Enacted by the Southern Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (SIFCA)
The Southern Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority www.southern-ifca.gov.uk took over responsibility for inshore commercial fishing from the old Southern Sea Fisheries Committee & was additionally given authority to also regulate the activities of recreational sea anglers (RSAs) including the gathering of marine bait of all descriptions. Their web site includes full details of all their byelaws which mostly affect just commercial fishermen. SIFCA byelaws are here List of Byelaws
The Angling Trust has emphasised that its position regarding anglers selling their boat caught catch is that any such angler is not a recreational sea angler but is instead an unlicensed commercial fisherman performing an illegal act.
Restrictions on inshore bottom trawling (not mid water trawling)
Whilst not directly affecting Anglers, the SIFCA bottom towed gear byelaw will be of some interest: This relatively recent & now enacted byelaw prohibits the use of all forms of towed fishing gear from (amongst others) a significant number of areas round the Solent coast of the IW as well as inshore round the entire south coast of the IW from Bembridge round to the Needles. SIFCA was sent letters of support for this byelaw on behalf of IW anglers. Alan Deeming has received assurance from SIFCA that the practice of dragging chain or poles round set nets to frighten fish into them is prohibited. This practice had been previously observed being carried out by at least one local commercial fisherman.
See chart below for areas where the use of bottom towed fishing gear is now prohibited.
Restrictions on bait gathering.
Anglers are directly affected by the SIFCA Hand Gathering in Seagrass beds prohibition byelaw. Both Tony Williams & Alan Deeming were heavily involved in trying to minimise the impact on bait gathering on local beaches that would have resulted from a byelaw that has now been enacted by Southern Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (SIFCA). They initially challenged the entire validity of the proposed byelaw that sought to prevent the collection of any worm, shellfish or crab by any hand method within seagrass beds. Despite eventually being able to get Fish Legal (the legal support arm of the AT) to submit official legal argument against it, this failed so Tony & Alan were faced with having to seek concessions to the benefit of RSA. Alan was eventually able to obtain confirmation that anchoring whilst fishing (angling) from a boat was not prohibited by the byelaw. It is also thought that representations made by Tony to the then fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, regarding allowing the continued use of push nets for prawns, resulted in the final wording of the byelaw specifically excluding any control on the use of such nets. Tony & Alan did not involve themselves with proposed restricted areas on the mainland coast so there were 2 main local proposed areas of particular concern that they addressed: East Cowes (between the breakwater & Old Castle Point) and most of Ryde Sands.
Being local to him, Alan concentrated on East Cowes where the originally proposed area boundary not only included the harbour side of the breakwater but also took in the road along the seafront. A particular restriction within the byelaw would have meant that anyone driving along the road with a fork or spade in the car would technically be committing an offence. After a lot of discussion with SIFCA they eventually amended the boundary to only reach mean high water and they incorporated the breakwater as a boundary line, thus allowing collection on the harbour side. Unfortunately, as the seagrass bed here is recorded as extending for the entire area between the breakwater & the sand spit at Old Castle Point, no concession could be obtained to allow the (all be it low level) digging of lugworm to continue.
Being local to him, Tony concentrated on Ryde Sands. One main concern here was that, although the main lugworm beds do not exist within the seagrass, SIFCA had added a wide buffer zone round the charted seagrass beds which resulted in the adjacent lugworm beds being included in the controlled zone. This was compounded by the seagrass bed being a complicated shape and SIFCA had simplified the outline of the controlled zone by drawing long straight lines which resulted in more of the lugworm beds to be included. After a lot of dialogue, Tony succeeded in getting the boundaries amended to a point where some significant lugworm beds now remain accessible.
Damage to Seagrass beds at Ryde Sands: As a side issue relating to the above byelaw, Tony compiled a photo based report on the ongoing damage being caused to the seagrass beds by the (probably unlawful) dumping of spoil from Ryde harbour and the Monkton Mead storm water outfall onto the seagrass beds by heavy plant. It proved difficult to get any government body to acknowledge interest in this matter but eventually in early 2014 someone from the MMO accepted the report for their consideration. In addition, the winter storms of 2013/4 have resulted in significant changes to the intertidal sand which may require the seagrass beds to be resurveyed at some point. In November 2014 further work on Ryde Sands associated with the Monkton Mead storm water outfall has resulted in further extensive damage to the eco-system of the sands resulting from heavy plant & diggers transporting large amounts of sand further down the coast & depositing it in the intertidal zone. It is difficult to see how any angling related activity restrictions arising from the designation of an MCZ here could be justified in the light of this latest highly damaging yet authorised activity.
It should not be forgotten that the seagrass dies back over winter and re-grows in the spring. Southern IFCA plus other government agencies use the survey of local seagrass beds that is published by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildelife Trust on an annual basis. The trust attempted to re-survey the seagrass around the entrance to Bembridge harbour in mid 2014 but it was not totally successful due to equipment problems. Alan & Tony are now listed to receive copied of new versions of the report as they become available.
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