April 2020: Devon & Severn IFCA proposals for recreational bag limits.
Concerns have been raised by local anglers regarding the possible wider implications of the current proposals being considered by DSIFCA for hand working that include bag limits, above which permits would be required. Fin fish species are not included in the proposed bylaw.
Alan Deeming has had an extensive dialogue with the DSIFCA officer responsible. After strong questioning, Alan was able to obtain an admission that the prime purpose was NOT conservation of the various species that were being proposed to be subject to bag limits. The officer fell back on a justification that they were legally obliged to balance the needs of various users but he has failed to explain what users DSIFCA is considering and which of their needs are not currently balanced. It is likely that the Angling Trust will pursue this aspect but it is doubtful that the proposals will be dropped.
To be clear, the proposed bag limits are supposed to represent the threshold at which quantities collected become considered commercial rather than recreational. Permits will only be required for what is finally agreed to be commercial collection.
Considerable lobbying will be needed in order to establish acceptable bag limits for each individual species that is listed.
The Angling Trust’s national Conservation & Access Group (of which Alan is a member) is currently considering the implications and there is a good possibility that the involvement of Defra will be sought in order to establish a national guideline as to what are acceptable threshold quantities above which collection would be considered to be commercial and, in consequence, subject to regulations above those applicable to recreational collection.
THE FOLLOWING REWRITTEN APRIL 2020
As part of their voluntary work supporting the interests of Island sea anglers, Alan Deeming & the late Tony Williams have been involved in a number of miscellaneous related activities as follows (With the unfortunate death of Tony Williams in late 2015, Alan has continued with the work):
Alan Deeming activities relating to IW marine committee of AT
Alan is the secretary of Bembridge AC, a member of the AT’s national Conservation & Access Group (which acts in a technical advice capacity for the marine side of AT) & a member of the Southern IFCA Recreational Angling Sector Group.
Angling Trust national Conservation & Access Group
As of 2020, one of the prime concerns of this group and the Angling Trust as a whole is the implications of Brexit. On leaving the EU, the UK government is in the process of introducing UK specific regulations for fisheries in UK waters. AT has ensured that the new fisheries bill includes a requirement that Recreational Sea Angling will be better catered for. The focus of effort will to be to ensure that the requirement is translated into actual deeds. The Angling Trust is currently devoting considerable effort towards securing a good deal for RSAs once the UK ceases to be subject to EU fishing controls. This is a uphill struggle due to entrenched attitudes on the part of decision makers. The AT is making some progress, especially by way of highlighting the value RSA has to the economy which is far greater than the commercial fin fish sector. The situation could certainly be improved if a far greater proportion of RSAs supported the AT. I would encourage any RSA who is not a member of AT, either as a member of an affiliated club or as an individual personal member, to join the AT as a personal member. Application details can be found on the AT web site. Currently there is an offer whereby new members joining the AT receive a tackle voucher to the full value of their membership fee. At the very least, I would encourage signing up to receive the ATs electronic monthly sea newsletter which is available to all including those who are not AT members. The Angling Trust receives financial support for its freshwater sections by way of monies from the sale of freshwater rod licences. That funding is ring fenced and can’t be used for the marine section so marine efforts are limited by what funding it can gain from membership fees along with some limited grant funding for specific things like getting more people participating.
Bass conservation measures continue to be an issue despite the slight relaxing of RSA bag limits in 2020 to 3 fish per day from April 1st to November 30th. The commercial fleet remains the main source of mortality and there are concerns about lack of effective enforcement of regulations on them. During the Covid-12 lockdown, during which RSA is not allowed, the commercial fleet is, of course, the only source of mortality. It remains to be seen what restrictions will apply to RSA once Brexit is done & dusted.
The EU restrictions applying to RSA at the start of 2019 were 1 fish per day from April 1st to October 31st. The EU restrictions applying at the start of 2018 were significantly worse than the appalling restrictions applied to us in 2016 & again in 2017. Instead of being allowed to retain one bass per day for the last six months of the year, as we were in 2017, we were not being permitted to retain any at all for the entirety of 2018. That said, the scientific data on which the restrictions were based was found to be incomplete. & was reviewed.
Unfortunately very few EU member states have the same level of RSA participation as the UK & it tended to end up that the EU did not give us anglers the level of consideration that we RSAs deserve. There was a big success in 2017 with an ongoing total ban on any commercial netting that specifically targets bass. Netters are only permitted a small amount of allowance for unavoidable by-catch in non bass targeted fisheries. The only permitted targeted commercial bass fishing method is now by hook & line with a total allowable catch allowance now significantly reduced from the 2017 level. This puts the restrictions on a slightly more equitable basis but still significantly disproportionate. This is all against a background of the scientific advice being constantly ignored.
It should not be overlooked that, despite the apparent healthy Bass stocks at present, several of the year classes of juvenile fish coming along to form the basis for stocks in future years are extremely low due to a combination of poor winter survival rates & decimation of breeding aggregations by commercial boats. A total stock collapse was predicted if the levels of mortality seen in 2016 & 7 were allowed to continue. It remains to be seen if current measures are too little too late, as happened with the herring which, after many years of heavy restrictions are only now showing signs of slight recovery. We can only hope that Bass will recover, at least in UK waters, to the point when UK RSAs are permitted to retain significant numbers.
There have been some general comments about the AT not shouting loud enough at decision makers but the uncomfortable truth is that rank and file anglers have not provided a sufficient level of support to make government accept that RSA should be treated with equal or higher consideration than commercial fishing. Campaigns run by the AT in conjunction with the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society and Save Our Seabass have received very disappointing levels of support. Bear in mind that the government’s own figures indicate that the vat paid by RSAs alone far exceeds the total revenue from UK commercial fin fish sales. That is even before one takes account of the millions it costs the UK tax payer to administer the commercial sector and also the millions paid in grants to it each year. UK sea anglers need to recognise that, for our situation to improve, each one needs to make his or her voice heard where it matters. Writing to our local MP in large numbers would be a good start especially if he becomes aware just how many potential voters are anglers & could thus affect the chances of his re-election.
Another issue is the continued concern, first raised in 2017, about a possible threat to our English Channel Wrasse populations resulting from a new commercial fishery for live Wrasse being supplied to Scottish Salmon farmers to act as cleaner fish to control lice infestations rather than using chemicals. So far this fishery seems to have only spread as far East as Poole. The Angling Trust got up a petition against this fishery & also issued a challenge against the Cornish, Devon & Severn plus Southern IFCAs to the effect that they had not sufficiently considered the implications of this emerging commercial fishery but the petition received little support & I am not aware of any significant developments resulting from the legal challenge. Fortunately this fishery is somewhat unusual as the market of the live fish is very limited to a small number of Salmon Farming companies and they limit their purchasing to a set list of vessels. Those vessels working in the SIFCA area are obliged to comply with a voluntary code of practice which includes, among other things, size limits, seasonal & geographical limits and catch recording.
Alan was intimately involved in a review carried out by the CAG of the then existing AT list of recommended minimum retention sizes for individual species which was probably inherited from the NFSA. Based on available science, the group agreed a revised list of sizes. The new recommended sizes are aimed at ensuring that specimens of individual species have had a chance to have bred at least once, thus hoping to maintain the sustainability of each species. (NB Excluding Conger Eel since they do not breed in UK waters so an arbitrary size was set.
Scientific data was lacking on maturity of Blonde Ray but it was a fortunate coincidence that Alan had been running his own private tagging program for them. Having recorded details of several hundred specimens, including length, width across wing tips & a definitive maturity identifier feature for males, his data was accepted as a basis for establishing the recommended minimum retention size for them.
Southern IFCA Recreational Angling Sector Group
Southern IFCA is the body tasked with administrating all fishing activity within our local 6 mile limit & it is one of the few IFCAs to have formed a liaison group specifically for RSA.
Alan has been a member of this group since its formation & attends meetings at SIFCA main office in Poole every 3 months. From what he hears from contacts in other IFCA areas, Southern is one of the best at dealing with angling. The IFCA has demonstrated a significant willingness to engage with & take on board comments from RSAs.
This group was extensively consulted about control measures for the emerging live Wrasse fishery mentioned previously. SIFCA took on board recommendations from the group that included having areas of coastline decreed as no go areas for commercial harvesting because they are favourite areas for RSAs targeting wrasse. They included them in the SIFCA voluntary code of conduct for the fishery. (Available to view on the SIFCA web site.) Fortunately this fishery does not seem to have reached the IW but any future information about it doing so would be appreciated.
We still have the issue of SIFCA’s ongoing failure to install information signs highlighting the areas of beaches round the north coast of the island where bait gathering is prohibited by their byelaw. These include East Cowes outside the old breakwater, parts of Woodside beach & parts of Ryde Sands. Alan continues to press for this to be rectified, as he has done ever since the bylaw was introduced.
SIFCA is currently in the process of reviewing the byelaws that it inherited in 2012 from the old Southern Sea Fisheries Committee. We are particularly interested in its byelaws relating to inshore netting and SIFCA has been consulting, for a couple of years, on a new byelaw concerned with fixed (rather than towed) nets. (Towed nets are already the subject of a byelaw that prohibits their use in significant areas round the IW). Current proposals would see all fixed nets being barred from all tidal parts of IW rivers, estuaries & harbours plus at least 100m from IW piers, the latter being in response to requests from the angling liaison group. As part of the consultation, Alan submitted detailed estimated values for RSA activity round the shores of the IW and included estimates of how activity has been declining as a result of diminished catches which may be attributable to inshore commercial netting activities. It was good to see that a large number of RSAs submitted responses to the early consultation, aided in part by being supplied with a template response letter generated by Alan.
Adjacent IFCAs further west have already looked at the subject & one has gone as far as introducing a ban on netting in their estuaries so we are hoping that SIFCA will be able to get a similar byelaw introduced, despite the likely protests from the commercial sector.
An ancillary benefit likely to come out of this particular byelaw is an increase in the minimum size allowed for grey Mullet species. The current size that applies to commercials is woefully small and does not allow for a fish to have even bred once, thus making the Mullet fishery unsustainable in the long run. The proposed increase, whilst a step in the right direction, is still less than AT has sought.
The minimum sizes for fish as set out by SIFCA are legally enforceable on anglers but most are below the sizes recommended by AT as discussed above. RSAs are strongly urged to comply with the higher AT recommended sizes.
This is an ongoing issue with SIFCA planning to review areas east of Poole over the next year or two. Alan will be keeping a close eye on developments, not the least because other groups seem to be getting involved with reviewing the activity.
Bait digging & the Law
As a result of receiving a number of queries from local RSAs in 2017 the following guidance is provided:-
IFCAs now have the power to regulate the collection of angling bait and our local Southern IFCA has confirmed a byelaw to prohibit it in some seagrass beds as mentioned in the byelaw page. In this byelaw, although it covers a variety of baits, we are effectively primarily being regulated on the collection of lugworm as a result of the byelaw seeking to protect seagrass beds which mostly exist in sand rather than mud. Unfortunately Defra have put a requirement on all IFCAs to determine if digging in intertidal mudflats within currently designated protected areas needs to be controlled so that could affect ragworm. They are tasked with making a decision on this within the next year or so. (now more likely to be in 2021/22.) A Natural England sponsored scientific paper by Watson of Portsmouth University that deals with digging for ragworm came to light in 2012 and it contains a lot of assertions that are damaging to the cause of continued digging for ragworm locally. Alan spent a long time analysing this report and he submitted a number of criticisms of apparent errors to the authors of the report. In early 2014 Alan made personal contact with the commissioning body of this report (Natural England) whilst attending a Solent Forum meeting. They had agreed to look to see if a review of the report was needed in light of other contradictory reports that Alan was able to point to. Unfortunately they eventually declined. Southern IFCA have a Voluntary Code of Practice applicable to bait collection in Poole harbour but it is yet to address activities elsewhere.
During mid 2015 AT generated a legal advice document detailing various aspects of the right to dig bait. A more extensive background to the issue may be found here
The law interpreted:
The following is a simplified outline of factors affecting the right to gather bait:-
Access to intertidal areas for bait gathering & angling is a highly emotive subject that promotes hot debate & about which there are a lot of misconceptions.
The following is a brief guide to some of the basic aspects.
Note that the following addresses specifically bait gathering for non-commercial purposes. Gathering for commercial gain is subject to additional restrictions.
Limitations on the right to access the intertidal areas of our coast & carry out bait collection fall into two main categories.
- The rights of land owners to restrict or prohibit access to their property.
- Legislation that prohibits certain activities in the marine environment.
A private land owner has the right to refuse access to the foreshore across his land other than where a public right of way exists. This can lead to conflict with respect to both pedestrian access & in some cases the parking of vehicles. Where a public right of way is involved, it would have to specifically provide access to the public foreshore rather than, for instance, a coastal path that runs parallel to the coast. Locally, by way of example, the owners of Island Harbour would be within their rights to prevent vehicles being parked on their property but could not prevent pedestrian access to the adjacent intertidal area of the river provided access was gained by way of the public footpath.
In some instances there may be restrictions on access to property owned by the crown due to security or safety issues eg a live fire gunnery range.
It may not be realised by all but not all of the UK intertidal areas are owned by the crown. Some are privately owned & in theory the owner can restrict activity on the area he/she owns. In theory you need to obtain the permission of any such owner before gathering bait from such a privately owned area. Locally, by way of example, an intertidal area to the south of the entrance channel to Bembridge harbour out to St.Helens fort is privately owned but the owner has not enforced any restrictions to date.
Determining when an area of intertidal foreshore is privately owned is a very difficult task which may be beyond the capability of rank & file anglers. It may also require some expense to make the necessary enquiry. If faced with conflict with someone claiming ownership of the intertidal area, the only advice currently is to assume that their claim may be valid. Unfortunately the Angling Trust does not have the resources to compile a data base of privately owned sections of intertidal foreshore so it is down to the individual to make any enquiries they see fit to make.
Whilst significant portions of the UK coastline have no environmental protection designation, there is also a large number of areas that are subject to various forms of national & EU derived protection designation. (EU derived designations will become UK designations on completion of Brexit). As a consequence of this, Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authorities, have a mandate to regulate bait gathering where it is deemed incompatible with the conservation objectives for certain species & habitats. The IFCAs are able, & in some cases already have, introduced byelaws prohibiting bait gathering in specific areas. Locally, by way of example, Southern IFCA has introduced a byelaw that prohibits bait gathering (by any means, not just digging) in several stretches of the Solent coast of the island where seagrass beds exist. These prohibited areas include East Cowes between the big breakwater & Old Castle Point, much of Ryde Sands & a couple of other less accessible areas within the island’s Solent coastline. Unfortunately to date none of these prohibited areas have been signposted so it is unlikely that full scale prosecutions would succeed until they are. (As of April 2020 they are still not signposted. See charts under the Byelaws section of this web site)
Reference to the byelaw section of the local IFCA seems to be the only way currently to determine where any restrictions apply other than any area where signs have been erected. Pleading ignorance of any existing byelaw is no defence in law, although, where no signs exist, there would be a case to be made for being treated with leniency. IFCAs currently have a requirement on them to review the impact of bait gathering on habitats such as intertidal mud flats. This could result in additional byelaws being introduced in future so it is recommended that anglers keep up to date with any such changes. Any new byelaw proposed would need to go through a public consultation stage & we would encourage anglers to take part in such consultations in order that their voices be heard.
Working through the following questions should give a good indication of your rights to gather bait in intertidal locations. Note that although the word dig is used through the questions, other means of gathering eg crab tiling, razor fish salting etc., are subject to the same restrictions :-
QUESTION 1. Can you gain access to the foreshore & intertidal area via a public right of way?
ANSWER1a = No = go to QUESTION 2
ANSWER1b = Yes = go to QUESTION 3
QUESTION 2. Do you have the landowners express consent to cross their land to access the foreshore & intertidal area?
ANSWER2a = No = can’t dig.
ANSWER2b = Yes = go to QUESTION 3
QUESTION 3 Is the intertidal area owned by the crown? (but see main text above)
ANSWER 3a = No = go to QUESTION 4
ANSWER 3b = Yes = go to QUESTION 5
QUESTION 4 Do you have the permission of the intertidal area owner to dig?
ANSWER 4a = No = can’t dig
ANSWER 4b = Yes = go to QUESTION 5
QUESTION 5 Does the intertidal area have any byelaws applicable to it that prohibits digging/gathering at the time you wish to do so?
ANSWER 5a = Yes = can’t dig
ANSWER 5b = No = can dig
ANSWER 5c = Don’t know = is not acceptable & is no defence in law. Check local IFCA website.
MMO South Marine Plan
This exercise has now been completed (further details below in the historical section) & I was pleased to see that the extensive data on RSA activity round the IW that was gathered by local AT volunteers & submitted by myself during several workshops of stakeholders, got incorporated within a vast document that sets out all the factors influencing marine developments along the central English Channel. It now has the full force of law & any new marine development must take account of the contents of the plan. Unfortunately the needs of RSAs come well down the list of priority needs of various stakeholder groups that must be considered when any new plan is proposed.
Solent Forum www.solentforum.org
Is a group consisting of bodies in the Solent area with an interest in local marine issues such as councils, businesses, environmental bodies etc . Alan attends its twice yearly meetings on behalf of Island anglers. It continues to be an excellent means of making personal contacts as well as gleaning useful information on marine developments in the Solent region. Alan did a presentation to the group in which he highlighted two issues of concern relating to loss of access to the water. The first was the likely loss of the ability to fish from the sea wall between the Union Jack” hangar & the old East Cowes breakwater due to how close to the sea wall would have been to the inner part of the new marina that was planned there. As it would have been within easy casting distance, Alan could see no way in which the owners would want people casting weights towards valuable vessels moored in their marina. Fortunately the entire marina plan seems to have been dropped for now but alan will keep a watch to see if it emerges again. The second issue was the loss of access to the only serviceable public slipway within East Cowes. Part of the approved Red Funnel redevelopment plan was to prevent access to this slipway. Alternative sites proposed within their planning application were totally unsuitable. Alan had lengthy dialogue with members of the IW council regarding different alternatives. Fortunately it seems that, now the development has been completed, access has not, after all, been prevented so far.
Alan continues to monitor public notices in the IW County Press for any that may affect anglers. Notices relating to MMO licence applications are of particular interest but require Alan to refer to the MMO data base of such applications in order to find the necessary level of detail needed to assess the relevance to RSAs
The following is only included for historical reference
Activity Prior to 2018 AGM:-
Southampton Water major dredging (now completed) & Portsmouth Harbour approaches major dredging.
As a result of contact made through Solent Forum, detailed information was obtained from ABP Southampton regarding the plan to deposit dredged spoil from their major project into a popular angling area south of the Nab Tower, known locally as the Spoil Grounds.. From this, Alan was able to request that spoil dumping was kept to a minimum near the most important angling areas. ABP subsequently advised that a proportion of dredged spoil would consist of aggregate that could be reused & they gained permission to deposit this into an existing licensed dredging area ready for recovery at a later date. This meant some reduction in the total volume of spoil deposited in the Spoil Grounds. This project is now complete & major dumping of spoil will occur only as a result of the significant dredging of the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour.
Some considerable concern was expressed in 2014 by local divers about very poor water visibility & accumulations of silt throughout the area. Their feeling being that this may be attributable to the high volume of dredged spoil being deposited in the Spoil Grounds. Alan was advised by a diving expert at the National Oceanographic Centre at Southampton that similar water clarity & silt issues were being experienced over a large area of the south coast of England and this could not be attributed solely to the dumping in the Spoil Grounds. The consensus among experts was that the main cause was the excessive run off from rivers during the floods earlier in 2014. It should also not be forgotten that large spring tides always cause turbid sea conditions locally as they lift fine particles from the seabed & carry them along in suspension only to be dropped out once tidal flows reduce during periods of neap tides. Plankton blooms during prolonged periods of strong sunlight also adversely affect water clarity. The, as yet unexplained, failure in 2014 & again in 2016 (and more recently) of the annual Mackerel migration eastwards up the English Channel along the South coast may well be attributable to run off from the earlier floods. The fact that it was apparent right along the English Channel indicates that the above dumping in the Spoil Grounds was not the cause, as some people have suggested. Unfortunately it proved impossible to obtain any engagement with the authorities (MoD) with regard to dumping of spoil from the dredging of the Portsmouth Harbour entrance & approach channel.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust:
Alan & Tony, along with local officers of the RYA, met with the H&IWWT's then new marine officer, Tim Ferrero, in June 2014 to seek to establish a mutually beneficial working relationship with him. They came away with an optimistic feeling that he was more amenable to dialogue than the previous officer. Further meetings have occurred subsequently in addition to Alan attending some meetings & workshops at which Tim was also present. He has proved to be approachable & sympathetic to angler's concerns about conservation issues. In 2018 Tim joined the SIFCA angling liaison group.
Following on from the dialogue established with the new SIFCA officers. Chief Officer, Robert Clark, & his deputy Neil Richardson, Alan has attended a number of meetings with them including, as an observer, several of their main committee & also their technical advisory committee meetings. They have developed an Angling Strategy & as part of that they initially set up a Bass working group to address the ongoing urgent need for conservation measures. Following on from that, during 2015 they set up an angling liaison group consisting of anglers from throughout the SIFCA region. Alan has been a member representing the Island from its inception.
Alan has developed an excellent working relationship with SIFCA officers at all levels. They have specifically requested that all anglers report any suspicious fishing activity to the SIFCA office number 01202 721373. Reports without any specific evidence would still be useful in allowing SIFCA to build a picture of possible illegal activity.
Natural England requested comments on their draft site improvement plan for the Natura 2000 South Wight SAC to which Alan responded pointing out a number of issues.
Marine Management Organisation (MMO) South Marine Plan.
The MMO has overall responsibility for activity & development projects in the marine environment. In 2013, it was busy compiling a marine planning guidance document for the south coast area. In October 2013, Alan attended a local MMO workshop on the initial evidence base for this & he responded to invitations for comments by pointing out a number of shortcomings in the evidence base relating to angling activity.
In July 2014 the MMO ran a series of further workshops to discuss an implementation document for the plan. David Mitchell (AT National Marine Campaigns Manager) attended one workshop & Alan attended another. Both pressed the point that recreational sea angling contributes more to the national economy than commercial fishing and should, in consequence, be given at least equal treatment to that afforded to the commercial fishing sector rather than the existing situation where the commercial sector demands seemed to take precedence.
As a result of strong comments forwarded to the MMO by Alan, both he & Tony were invited to have a face to face meeting with a locally based MMO officer. This meeting took place in August 2014 at Tony's clubhouse. This enabled Alan & Tony to prime the MMO officer with a number of issues they would like to be addressed.
Alan was able to get areas of importance to anglers incorporated into the data base for the South Marine Plan which reached its final consultation stage in early 2017. As of 2019 it gained the force of law & any proposals for licences to carry out work in the local marine area have to take into consideration any impact on angling in the areas indicated.
As a result of meetings with representatives of various government bodies it is of some concern that data/evidence submitted to one body does not seem to be being shared widely across all, leading to similar evidence having to be submitted several times to different bodies/personnel. Additionally Alan has made the point on several occasions that there needs to be a central register of stakeholder group contacts such that any company/body proposing to carry out work in the marine environment has an obligation to consult those stakeholders.
For general information about the work of the elected Isle of Wight marine committee representatives please click on the "OUR WORK" button in the main menu bar.
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