA activity is mainly confined to a relatively small area of coastal waters (for shore anglers often just the first few yards from the shore) and mainly for species of no great importance to the catching sector.
By maximizing the potential of the area and species of most interest to the RSA sector, much of the tension caused by the perceived competition will be allayed, and it will become more possible for both sectors to concentrate upon working amicably together to solve the many common problems that beset both sectors regarding the need to maintain a healthy and productive marine environment.
The Golden Mile ��" Frequently Asked Questions
(The answers given below assume that a vision of the Golden Mile is enacted. There is a long way to go before any of this is legislated for, and the answers given may or may not apply when that happens).
The Golden Mile is an area from the shore to one mile out where certain types of commercial fishing (principally netting and trawling for fin-fish) will be banned by default (although in certain circumstances enabling byelaws would be made excepting some such fisheries from the general exclusion)
Most Recreational Sea Angling takes place close inshore, a Golden Mile would protect fin-fish stocks in this area, stop the pleasure of angling trips being spoiled by the sight of inshore gill nets and inshore trawling, as well as protecting fragile and valuable inshore ecosystems.
A mile ties in with the area where the Water Framework Directive (which aims to deliver good ecological status) applies, and is easier to argue than a much wider area.
From a Recreational Sea Angling perspective, the first mile is most important, covering the area where all shore angling takes place, and most sheltered waters which small private angling boats are often restricted to fishing because of weather conditions.
It doesn’t foreclose the possibility of other areas being treated in a similar way if there are benefits in doing so.
A statutory mile is a simple to understand and to legislate for and to enforce, with exceptions being able to be dealt with by ‘enabling byelaws’ where local circumstances might apply.
(‘enabling byelaws’ would allow commercial fishing operations normally excluded to take place, but only when a case is made that demonstrates that the benefits of a Golden Mile would not be compromised, and a full consultation with all stakeholders has taken place and the Secretary of State has given his approval)
Theoretically possibly, but everyone realises that arguing a case for each area separately, through a long-winded and bureaucratic and political process would mean that it would take years to establish even a handful of such areas, if ever.
It would be far better to start with a Golden Mile which allows exceptions in exceptional circumstances, rather than the other way round.
Although a Golden Mile is not of equal benefit to all anglers, in all regions (ie to the long distance angling charter boat sector), consistently the majority of anglers have stated that a Golden Mile is top of their list of measures that they would like to see implemented.
Will all commercial fishing be banned within the Golden Mile?
Certain types of fishing which have no direct impact on Recreational Sea Angling, such as potting, shell-fish, herring drift-netting etc would be excepted from restrictions within the Golden Mile.
Other forms of fishing such as close inshore gill-netting and trawling, where this would not affect the attainment of the benefits of a Golden Mile (ie, targeting fin-fish not targeted by anglers, in areas with almost no Recreational Sea Angling takes place, and does not impact on fin-fish populations in nearby angling areas) would be possible under ‘enabling byelaws’.
Angling is acknowledged to have a low impact on the marine environment and fish stocks generally.
Close inshore waters are of extreme and unique value to the overall marine environment, containing many food species not found in deeper water, shallow warm water with plenty of structure and plant growth providing ideal nursery conditions for many species of marine fish and also spawning areas for a number of species and places to deposit egg cases for rays. A list of the special value of inshore marine habitat could go on and on.
Even without it’s special value to the Recreational Sea Fishery, there would be a strong case to be made for protection of the Golden Mile on conservation grounds alone, especially given the current state of so many of our marine stocks.
Although reluctant to concede any restrictions on the activities of any commercial fishermen, be it for either conservation reasons or the benefit of any other stakeholder, the benefits of the restoration of inshore fin-fish stocks and marine habitat within the Golden Mile would undoubtedly spill-over into areas further out.
And sectors that could happily co-exist with anglers within the Golden Mile would welcome the restoration and enrichment of the inshore environment, as well as the reduction in gear conflicts that often occurs now.
Will ‘hobby fishing’ be banned in the Golden Mile? (ie unlicensed seine-netting from the beach, and gill-netting for personal use only)
Some unlicensed fishing could be allowed, but strictly controlled, and subject to bag-limits.
That is the intention.
What about drying banks?
In some areas, particularly estuaries, banks are revealed on some low tides, sometimes miles from the shore.
In general such ‘drying banks’ would not have their own Golden Mile (if they did, the ‘Golden Mile’ might actually extend some 30 miles out in some places!). However, such areas might be subject to protection if they are of great value, either to Recreational Sea Angling activity, or of particular ecological importance.
Can challenges be mounted against bans on commercial fishing within the Golden Mile?
Yes, the case could be made for an ‘enabling byelaw’ where this wouldn’t significantly affect the attainment of the benefits of a Golden Mile and was reasonable, subject to stakeholder consultation and approval by the Secretary of State.
Not as a result of the Golden Mile per se, but separate legislation used to establish Marine Protected Areas might be used to restrict or ban all forms of fishing within areas, including areas that exist or extend into the area covered by the Golden Mile.
It is expected that such restrictions would only be applied where absolutely necessary to protect vulnerable marine habitat, and the principle of least necessary restriction would apply.
Won’t closing off inshore water make fishermen’s jobs more dangerous?
If weather conditions are such that an inshore fishing boat cannot safely operate outside of one mile, then it would probably be unwise to operate even within one mile.
In any case, because of the shortage of fish within inshore areas, private angling boats, perhaps crewed by inexperienced owners, and even well-equipped charter boats and their professional crews, are too often tempted to fish further offshore than might be wise.
On balance the unlikely real (as opposed to argued) increased risk for commercial fishing crews, is likely to be far more than compensated for by the reduced risk to thousand of private angling boat owners, and the crews of angling charter vessels.
Many of the species targeted by Recreational Sea Anglers stay close inshore, and in some cases form local populations.
No foreign boats are allowed to fish within six miles, and relatively few have ‘grand-fathers’ rights’ to fish within 12 miles.
Although migratory fish will still be subject to being caught by UK fishing vessels outside of one mile, and by UK and foreign boats further out, there will still be very worthwhile benefits to be had from a one mile protection area.
Do any other countries have a Golden Mile?
A number of other countries have bans and restrictions on inshore netting and trawling within the first mile, in some cases within three miles, introduced for conservation reasons in recognition of the need to protect valuable and vulnerable inshore ecologies and fish stocks.
In some cases, countries have protected areas and species, giving preference to Recreational Sea Angling in recognition of the superior economic and social value to be obtained by managing some fisheries primarily as Recreational Sea Fisheries.