First and foremost can I say how any netting (the use of "drift nets") can be "legal" inshore defies belief. But it is, although there are control measures, so there we go. I don't agree with the idea and cant believe how huge a negative impact this has on our sport... Catch and Release Bass lure angling!
Now I am a) not naive to think this will ever stop b) not naive to think this is the only reason the fish stocks on our inshore coastline is in a decline nor c) an expert on netting practice and how its controlled. I understand in increasingly difficult financial climates individuals will seek income wherever they can. However...what I do know is simply this. There are people out there who think it's perfectly ok to go out for 4 hours "work" and bring home £2000 worth of Sea Bass per trip!! and continue to do this day in and day out. I know that there are some people out there who feel it is perfectly acceptable to FIX a net (illegal practice) in a huge stretch of water, including Bass nurseries??!! and catch all manner of species, I would hate to think what happens to Wrasse and Pollack, for example, that may get caught in these nets as I doubt very much they would be a valuable catch for our netters. I do know that there are people out there who have disregard to legal size restrictions and will land undersized fish for sale. However I do also understand that there will always be a conflict between the protection of fish stocks, the fisheries economics and the social/recreational aspect of fishing.
All to often I see reports, hear stories or witness boats in the harbour/on the water engaging in this practice and I for one am getting sick to the back teeth of it. Now I am in a fortunate position to be able to make some inroads to tackling this practice but I urge anyone who feels strongly about the netting of fish to have a voice and report any information they may come across.
Having done a little bit of research there are 3 bodies of people who can help us minimise the impact of netting on our fish stocks. These are IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority), EA (Environment Agency) and MMO (Marine Management Organisation).
IFCAs are either committees or joint committees of the local authorities that fall within an IFC district. They are tasked with the sustainable management of inshore sea fisheries resources in their local area. They are made up of representatives from the constituent local authorities (who provide funding for the IFCA) along with people from across the different sectors that use or are knowledgeable about the inshore marine area, such as commercial and recreational fishermen, environmental groups and marine researchers, who offer their time voluntarily. The Marine Management Organisation, Environment Agency and Natural England also each have a statutory seat on the IFCA. Through their local management and funding structures, IFCAs help put local authorities, local communities, local businesses and individual citizens in the driving seat, allowing them to play a bigger part in the protection and enhancement of their inshore marine environment. A local IFCA is responsible for sea fishing and environmental conservation out to the 6 mile limit and within rivers and estuaries up to the tidal limits.
Environment Agency (EA) is responsible for conservation of salmonids, freshwater and migratory species within streams, rivers, estuaries and the sea out to the 6 mile limit. Management of fisheries is through its own suite of byelaws. It does not regulate for sea fish conservation.
MMOMarine Management Organisation is responsible for sea fishing activities out to the 200 mile limit using English government Acts / Orders and EC Regulations. This includes the licensing of vessels to fish commercially and management of fish quotas in England. It does not regulate using the more restrictive byelaws made by the EA or IFCAs.
By calling into these bodies and ensuring current information about netting practices is made available they we can each do our part in protecting the fish stock in our area. Now I know we will never get rid of netting practice but if we can force practitioners of netting to stop the illegal fixed nets and conform to restrictions on landing fish then we will make some difference to our local fishing scene.
See here for a list of all the local IFCA districts to find your contact.
Environment Agency (National hot-line number) 0800 80 70 60
What details to relay to a fisheries authority?Place where event was seen and/or where evidence was taken;
Date and time of event(s);
Name, DoB and address of any person involved;
Boat description, any name and registration letters/numbers;
Outboard engine manufacturer and displayed engine power on cowling;
Vehicles involved including make, model, colour, registration plate;
Fishing equipment such as nets, pots, rods etc;
Fish or shellfish – species, if known, number of, or estimation of weight.
I dont want to come across as being on a crusade but I believe this practice, when done with disregard to the fish stocks in the area, damages our sport and the environment of our sport. If you see something or hear something pass it on. It may just help you increase the pleasure of your sport and to develop / conserve reducing numbers of fish in your area.