IFM Response to Proposed Byelaw for the Yorkshire and North East Coast Net Fishery The Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) is an international organisation of people sharing a common interest in the modern management of recreational and commercial fisheries. Created in 1969 in the UK, the IFM is dedicated to the advancement of sustainable fisheries management in all its forms. It is a non-­‐profit making organisation controlled by the membership and governed by an elected council. Members are drawn from professional fisheries managers, regulatory and research bodies, fishing and angling organisations, water companies, fish farms and private individuals whose interests in fisheries are represented at many levels within government and conservation bodies. The Institute, in partnership with a number of other UK institutes and societies concerned with the environment, is one of the Constituent Bodies of the Society for the Environment. The Society has a Royal Charter and is empowered to award the qualification of Chartered Environmentalist. This response to the proposed making of a new byelaw by the Environment Agency governing attendance at nets operated in the Yorkshire and North East Coast net fisheries has been submitted on behalf of the Institute of Fisheries Management. Whilst the IFM recognises that the consultation is focused solely on the seasonally licensed salmonid fishery and more specifically, the attendance or otherwise at T or J nets, the proposed byelaw would have implications for the wider management of fishing activities in the marine environment, particularly in terms of consistency of approach and therefore needs to be consistent with the approach adopted by the two relevant IFCAs. It has implications for consistency in the management of the bass fishery and all other fixed engines, including pots and sole nets. Also, the public are unlikely to be able to distinguish who is responsible, when the same net may be fished under two different pieces of legislation with differing regulatory bodies. Fixed gear set to target sea fish is usually set then left for one or two tidal cycles before being recovered, the catch sorted and the gear re-­‐set. In the Northeastern IFCA area , no current byelaws or regulations require attendance other than, in the case of nets set to target sea bass, a mandatory requirement to inspect and clear at least once in any 24 hour period. This proposal also raises the tricky question of interaction of byelaws between the Sea Fishery Act and the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act, the powers of the enforcing bodies and when application of those byelaws may be ultra vires. The suggested byelaw requiring attendance runs against the Government’s principle of encouraging deregulation, especially as it relates to small businesses. It is inconsistent with the stance taken by Northumbrian IFCA in removing the restriction requiring attendance of nets. The need for boats to be in constant attendance of nets fished from the beach in the far south of the fishery would mean added expense and danger for the fishermen. The main concern of the EA seems to be that removal of the need for attendance of nets in the Northumbrian area will lead to an increase in effort in this fishery for salmon and sea trout at a time when a reduction in effort is required, as evidenced by the succession of Net Limitation Orders. The principal purpose of the byelaw is to restore the controls on fishing effort in District 1 of the fishery. However, changes to regulations affecting the entire fishery are made in the name of consistency, when the fishery does not have a consistent character. The consultation documentation highlights significant regional differences in this fishery in terms of fishing practices, methodologies and catch levels. Mandatory attendance will not remove such differences, so consistency will not be achieved by this means. Consistency of bylaws relating to T and J netting throughout EA’s north east coast area will also not be achieved by this change to byelaws. Although the fish are generally caught by entanglement in meshes rather than by being trapped in net pockets, because the T and J nets are not of uniform construction throughout the area, they do not catch fish in a uniform manner. The byelaws show differences in construction of the Northumbrian and Yorkshire T nets, for example. There is also some doubt about the interpretation of the terms relating to fixing of the nets in the byelaws, requiring both T and J nets to “be, or intended to be, maintained stationary by anchor or weights”. There is some evidence that in the Northumbria area, the fishery is largely operated from boats, setting nets of 370 metres long and compliance is more with the intention for the nets to be maintained stationary than being fixed on the beach. In the southern part of the Yorkshire fishery, the nets are firmly fixed to the beach and are only half the permissible length as they are set from the beach and only operate over the tide range. The consultation documentation suggests that mandatory attendance reduces the levels of unwanted by-­‐catch such as non-­‐target species, cetaceans and seabirds. This will only be the case for those nets tended by vessel where immediate intervention is possible but not those set from the shore and tended from the shore at low-­‐tide, such as along the East Yorkshire coastline. Again, this would require consistency with IFCA byelaws to have much effect. Responses to Questions 1. How important is consistency is in achieving our stated objectives of a long term and sustainable salmon and sea trout fishery? It is important to be generally consistent in approach to the management of all inshore fisheries, not just that for salmon and sea trout. The approach needs to be tailored to regional variations in stock dynamics and associated activities. Net types, fishing methodologies, interactions with sea fisheries and stock dynamics have not been shown to be consistent throughout the fishery. Thus consistency of attendance will not bring about long-­‐term sustainability of the salmon and sea trout fishery. Other fisheries are managed by quota and seasonal restrictions based on current catch rates and bycatch of other species. Such other options need to be considered, e.g. bag limits by tag allocation. 2. Have we identified the right options to achieve our objectives or are there any options for regulating this aspect of the fishery we have missed? The IFM does not consider that the Environment Agency has identified the right options to achieve their objectives. The options proposed seem to have been carefully selected and argued to come to the conclusion that Option 5 is the only viable option to achieve the desired objective. The option of requiring attendance by condition on licence for those fishing in District 1 does not feature. It is also surprising that mandatory attendance at nets has not been a major consideration within previous Net Limitation Orders, and has relied, perhaps ultra vires, on enforcement of Northumberland IFCA’s legacy sea fisheries regulations. This situation could be addressed through a new SAFFA byelaw specific to District 1 only. This would maintain the status quo. The Agency needs to re-­‐consider its options. There are many others which might produce a sustainable salmon and sea trout fishery in the absence of the Northumbrian IFCA byelaw. These might include bag limits by tag allocation and separate licensing conditions based on the type of method used. The latter could also allow greater consistency with IFCA byelaws in relation to the management of other fixed engine fisheries. There is no need for consistency relating to attendance at nets across the districts, for the reasons noted above. 3. Which option do you feel is most appropriate for the future management of the fishery? None of the stated options. Restoration of the attendance requirement in District 1 or bag limit/quota by tag release would be preferable. Bass fishing and bycatch management in general need to be parts of the considerations, especially as regards consistency in the fishery. 4. If we were to introduce a byelaw to require attendance at nets, how would you define when a net is actually fishing or when a licensee can be considered to be in attendance at their nets? The Environment Agency has clearly given some attention to these questions. Whatever definitions are chosen, they should not represent such a change as to restrict or place additional burden on businesses in accordance with the Regulators Code and Hampton Principles and enforcement should be a significant consideration. The definitions should be discussed with the IFCAs, as these may affect other legitimate fishing activities and need to be consistently applied, e.g. to the bass fishery using the same nets. For intertidal beach nets, there may be little point in requiring attendance when the net is fishing, and they are usually attended at low tide to protect any catch. Perhaps this is when there should be at least daily attendance. Direct line of sight can be a very long distance at sea and may have little relevance if the net is too dangerous to approach whilst fishing. Contact: Stephen Axford BSc, PhD, FIFM, CEnv Chair, Administration & Management Specialist Section, IFM January 2015 [email protected]