Your help is needed again please - Cornwall IFCA Netting in rivers byelaw

This blog post is a copy and paste from an email I received from BASS the other day, plus the same details can be found at the excellent Save Our Sea Bass website here. Sure, my asking you to send a couple of emails centres around bass related issues in Cornwall this time around, but surely the more we anglers stand together, the greater our collective chances of success in the future? Please read this blog post and take the brief amount of time it will actually take to fire a couple of emails off - all the required details are below. Many thanks and have a good weekend…………..

Following closely on the heels of Devon & Severn IFCA’s netting byelaw review, Cornwall IFCA have launched a public consultation on a new Netting in Rivers byelaw for 2017. We are asking for as many people to respond as possible. The deadline for responses is 27th October.

The River and Estuarine Fishing Nets Byelaw 2017 has been proposed to balance the different needs of persons exploiting sea fisheries resources in the tidal parts of rivers and estuaries, by prohibiting most net fishing methods. It also provides additional protection from netting for sea fish, salmon and sea trout, including juvenile and spawning stocks. Landing nets may still be used, ebb nets, sand-eel seines are also permitted subject to certain conditions and geographical restrictions. Click here for further information.

These proposals are very much welcomed by anglers in Cornwall who have long petitioned against the current use of nets and, in particular, feel that nets have no place in estuaries where they can do great damage to bass (including juvenile fish) and other species such as mullet and gilt head bream.

While broadly supporting the proposal, anglers would like to see several important amendments:

1. The proposed byelaw allows for the continued use of ebb nets. CIFCA feel the use of ebb nets is insignificant and currently limited to occasional use in the Fal by one or two hobby netters for flounders. This being the case, what is motivating the CIFCA to propose a byelaw, the main thrust of which is to increase netting restrictions, to allow ebb nets in all other estuaries where no history of their use exists and where arguably as a fixed engine method they have historically been prohibited? The Environment Agency feel that they could become a problem if other types of nets are banned, especially if deployed by several boats working together.

One of the problems with the existing byelaws is their complex nature which makes it hard for members of the public to know when an offence is being committed. Not including ebb netting would simplify the situation and help the general public to play their part in the effective enforcement of the new byelaw by knowing when to report offences.

Under the present proposals there is no requirement to have a permit for ebb netting. This does not seem sensible and is inconsistent. It is important that CIFCA knows how much ebb netting is taking place so that management measures can be revised. Surely if sandeel netting is to be subject to a permit then so should ebb netting if allowed.

2. As the byelaw does not state otherwise, it is assumed that it will apply all year round. This is certainly necessary for conservation purposes and will simplify the situation (see above re enforcement).

It is important that the areas covered by the new byelaw match or go beyond the areas covered by the existing Bass Nursery Areas (BNAs). This is the case within the Fal and Fowey and we welcome this and also the protection provided within the Looe river which is not currently included with a BNA. However we note that this is not the case within the Camel and Helford, where netting will be allowed within part of the existing BNA. Since these BNAs are only operative for part of the year, outside these periods any bass caught in nets may be retained. To see maps showing the areas where netting would be restricted click here.

We note also that the byelaw (see schedule) includes other rivers, estuaries, channels or streams to the landward of the low water line.This will give protection from netting in areas such as the Gannel and Hayle estuaries which are not currently BNAs. In order for this protection to be fully realised, consideration should be given to extending the boundary further seaward to protect fish congregating beyond the low water mark prior to running back up the estuary with the flood tide.

3. The proposed byelaw uses the term “fixed nets” rather than the outdated “fixed engines”. It is important that any equipment which could be considered a “fixed engine” should continue to be prohibited in BNAs. An important example of this is long-lines which must not be allowed in BNAs or areas covered by the new byelaw.

4. Revocation of existing byelaws – this must not make the situation on the open coast any worse than now and we assume that a new byelaw giving increased protection from netting on the open coast will come forward soon.

5. We note (from the Impact Assessment) that the byelaw seeks to alter the balance of access by persons from netting to rod and line fishing (recreational and commercial). While this is welcomed in general it is important that, particularly with the current dire state of bass stocks, the existing prohibition on retaining bass caught when fishing from a boat (recreational or commercial) in a BNA continues.

It’s important that we really get behind this and your support is very important. Please send an email with your comments to the Marine Management Organisation at ifcabyelaws@marinemanagement.org.uk and Cornwall IFCA at enquiries@cornwall-ifca.gov.uk

What should I say?

This is entirely up to you but feel free to copy any of the above if required. Alternatively here are some bullet points you could choose from:

  • I welcome these proposals to prohibit netting in rivers and estuaries and commend the CIFCA for it’s forward thinking and for recognising that recreational sea angling is a legitimate activity that is reliant on marine fishery resources and brings about valid and positive economic impacts;
  • It would be a pity if the protection from netting which this byelaw will bring about was reduced by the increased use of ebb nets so please do not allow these under the new byelaw provisions;
  • The proposed boundaries for the Camel and Helford rivers should be extended seaward to match those of the existing BNAs. The proposed boundaries for estuaries etc. covered under the general provisions of the byelaw (e.g. Hayle and Gannel) should be extended seaward beyond the low water line to protect aggregating bass waiting to run back up the estuary;
  • Please don’t allow long-lines to be used in BNAs or areas covered by the byelaw;
  • Please ensure that existing protection for sea fish (including bass) from netting on the open coast is not reduced by revocation of existing byelaws and bring forward a new byelaw to increase protection for bass as soon as possible;
  • In the current dire state of bass stocks, it is important that there is no relaxation in the current prohibition of retaining bass caught (recreationally or commercially) from a boat in BNAs