Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium


"The Fish Gate" (1943) Michael Graham

"The trail of fisheries science is strewn with the opinions of those who, while partly right, were wholly wrong."

Managers are groping to cope with the realization that Maximum Sustained Yield has tended to lead to the overharvest of stocks … The European Union is currently looking at its fisheries policies with an eye to reducing their catch. … The key, as Michael Graham argued back in 1943, will be to regulate the number of boats on the ocean. Fewer boats would mean that fishermen could retain much of the fish they catch, reducing the number of dead fish that are thrown overboard because of catch restrictions. Such programs will be expensive and will sometimes encounter strong opposition from fishermen who are reluctant to comply. Nevertheless, governments and the industry must take firm steps to reduce the number of fishermen. This is the only way to ensure that the remaining fishermen can make a decent living from their profession without further decimating the world's stocks.

Click here to read "Fish Unlimited: How Maximum Sustained Yield Failed Fishermen" online.

"The End of the Line" (2005) Charles Clover at page 101

The Inexhaustible Sea ?

… the same old story: fishermen vote - fish don't.

Private Eye No 1381, 12th - 19th December 2014

The following articles, drawings and extracts covering 170 years are presented in reverse date order of publication i.e., the most recent first (from 2017 back to 1847).

Sustainable British cod on the menu after stocks recover

The Guardian, Wednesday 19th July 2017

A recovery from near total collapse has led North Sea cod stocks to be labelled as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council for the first time in 20 years.

Fish and chip lovers can now enjoy North Sea cod with a clear conscience, after the fishery was awarded sustainable status by the Marine Stewardship Council on Wednesday. Stocks of cod in the North Sea were once one of the world's great fisheries but plummeted by 84% between the early 1970s and 2006. They came perilously close to the total collapse seen in the Grand Banks fishery off Canada in the early 1990s, which has still not recovered.

But action to decommission fishing boats, ban catches in nursery areas and put larger holes in nets to allow young cod to escape has seen the stock rise fourfold since 2006. The MSC, a non-profit certification group, undertook a detailed 18-month study and has now approved the North Sea cod catch of 228 boats in Scotland and England, which represents the vast majority of the white fish fleet.

Sustainable North Sea cod will carry the MSC's blue label and is expected in supermarkets as early as next week, with Waitrose likely to be among the first to offer the fish. North Sea cod has never been approved by the MSC in the group's 20-year history and the MSC certification also requires fishers to protect cold water corals from damage by trawlers.

Currently, about 90% of cod in the UK is imported, mostly from Iceland and from Norwegian and Russian boats fishing in the Barents Sea, which have all gained MSC sustainability certification in recent years.

But now cod caught and landed in the UK will also be labelled sustainable. UK citizens eat about 70,000 tonnes of cod a year - 1 kg per person - and the proportion of UK cod consumed is now expected to rise. Industry group Seafish estimated there are over 10,000 takeaway fish and chip shops in the UK, serving about 380 million meals a year.

The UK fleet has been given a five-year approval from the MSC, subject to annual checks. The fleet will also have to adapt to new EU rules banning the discarding of bycatch - dead fish for which the fishermen have no landing quota - and the change of management regime after the UK leaves the EU.

The future of fisheries management has been a high profile part of the Brexit debate, with many fishermen arguing that taking control of UK waters would mean more fish for UK boats and better management. However, conservation groups have warned against diluting environmental protection and recent improvements to the common fisheries policy.

James Simpson, from the MSC, said the North Sea cod stocks have just recently reached a sustainable level. "You can literally keep on fishing forever," he said, if the protections against overfishing are maintained. This sustainable stock level is about 40% of the total estimated to once have been present.

Fisheries minister George Eustice said:

"The UK has played a leading role in the recovery of North Sea cod stocks and it's great news that this iconic species has been certified and recognised as sustainable seafood. As we prepare to leave the EU we have an opportunity to improve how we manage fish stocks in our waters."

The action that brought North Sea cod back from the brink hit fishing communities hard, with many boats taken out of service and fishing days limited. Mike Park, chair of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group, said:

"This [new accreditation] is a massive development for the catching sector and is a testament to the power of collective action. The years of commitment to rebuilding North Sea cod has shown that fishermen are responsible and can be trusted to deliver stable and sustainable stocks."

Lyndsey Dodds, head of UK marine policy at WWF, agreed that the improvement in cod stock showed what was possible when the fishing industry, managers and scientists worked together. But she said:

"The amount of North Sea cod at breeding age is well below late 1960s levels and recovery remains fragile. If we're to get North Sea cod back on British plates for good, it's vital that we don't lose focus on sustainably managing fish stocks and protecting the marine wildlife as the UK develops its post-Brexit fisheries policy."

The MSC hope their new accreditation for North Sea cod will help end the confusion some UK shoppers felt about the sustainability of cod. A 2015 survey found 28% of people thought cod was not sustainable and should not be eaten, while an equal proportion though the opposite.

Another sustainability scheme run by the Marine Conservation Society currently rates North Sea cod as not sustainable, but this rating is currently under review and could be changed within a month or two. In March, the MSC removed UK haddock from its sustainable seafood list.

EU ministers agree better deal for bass stocks but angling bodies claim the political fix was a missed opportunity

Angling Trust, Wednesday 14th December 2016

EU fisheries ministers have agreed a deal which recognises that targeted netting for threatened bass stocks is no longer an acceptable form of fishing.

At the 'Fishing Opportunities' meeting for 2017 in Brussels, proposals from the EU Commission calling for an end to netting for bass - which had the wholehearted support of recreational fishing organisations and conservation bodies - were discussed late into the night. The politicians agreed to restrict bass fishing to commercial hook and line and recreational angling only save for a series of over generous bycatch 'allowances' which anglers have slammed as a political fix.

Recreational fishing rules for bass remain the same at one fish a day per angler for the latter half of the year. A proposed monthly bag limit for anglers was rejected meaning that anglers have once again been disproportionately affected when they have by far the lowest impact on stocks and deliver the greatest economic benefit from the fishery.

Commercial trawlers are to be allowed a 3% bass bycatch - well in excess of the suggested 1% - and fixed gill nets are to be restricted to a bycatch allowance of 250 kg a month. Currently they have a monthly vessel allocation of 1,300 kg.

The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting this week followed the recent fisheries debate in the House of Commons where strong representations were made in favour of the Commission's proposals to help rebuild bass stocks following the ICES assessment for 2017. It also follows a strong campaign by the Angling Trust, Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society and other conservation organisations which saw over 11,000 people signing a national Save Our Sea Bass petition. Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust said:

"This looks like a shoddy political fix when set against the ICES advice for a complete moratorium and the Commission's original proposals for a hook and line and recreational only fishery not exceeding 1,000 tonnes per annum. However, we should be pleased that netting has been brought down by 80% from a 1,300 kg per month allocation to 250 kg monthly bycatch allowance. Whilst progress has been made, once again the politicians failed to follow the science and failed to do what is really needed to rebuild our threatened bass stocks. We intend to fight on."

Ministers resolved the following:

(7) According to scientific advice, sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) in the Celtic Sea, Channel, Irish Sea and southern North Sea (ICES divisions IVb, IVc and VIIa, VIId–VIIh) remains in a perilous state and the stock continues to decline. The conservation actions to prohibit fishing for sea bass should therefore be maintained in ICES divisions VIIa, VIIb, VIIc, VIIg, VIIj and VIIk, with the exception of the waters within 12 nautical miles of the baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Spawning aggregations of sea bass should be protected with commercial catches restricted further in 2017. On the basis of social and economic impacts limited fisheries using hooks and lines should be permitted, while providing for a closure to protect spawning aggregations. Additionally, due to incidental and unavoidable bycatches of sea bass by vessels using demersal trawls and seines, such bycatches should be limited to 3% of the weight of the total catch of marine organisms on board with a maximum of 400 kg per month. For the same reasons, for fixed gillnets bycatches should be limited to 250 kg per month. Catches of recreational fishermen from the Northern stock and, for precautionary reasons, from the stock in the Bay of Biscay should be restricted by a daily limit.

David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust added:

"It's very disappointing that the proposal for a more flexible monthly bag limit system for recreational catches was rejected but we intend to continue pursuing this for the future. Anglers may feel aggrieved at the outcome but I would urge them to look at the package of conservation measures as a whole and recognise that while far from perfect, conservation of the stock must be the priority and the move to a bycatch only fishery for nets does balance in part the disproportionate restrictions that EU fisheries ministers applied to angling in 2016."

2017 fishing opportunities in the North East Atlantic: EU Council agreement

Council of the European Union, Wednesday 14th December 2016

On 12th December 2016 the Agriculture and Fisheries Council reached a political agreement on a regulation concerning the 2017 catch limits for the main commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, the North Sea and international fisheries in which EU vessels participate. The agreement is based on the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yields (MSYs) by 2017 where possible, and by 2020 at the latest, while taking into account specific and fully justified socio-economic circumstances. Said Gabriela Matečná, Minister for agriculture and rural development of Slovakia and president of the Council:

"Sustainability has been the driver of today's agreement: the sustainability of our fish stocks, but also that of our fisheries sector. We have successfully reconciled different opinions to the benefit of all parties involved, and established the basis for the achievement of maximum sustainable yield."

The EU's ultimate objective is to bring the stocks to levels that can deliver MSY. This objective is one of the pillars of the reformed CFP, which requires that the MSY objective shall be achieved at the latest by 2020 for all stocks.

The CFP regulation also introduced the landing obligation which is progressively applicable from the beginning of 2015 to 2019. This means that fish that in the past would have been discarded have to be landed. As the landing obligation, which is already in place for certain demersal fisheries in the North Sea, North-Western and South-Western Atlantic waters, will be extended further in 2017, the Commission proposed to compensate for this with the so-called "TAC top-ups" for certain fish stocks.

On 13th December the Council adopted the following measures for sea bass in 2017:

The decision of the Council takes into account that artisanal hooks and line fisheries depend on sea bass to a greater extent and may not have other alternatives to catch.

Recreational anglers are asked to practise a catch and release fishery in the first half of the year and to limit their catches to one fish per day in the second half of 2017.

The Council also decided to close an area around Ireland for commercial fishing, namely the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea, south of Ireland and west of Ireland (ICES areas VIIa, b, c, g, j, k outside the UK 12 mile zone). This extends a national measure, which Ireland has had in place for Irish vessels since 1990, to cover all EU vessels active in the area.

The decision takes effect from 1st January 2017.

Halting the decline of sea bass and rebuilding this valuable stock is the objective of the Commission. Numerous jobs in the UK, France, Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe depend on commercial and recreational sea bass fishing and there are many small scale fishermen involved for whom sea bass is often their main source of income.

Recreational fishing (everything from angling equipment to boat rentals) plays an important role as well. There are more than 1.3 million recreational anglers in France and another 800,000 in the UK generating a lot of added value.

Estimates from various surveys suggest that the downstream value added is considerable. A potential collapse of this stock would have a very serious impact on the livelihoods of many fishermen and coastal communities. It is therefore vital to rebuild sea bass for the benefit of both commercial fishermen and recreational anglers: see "Sea Angling 2012 - a survey of recreational sea angling activity and economic value in England", Defra (2013) and Final Report:

"The surveys estimated there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy - in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million of gross value added (GVA). Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million of GVA."

"… Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling - almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore … The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish."

EU easing of fishing quotas raises fears over dwindling stocks

The Guardian, Wednesday 14th December 2016

Ministers accused of ignoring scientists' recommendations as UK fleets allowed to catch more cod, haddock and sole. British fishing fleets will be allowed to catch greater quantities of cod, haddock and sole next year, after Europe's ministers approved a new fishing quota that will cheer fish and chip shops but has alarmed scientists concerned over dwindling stocks.

The European Union's fisheries council reached an agreement in the early hours of Wednesday morning, in what may be one of the last such quota divisions in which the UK takes part if supporters of a hard Brexit have their way. Scientists warned that the EU catch limits for 2017 were above their recommendations, in contravention of the reforms to the common fisheries policy that are supposed to ensure levels of catch are sustainable by 2020. Nearly two-thirds of European fish stocks are overfished and 85% are below healthy levels.

UK fishing fleets will be allowed to catch 16.5% more cod in the North Sea, along with 17% more whiting, 20% more anglerfish and more than half as much saithe (pollock) as before. In the Irish Sea, they will be allowed to take a quarter more haddock and 8.6% more langoustines, while the Western Channel will yield an additional 7% on haddock and a fifth more sole.

George Eustice, the strongly pro-Brexit fisheries minister, lobbied forcefully against cuts to quotas that were proposed by the European commission on scientific grounds. He said:

"To deliver a profitable fishing industry, we must fish sustainably now and in the future. This year we were able to agree further increases on some valuable species. There have been challenges, especially on stocks like bass and cod in the south-west, where action to curtail catches have been necessary."

Sea bass fleets have had their catch reduced by 80%, and fishers of cod in the Celtic Sea have also seen a drastic reduction in their allowed take.

Eustice said the resolution struck "the right balance that delivers both for our marine environment and coastal communities". He also looked forward to a post-Brexit future for UK fisheries, saying:

"As we prepare to leave the EU we have an opportunity to build on progress made and improve the management of fish stocks in our waters, but we will continue to follow the principles of fishing sustainably and ending the wasteful practice of discarding fish."

Fishing became a flashpoint in the political campaigns before the EU referendum, with a flotilla sailing up the Thames in support of Brexit sparking a heated confrontation between Nigel Farage and Bob Geldof. Supporters of Brexit said it would give the UK's fishing fleets greater rights over the potential catch, but politicians in favour of remaining argued that the UK would still have to enter tough negotiations over its catch because all of its major fishing grounds are shared with other countries.

Lasse Gustavsson, the European executive director of Oceana, accused ministers who agreed the new quota of ignoring science in favour of short-term interests. He said:

"The consequences of today's irrational decision will live longer than the ministers' political mandates. Half of Atlantic stocks are already overfished and overfishing will now continue into 2017. It is difficult to understand why ministers fail to see the great opportunity of fish recovery for EU fishermen and citizens alike. Rebuilding stocks will create more jobs in the fishing industry and provide more healthy food for European tables. Why is that not a political priority?"

The European commission said the agreement brought 44 fish stocks in the EU to sustainable levels. Karmenu Vella, the environment commissioner, said:

"We have taken another important step towards sustainable fisheries, a core objective of the EU common fisheries policy. I am proud to say our push for healthy fish stocks is starting to pay off."

Squid set to top chippy menus as seawater warms up

The Guardian, Monday 12th December 2016

Great British cod supper is under threat as cold-water fish are replaced by warm-water species, says researcher.

It is the meal most associated with the UK, along with slurping tea and moaning about the weather. But the great British fish supper could be on the way out, replaced by more continental variations such as squid and chips, as seas continue to warm, the British Ecological Society will be told this week.

Britons may have to adopt a more continental diet when it comes to fish, as climate change sees cold-water fish such as cod gradually replaced by squid and other warm-water species, according to research led by Dr John Pinnegar of Cefas, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

"Our models for 2025 and beyond suggest that seawater temperature may continue to rise in the future," said Pinnegar. "As a result, UK waters will become more hospitable for some species and less suitable for others, with the overall result that most commercial species will move northwards."

Squid numbers have increased dramatically over the past 35 years in the North Sea, according to Cefas, which has monitored North Sea fish populations for the past 114 years. It said squid was found at 60% of its 76 survey stations in 2016, compared with just 20% in 1984. The organisation analyses records of where fish are caught and water temperature, to monitor the impact of climate change and fishing intensity to long-term changes in abundance.

Cod numbers have been slow to recover after overfishing drastically reduced their numbers, according to Cefas. While there was 1.3m tonnes of cod in the North Sea in 1971, numbers fell to 124,000 tonnes in 2004. Following the imposition of fish stock quotas, that increased to 295,000 tonnes in 2016, but scientists believe cod reproduction has been hampered by warming waters.

The UK became a net importer of fish in 1984, a year after the Common Fisheries Policy and its quotas were introduced. Two-thirds of British catch - including scallops and langoustines - are exported, while British consumers remain loyal to varieties of traditional fish no longer caught by Britons, such as cod.

"UK consumers enjoy eating quite a limited range of seafood, but in the long term we will need to adapt our diets," said Pinnegar. "In 2025 and beyond, we may need to replace cod and other old favourites with warm-water species such as squid, mackerel, sardine and red mullet."

Pinnegar, who will present his results at the British Ecological Society annual meeting at ACC, Liverpool, on Monday, said small-scale fisheries targeting warm-water species such as squid, sardine and anchovy would be likely to overtake fisheries catching more traditional species such as haddock and cod.

The Scottish Fisherman's Federation recently argued that Brexit could help the UK's fishing industry to become a world-leading seafood exporter like Norway, the world's leading producer of salmon and the second largest seafood exporter. Bertie Armstrong, its chief executive, said the referendum result would enable Britain to regain control of its waters after decades of "common grazing" rights given to European neighbours.

EU proposes total commercial fishing ban on Atlantic bass

The Guardian, Thursday 27th October 2016

Move would also cut Scottish whiting catches to zero, while Celtic cod and Irish sole face hefty reductions to prevent stocks collapsing.

The European commission has proposed closures on commercial fishing for bass in the Atlantic and whiting in the waters west of Scotland from next year, in order to prevent a collapse in fish stocks. The total allowable catch (TAC) for cod in the Celtic Sea will also be cut by 68% under the plan, while sole quotas in the Irish Sea will be trimmed by a hefty 82%. The move, to cut bass catches from 570 tonnes a year to zero, follows what the EU calls "very alarming" advice from fisheries scientists, who found that numbers had fallen below "safe biological limits".

The same was true for Celtic cod, although cod from the North Sea which makes up a much higher percentage of British catches is in a healthier state and will be unaffected.

"Celtic Sea cod could collapse" without the proposed limits, one EU official said. "There is a reason why scientists are recommending such harsh proposals" the source added. "There are just not enough fish in the sea." The official dismissed any hope that the share of overall fish catches allocated to the UK could change after Brexit. "This is not on the table" the official told the Guardian.

A final decision on next year's quotas will be taken by EU ministers at a summit in December. EU sources predicted a "very difficult" meeting at the council, where ministers traditionally vie to appear strong in defence of their domestic fishing industries. The news for the UK's fishermen from Brussels was not all bad. Quotas for sole in the western Channel will be raised 20% and for haddock in the Irish Sea by 7% while North Sea mackerel landings will also go up.

Exemptions from the sea bass embargo are slated for anglers, who will be able to catch 10 sea bass a month in 2017 - down from 30 - and for artisanal hook-and-line fishermen, whose catch limit will only be reduced to 10 tonnes a year.

But quotas for herring, whose numbers have plunged in recent years, will be cut by 16%.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

"Quotas play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of our stocks, striking a balance between a profitable fishing industry and flourishing marine environment. We will work hard in upcoming negotiations to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry - both now, and for the future."

The EU's environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said:

"We need to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible so that our fishing industry can remain viable. We are proposing an ambitious programme for 2017 and the only way forward will be to work with fishermen, scientists and national authorities to develop real solutions that lead to fisheries that are both economically profitable and sustainable."

The EU's common fisheries policy has promised to phase out overfishing by 2020, by imposing a maximum sustainable yield system that can lower or raise fishing quotas according to scientific advice about the health of stocks. For 2017, the commission foresees a rise in TACs for sole in the western Channel, Norway lobster, anglerfish, haddock, hake and horse mackerel, mostly in the North Sea. But big reductions have also been pencilled in for cod, sole, plaice, megrim and pollack in the Celtic and Irish Seas.

Conservationists welcomed the commission's announcement. Lasse Gustavsson, the European director of charity Oceana, said:

"Nearly half of all fish populations in the Atlantic - and particularly the North Sea - are being overfished. Any deviation from scientific advice would simply be irresponsible governance. The potential that stock recovery holds for the environment, and also for jobs in the fishing industry, is huge."

British fish quotas post Brexit

Daily Telegraph, Monday 31st October 2016

British fishermen will be able to catch hundreds of thousands of tonnes more fish after Brexit because it will be able to overhaul "unfair" fishing quotas, the fisheries minister has said. George Eustice said that Brexit will provide a "good deal" for fishermen because current quotas give a "disproportionately large" share of catches to fishermen from the EU. He said that after Brexit the UK will strike new "reciprocal" arrangements with the European Union which will give fishermen a greater share of catches in British waters and abroad. He said that while a member of the European Union negotiations about fishing quotas had stalled because of the "institutionalised inertia" of Brussels. He told The Daily Telegraph:

"It's pretty clear that Brexit can be a good deal for British fishermen because we regain control. The equation is that they have 1 million tonnes of UK fish and we get about 150,000 tonnes of fish of various species. There are areas we would hope to get a better deal, particularly with cod and plaice. The truth is that things will change in a very fundamental way. In the Channel the French get twice as much plaice and three times as much Dover sole as we do, there is an imbalance."

Mr Eustice believes that fishermen in the Channel and the West Country could particularly benefit from reforms to fishing quotas. He highlighted the fact that Britain's share of plaice and sole in the English Channel is "incredibly low", with a similar situation for cod and haddock in the Celtic sea. He said that here is no "balance" to Britain's fishing agreements with the EU, and that it "benefits more from access to the UK than the UK benefits from access to them".

It came as French fishermen accused their British rivals of 'plundering' scallops in the Channel, saying Brexit could leave UK trawlers free to increase their catches without the constraints of EU regulations. Daniel Lefévre, head of the Lower Normandy Fisheries' Committee, said:

"Not only are the English pillaging a resource that we've been protecting for more than 30 years, but the scallops they fish and freeze are coming back to be sold in France, competing with our fresh scallops."

The French are aggrieved because they say they are already subject to stricter fishing limits than the British, and they fear Brexit will now disentangle UK boats from the complex web of EU rules. Mr Lefévre explained that under national regulations to prevent overfishing, French fishermen are obliged to respect strict quotas. These rules do not apply to the British, who are subject to 'more lenient' British and EU regulations: "After Brexit, Britain would perhaps not be bound by EU regulations. We hope we can agree on a solution with our British friends before the UK leaves.

"The problem is that the British see only the business side of things while we are thinking about conservation too. French fishermen are only allowed to catch scallops six months a year but the British can fish them all year round."

French fishermen have long been disgruntled that their British competitors are not bound by the same rules as they are. In 2012, British fishermen requested protection from the Royal Navy as 40 French boats surrounded five UK vessels during the so-called 'Scallop War'. The French claimed that the British were fishing in an exclusion zone in the Channel at a time of year when dredging for scallops was banned. The British said they had permission to fish all year round.

EU fisheries scientists advise ZERO bass landings in 2017

The Bass Blog, Friday 1st July 2016

The advice of the European Unions fishery scientists for the management of bass stocks in 2017 in the area that includes the UK is:

"ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catch (commercial and recreational) in 2017."

We will report further here on this and our suggested response to this in the next few days. It is worth remembering however that in recent years when increasingly severe reductions in landings have been recommended to prevent further stock decline, commercial fishermen have lobbied against restrictions and politicians have largely ignored their own scientists' advice. It is therefore no surprise to many of us that we have reached this sad state of affairs.

The ICES report is here.

The Daily Express, Wednesday 30 December 2015 at page 2

Farage fury at EU ban on anglers keeping fish

Nigel Farage yesterday launched an angry attack on the EU for imposing "wrong and disproportionate" new limits on recreational sea angling.

The Ukip leader, a keen amateur shore fisherman, is furious about a ban on anglers keeping any bass they catch.

From New Year's Day, rules imposed by Brussels for six months mean anglers must throw back any sea bass.

From July until the end of 2016, they will be limited to keeping one bass per catch.

Breaching the ban could trigger a fine of up to £50,000.

Commercial trawlers will also be covered by the ban, although some vessels will be permitted to retain up to 1.3 tons of bass "to cover unavoidable by-catches".

Brussels officials said the measures - rubber stamped by an EU summit this month - were crucial to protect stocks.


But in an article for political website Breitbart London, Mr Farage wrote:

"I do not mind sensible conservation measures, but to be allowed to catch fish by the ton next to a boat fishing for pleasure but allowed to land none seems mad. This will have a huge impact on the angling trade. Why would people pay several hundreds of pounds to hire a boat and skipper if they can't take some fish home for supper?"

Mr Farage also attacked the Government for failing to oppose the ban.

"These measures are utterly disproportionate and wrong. George Eustice, our minister in charge of fisheries, should hang his head in shame for not standing up to the Brussels bullies," Mr Farage wrote. "There is no way a UK Parliament would have issued such a measure. Every MP representing a port with angling boats and shops would have protested. Yet, passed by the European Commission and nodded through the Council of Ministers, there is nothing we can do. Except, that is, vote to leave the EU in 2016."

Mr Farage said Brussels was now

"even coming after our hobbies and recreations. Our absolute freedom and right as enshrined in Magna Carta has dictated that from the high tide mark to the low is common land," he wrote. "We are free if we choose to go and catch fish. I have found this to be a great escape from a busy life." He added: "A huge part of it, call it hunter-gatherer if you wish, is taking fish home to cook."

Mr Farage said he recognised bass was a "popular fish" on restaurant menus. "Too many fish being caught is clearly bad news," he said. "It would be a mistake not to acknowledge we have a problem with the overall number of bass in our seas. But can this really be the fault of part-time, longline anglers like myself?"

Brussels officials have estimated that a quarter of bass caught go to anglers. But Mr Farage disputed this figure calling it "completely laughable". He said: "I'd be very surprised in reality if even 10 per cent of the bass caught are the responsibility of anglers." The European Commission said its decision was based on fishing numbers from the UK, France and the Netherlands as well as "the latest scientific advice."

A statement from the commission said: "Halting the decline of sea bass and rebuilding this valuable stock is the number one guiding principle for the commission."

Cod and haddock catches to increase under EU fishing quotas

The Guardian, Wednesday 16th December 2015

More cod, haddock, plaice and sole will be permitted to be caught in UK waters next year but conservationists warn that overfishing continues to be a threat.

Consumers can expect to see more plaice, cod, haddock and sole on sale in shops and restaurants following recoveries in fish populations around the UK coast and more relaxed catch fish limits as a result of overnight negotiations between EU ministers. From next year, fishermen will be allowed to catch twice as many plaice in the Channel, 15% more cod and 47% more haddock in the North Sea, 15% more sole in the western Channel and 20% more Celtic Sea hake.

Restrictions on plaice were relaxed after the fish showed a dramatic recovery of around 300% in a decade, attributed to the success of previous quotas. But conservationists warned that lifting limits now could impact negatively on many fragile fish populations still recovering from years of overfishing.

"Some quotas continue to allow severe overfishing, threatening the sustainability of the stock and the industry that relies on it," said Liane Veitch, a scientist for the green legal group Client Earth. Reaction from the think tank the Pew Trusts was more guarded, pending disclosure of the scientific evidence on which the decisions were based.

"The good news is that ministers adopted many fishing limits in line with the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)", said Andrew Clayton, the trust's fisheries' project director. "For other stocks, however, ministers exceeded the ICES advice. This makes implementing the CFP (common fisheries policy) more difficult, so it is important that ministers make public the justification for these decisions."

Quotas for fish species such as herring, anchovies and langoustines were tightened by ministers though, in line with the EU's reformed CFP, which requires all species to be sustainably fished by 2020 at the latest.

The news was welcomed by the fishing industry. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said:

"These quota rises for some of our most important stocks is good news for the industry and underlines the sustainable fishing practices of the Scottish fleet. Haddock is particularly important for the Scottish industry and this quota increase, along with those for North Sea cod and a number of other species, provides a welcome boost for our fishermen."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs credited the substantial quota increases to "tough UK-driven decisions" which it said would improve fish stocks and industry profitability. "By fighting for the fishing industry, and making a clear case for the need for more sustainable fishing, we have got a good deal and shown we can get what we need in Europe", said George Eustice, the fisheries minister. "That's just what we're also doing in this European renegotiation (over EU membership), fighting hard for the UK."

An EU proposal for a six-month ban on the fishing of severely depleted bass populations was whittled down to a two-month ban in the negotiations, with monthly limits for commercial fishing, and a one-a-day rule for recreational anglers.

The phasing-in of an embargo on fish discards will also be extended to some species of haddock, whiting and sole from January.

The EU's environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella , insisted that the new decision showed the EU was on track to meet its CFP goals:

"We cannot jeopardise longer term sustainability for shorter term considerations. I am happy to announce that we have made good progress."

Fish to eat

Fish to avoid

Catch and release for bass CAN continue in the first half of 2016

The Bass Blog, Tuesday 15th December 2015

It appears that both our ongoing campaign for sustainable levels of bass landings and our recent campaign to ensure catch and release CAN take place during the first 6 months of 2016 has resulted in some success. After the EU fisheries meeting that ran late into the night, George Eustice (the UK Fisheries Minister) stated:

"On bass, we secured allowances for sustainable methods of fishing and anglers can still catch bass on a catch and release basis during the six month closed period."

The high volume of your emails made a big difference on this and we should be proud of our efforts. We are now another step towards proper protection for our bass, however in 2016 bass landings will still be greater than 3 times the sustainable level and there is so much more needed. It also seems (details are still sketchy) the Ministers folded and exemptions for inshore commercial fishermen have been made no matter what method they use. If this is so it means no regard has been made to the impact of the method as it should in line with Article 17 of the "new" Common Fisheries Policy.

Overall though this is a battle won but the war very much continues. More information and comment will follow on the site.

"The Road to Little Dribbling" (2015) Bill Bryson at pages 264 and 265

Chapter 18

Grimsby in the early twentieth century was the largest fishing port in the world. Not in Britain, not in northern Europe, but in the world. I have seen photographs of giant stacks of ling, a large cod-like fish that once abounded in British waters, piled higher than a man's head on the Grimsby dockside. Each ling was about six feet long. No fisherman alive today has seen a ling that big. In 1950, Grimsby's fleet brought in 1,100 tonnes of ling. Today the annual haul is eight tonnes. And ling was only ever a small part of the overall catch. Cod, halibut, haddock, skate, wolf fish and other species most of us have never heard of were heaped on the docks in staggering, but unsustainable, volumes. In a generation, beam trawlers scraped the seabed bare, turning much of the North Sea floor into a marine desert. In 1950, Grimsby landed over 100,000 tonnes of cod. Today it brings in under 300. Altogether Grimsby's annual wet fish catch has fallen from nearly 200,000 tonnes to just 658 tonnes - and even those paltry numbers, according to the York University oceanographer Callum Roberts, are more than the denuded North Sea can sustain. In a riveting book called Ocean of Life, Roberts notes that every year the fisheries ministers of Europe agree quotas that are on average one third higher than the levels recommended by their own scientists.

EC proposal for no bass fishing in the first half of 2016 …

WSF, Tuesday 10th November 2015

The European Commission has launched proposals for the management of bass stocks within the Atlantic and North Sea Region for 2016. This is important for the sea angler as it includes the following passage:

7) What about sea bass?
Sea bass is a special case: real management measures for sea bass were only put in place in January 2015 and catch limits were only put in place in June 2015. The Commission is therefore building on the measures taken in 2015 to halt the dramatic decline in this important stock. Today's proposal includes a complete fishing ban for commercial vessels and recreational anglers in the first half of 2016. For the second half of 2016, the Commission is proposing a monthly one tonne catch limit for vessels targeting sea bass, and a one fish bag limit for recreational anglers. It is also proposing to maintain the closure for commercial fishing around Ireland.

This signals that the European Commission is preparing to ban fishing for bass (commercial and recreational) for the first half of 2016 and for the second half introduce a one fish bag limit for recreational anglers thereafter. The full EC Press Release reads as follows:

The European Commission proposes fish quotas (Total Allowable Catches) for 2016 for the Atlantic and the North Sea. The Commission proposes to maintain or increase the fish quotas for 35 stocks, and reduce catches for 28 stocks on the basis of the scientific advice received.

The Commission is proposing an increase in fishing opportunities to help fishermen in the transition to the new obligation to land all catches. This is the first time the Commission proposes so-called quota "top ups" for all the fisheries under the landing obligation as of 2016. This extra quota aims to compensate fishermen for the extra fish they will have to land. On the basis of scientific advice to be received by mid-November the Commission will, later in the month, propose the catch increase including all the quantities that need to be landed.

The Commission's goal, and one of the pillars of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels, respecting the Maximum Sustainable Yield. Fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield levels allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy. The Commission proposes bringing the stocks to Maximum Sustainable Yield levels on the basis of scientific advice received from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This year, advice was given for 34 stocks. Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said:

"My objective is clear and ambitious: I want us to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible. I am happy that for a number of fish stocks we can propose quota increases and achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield in 2016. The efforts of our fishermen paid off and we are here to support them also in making the transition to landing all fish caught. For other fish stocks however cuts need to be made so that we can protect the future of those stocks."

This proposal will be presented by Commissioner Vella and submitted to discussion to the Ministers of the Member States at the December Fisheries Council to be applied as from 1 January 2016.

Today's proposal is the annual proposal for the amount of fish which can be caught by European Union fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks next year. It covers stocks managed by the EU alone and stocks managed with third countries such as Norway or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) across the world's oceans.

International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still ongoing. The proposal therefore only includes figures for about half of the TACs at this stage. It will be completed once negotiations with third countries and within RFMOs have taken place.

Details of the proposal

For some EU stocks already at MSY, such as megrims in the North Sea and horse mackerel in Iberian and Western waters, the Commission proposes to increase TACs.

At the same time, some stocks have not greatly improved since last year. Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea continue to be in a bad state. Sole stocks in areas such as the Irish Sea, Eastern Channel or Bay of Biscay are very vulnerable. Advice for haddock and cod in the Celtic Sea demands considerable TAC cuts to bring them to MSY levels. Cod in the West of Scotland, which sees extremely high rates of discarding, is still at a risk of collapse. Advice for the northern stock of sea bass also calls for significant cuts in catch levels. The Commission has included proposals for managing sea bass in 2016 in its proposal.

For many of these stocks, even more selective fishing techniques are urgently needed, so that young fish are not caught before they can reproduce and replenish the fish stocks. This is particularly urgent for fisheries in the Celtic Sea and the Western waters, where a big effort is needed by Member States and the fishing industry to implement the selectivity measures advised by scientists. This will also help the fishing sector to comply with the obligation to land all catches, which will apply to more and more stocks in the coming years.

For stocks where data are not good enough to properly estimate their size, the Commission proposal goes in the direction of advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), with cuts or increases of a maximum of 20%. Following a Council decision last year on precautionary reductions, TAC proposals are maintained at 2015 levels for 26 of these stocks.

For a limited number of EU stocks, the Commission has received the scientific advice only recently. The advice will be further analysed before the Commission proposes a TAC figure later in the autumn.

For fish stocks shared with third countries (Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Russia), the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, negotiates towards the end of each year the quantities of fish to be caught the following year.

For the stocks in international waters and for highly migratory species, such as tuna, the European Commission, representing the EU, negotiates fish quotas in the framework of RFMOs. These must subsequently be transposed into EU law.

More information:

Questions and Answers on Commission's proposal on fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2016

North Sea cod taken off red list

The Guardian, Friday 25th September 2015

Conservationists have taken North Sea cod off a red list of "fish to avoid" eating, as the ailing fishery begins to show signs of recovery. The fishery, which collapsed in the 1980s as a result of overfishing, has risen above dangerously low levels for the first time after years of reduced fishing and efforts to avoid catching cod in mixed fisheries, the Marine Conservation Society said.

The signs of improvement have led the MCS, which assesses seafood on a traffic light system and a one to five rating where one is the most sustainable, to raise the fishery to an "amber" rating and a level four recommendation it should be eaten only very occasionally. But the conservation group warned cod may never return to its pre-collapse glory days and more effort was needed to boost its populations to healthy levels. An MCS fisheries officer, Samuel Stone, said:

"It's fantastic to see this fishery finally off the red list. Years of sacrifice and a lot of hard work have led to population increases above dangerously low levels. Whilst this is certainly is a milestone for North Sea cod, the job is not done yet. Efforts of recent years need to continue in order for the fishery to head towards the green end of the spectrum."

He said cod numbers needed to rise and catches should be further reduced to levels where they are being fished without depleting the population, with all cod stocks in the UK still being fished above that level. Decades of overfishing which reduced populations and the size and age of cod, along with the warming of the region's seas have cut the reproductive success of the cod in the North Sea, the MCS said. With the seas continuing to warm, the slower and lower the recovery may be.

There is also bad news for nine other, smaller, cod fisheries in the north-east Atlantic which remain red-listed by the MCS, including those fished from the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, and West of Scotland.

From being widely caught and landed in UK ports, cod is now the country's most imported species, with most coming from the north-east Arctic and Iceland where fisheries are doing well but some fish from depleted fisheries finding its way into products. And a proportion of our imports are fished in Europe and then sent to China to be processed before being imported, making it hard to tell where the cod was originally caught, the conservation group said.

The MCS is urging consumers to ask exactly where their cod is from and businesses to check their supply chains to avoid red listed fish. The latest update of the FishOnline website which advises consumers on eating sustainable seafood also warns that all wild caught sea bass is now on the "fish to avoid" list as the fishery faces collapse. Whiting from the Irish Sea has also slipped down into the red list, as the population is severely depleted with high numbers of young fish being caught as bycatch in scampi fisheries.

Editor's note: Despite the good news, Professor Callum Roberts - one of the world's leading fisheries scientists - points out that North Sea cod are still way below their historic levels, and cod stocks along the west coast of the UK and in the Irish Sea have declined and hardly show any signs of recovery. This news on North Sea cod stocks led the MCS to remove cod from their fish to avoid list, as the BBC reported. However, it must be noted that the MCS states that North Sea cod are still only classed as a fish to eat occasionally, and that commercial pressure needs to continue to reduce.

Praise be to cod

Mail Online, Thursday 20th August 2015

It's not just the perfect chip supper - it's the fish that built the Empire. And after nearly being hunted to extinction, it's bouncing back.

Britain's national bird may be the robin, as a recent poll decided, but our national fish is surely the cod. Not because of its beauty - it's hardly a picturesque creature, with its bug eyes, big mouth and rubbery lips. But because it has been so firmly part of our diet for centuries.

The word 'cod' conjures up one thing in many Britons' minds - fish and chips. To many there's no finer supper. Yet just a few years ago, cod stocks ran so low that the fish was almost in danger of extinction in UK waters. It seemed our romance with this extraordinary fish had reached its end.

Or had it? The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, which collates information on fish stocks across Europe and advises the UK government, now says cod numbers are increasing, thanks to strict catch limits set in place in 2006. It notes that fisheries are reporting ‘strong increases' in cod stocks in the North Sea and recommends a new Europe-wide cod quota for 2016 to over 40,000 tonnes of fish - an increase of 15% on 2015.

If the experts are right, we should all be celebrating. For our centuries-old love affair with this unlikely hero is woven into our history - leading, as it did, to the discovery of America, helping to build the Empire and becoming one of the most powerful forces in Western society.

The cod is cumbersome, greedy and swims close to the shore with its mouth agape, swallowing anything in its way, including baby cod. It is indolent - the flaking white flesh comes from the fact that it hardly uses its muscles - and produces its own anti-freeze which allows it to live in very cold waters. The trouble is that, as Mark Kurlansky explains in his marvellous book, Cod: A Biography Of The Fish That Changed The World, its appetite and sloth make it an all-too-easy catch.

Yet none of this appeared to matter because the fish bred so easily - even its name refers to its reproductive capacity. In Middle English, 'cod' meant 'bag, sack or scrotum' (which explains why those prominent purses 16th-century men wore at their crotch became known as codpieces).

The Vikings, who probably discovered the New World long before Columbus, were sustained on their long voyages by cured cod, dried to a plank-like stiffness, which they broke off in bits and chewed. The fish was eminently suited to the purpose, since it had little fat and so wouldn't spoil. Cod was the fuel that kept them going, their equivalent to astronaut's space food.

The Basques took up the trade in the early medieval period. To keep their catch palatable after such long voyages, they salted the cod. It was the original super food: when dried, it becomes highly concentrated, with 80% protein.

By the 15th century, the English were firmly in on the act. It was their hunger for cod that sent English ships to the New World. Indeed, recently, a letter came to light showing they were fishing off the coast of America ten years before Columbus claimed it for Spain. Soon after, in 1497, John Cabot discovered what he called New Found Land and claimed it for England. It was said that Cabot merely had to lower a basket and pull it back up to find it filled with fish. Fishing off Newfoundland took off like a gold rush as European countries moved in. By 1550, 60% of all fish eaten in Europe was cod.

The industry sparked a massive boom in shipbuilding. In 1602, an English lawyer and explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold, sailed past the coast of what was later Massachusetts and named it Cape Cod.

A couple of decades later, the Pilgrim Fathers, who had set out on the Mayflower, started building up cod stations, and by the 18th century the so-called 'cod aristocracy' had made their fortunes and were building mansions decorated with gilded cod motifs.

Meanwhile, British sailors patrolling the seas of the growing Empire were nourished on salted cod, and slaves working for plantation owners in the Caribbean existed on it.

Truly, the British Empire was built on cod. The fish were so large and so numerous it was said one could walk across Cape Cod Bay on their backs. In those days, cod grew to huge sizes, as big as a man. Cod and chips become firmly established during the Industrial Revolution with the advent of the railway, which could take fresh fish to growing towns inland - the idea of deep-frying fish had arrived in the 16th century with Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain,

Fish, of course, was part of our religiously determined diet. Christians could not consume meat on Fridays and other fast days, so cod made Fridays more pleasurable.

Charles Dickens mentions 'fried fish warehouses' in Saffron Hill, Holborn, in Oliver Twist, published in 1838. And in his Pickwick Papers, Christmas dinner consists, not of turkey, but of 'a huge cod fish' too big for its basket, along with dozens of native oysters.

But it wasn't until 1860 that one Joseph Malin opened the first fish and chip shop, in London's East End. Britain's modern love of cod had begun, and the dish became a staple throughout the land. As our consumption of it changed, with better transport and more industrial-scale fishing, the trawler men could barely keep up with the demand. Even so, it seemed the fish would last for ever. We could not look beneath what Moby Dick author Herman Melville called 'the ocean's skin', and peer into the waters. If we could, we would have realised they were rapidly emptying.

By the late 20th century, as Mark Kurlansky writes, we were 'at the wrong end of a 1,000-year fishing spree'. Fishermen began to notice their traditional waters were drying up. Disputes between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights broke out into Cod Wars with trawlers ramming one another, and trawling lines being cut as supplies ran dry. Fifteen years ago the cod was almost extinct. Drastic measures were set in place to limit fishing with quotas. This week comes the good news that those restrictions are working. So is the future of the cod assured?

I asked the opinion of one of Britain's most eminent voices on the subject, the marine biologist Professor Callum Roberts, of the University of York. In his recent book, Oceans of Life, Professor Roberts describes the heart-breaking damage that has been done by over-fishing. But he also points up optimistic ways of reversing that trend. What did he think about the new report? Could we really be ready to eat British cod again with a clear conscience?

"We are still well off the target and overfishing is still taking place," he told me. "The good news is that cod stocks in the North Sea are increasing again after decades of decline." Yet he remains cautious. "They are still well below target management levels and far below the historical biomass. If we keep these trends up for another few years, we may be able to go back to eating North Sea cod. However, the trends are terrible on the west coast and in the Irish Sea where cod collapsed in the Nineties and shows no sign of recovery."

If we are really to call our efforts successful, Professor Roberts says, we will need to end a deadly combination: the use of "highly destructive prawn trawling with fine mesh nets" which catches the juvenile cod before they reach maturity, and scallop dredging which destroys the eco-system of the bottom of the ocean that cod prefer.

It may sound odd, but Professor Roberts observes that if we caught fewer fish for now, we would in time be able to catch more by easing the pressure on breeding cod. A reduction in catch could result in 60% more fish, he notes. As he adds, succinctly: "A forester who cuts down more trees than he plants will soon run out of wood."

There are, of course, alternatives to cod, although the wary British have been slow to adopt them. There was uproar last year when a survey discovered that one in six cod suppers sold in fish and chip shops weren't actually cod.

Conservationists have urged us to try more sustainable species. Pollack is a white fish very like cod in texture, and, to some, tastes just as good. Even better is bay whiting, which, in the interests of research, I ate at the excellent Rockfish fish and chip restaurant in Torquay.

Yet for many of us, it is cod which harks back to our childhood seaside visits, eaten out of newspaper with a hefty lashing of vinegar and dusted with salt. For that reason, perhaps more than any other, this melancholy-looking fish will remain a vital symbol of our connection with the sea, and the role it has played in the history of our island nation.

42 cm bass size limit - it's the law

Planet Sea Fishing, Friday, 31st July 2015

The EU has directed that the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) for bass will be increased from 36 cm to 42 cm (16½ in) across all northern European waters in an effort to protect the stock and allow female bass to spawn. This will come into effect on the Tuesday, 1st September 2015 and the new rule applies to both commercial and recreational fishermen. In addition to retaining no more than three fish per day recreational anglers will now be required to release all bass caught below 42 cm.

The EU "Q & A" can be viewed here

This completes the package of measures for 2015 aimed at dramatically reducing bass fishing mortality. Other parts of the package included a ban on winter pelagic trawling for bass, a three fish per day bag limit for recreational anglers and most recently monthly vessel limits for commercial bass fisheries.

The increase in MCRS is a move that the Angling Trust and Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society (BASS) have battled for more than a decade to get adopted and is a big step towards reducing bass fishing mortality and managing the stock sustainably by allowing at least some female bass the chance to spawn - something female bass can only start to do when they reach around 42 cm in length.

No increase in mesh sizes for commercial fisheries have been proposed alongside the increase in MCRS in a bid to reduce the amount of 'micro-management' from Brussels - a long standing criticism from the commercial fishing industry.

As a result, commercial fishermen are being expected to change fishing gears voluntarily in order to avoid the time and expense of catching fish below 42cm which, from September 1st when the new MCRS comes in to force, they will be unable to sell. The new measure will remain in place until reviewed (before the end of 2017), amended or overtaken by an overhaul of technical measures or the introduction of multi-annual plans.

New protections for sea bass to come into effect

New Food, Wednesday, 5th August 2015

New restrictions on the fishing of sea bass will come into effect in the UK from as early as 1 September. This is following action by UK government to protect the species, Fisheries Minister George Eustice announced today. The new controls are the result of continued lobbying in Europe to introduce new commercial and recreational fishing restrictions for bass. These measures will address the long-term decline in bass stocks due to overfishing and support British fishermen for the future by ensuring sustainable bass fishing and angling.

From next month, fishermen and anglers will be prevented from catching juvenile bass under 42cm in size, giving female bass the chance to grow to an age where they can spawn. This will strengthen our stocks by creating a new generation of fish for us to catch more sustainably. Commenting on the new measures, Fisheries Minister George Eustice said:

"We've been consistent in Europe on the need to protect sea bass and the measures we've secured this year are vital to improving the health of our stocks. We can't be complacent and while these measures are a significant step in kick-starting progress we have to ensure any recovery is sustained. That's why we'll be working closely with EU Member States, fishermen and anglers to build on this success and secure long-term improvement in the years to come."

A minimum catch size will allow bass to grow to spawning age. The UK Government spearheaded the introduction of the restrictions and worked closely with the EU Commission and Member States to develop a package covering:

Full details on the Increase in bass minimum conservation reference size can be found here.

Bass stocks on brink of collapse

Guardian, Friday 10th July 2015

Call for temporary fishing ban if EU agreement to manage critically low stocks can't be reached.

Urgent action is needed to prevent rapidly declining sea bass stocks from collapsing, conservationists have warned. A temporary ban on all fishing of wild bass may be needed if agreement to manage stocks cannot be reached, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said after new scientific advice warned the situation for the species was getting worse.

Last year, the scientific experts at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) called for total catches of both recreational and commercial fisheries to be cut by 80% to stem the declines. The MCS said the population in the north east Atlantic had been rapidly declining since 2010 and was on track to plummet to levels from which it could struggle to recover. A failure by European Union countries to agree a management plan for bass stocks led to emergency measures to ban pelagic trawling - fishing away from the bottom of the sea in the water column - for the spawning period between January and April this year.

Member states have now reached an agreement on restrictions on catches for commercial fisheries, a three-fish bag limit for recreational fishermen and an extension of the moratorium of commercial fishing for sea bass around Ireland to include all vessels. But the restrictions are predicted to reduce catches by only 60% for pelagic trawlers, 22% for demersal vessels (which fish along the bottom of the sea) and 6% for hook and line fisheries, well below the 80% reduction urged by ICES.

Samuel Stone, fisheries officer at MCS, warned that the lack of agreement between EU member states over how to manage valuable stocks of bass, popular with restaurants and shops, left the fish and its fishermen facing a very uncertain future.

"Fishery management measures that sufficiently reduce catches are urgently needed to reverse the fortunes of this fish; if such measures cannot be agreed and implemented quickly, a complete moratorium on fishing for sea bass may well be necessary in the foreseeable future."

He said the latest advice from ICES was for a catch of just 541 tonnes in 2016 in the North East Atlantic, half the UK's catch of 1,000 tonnes last year. France caught even more bass than the UK in 2014, catching 1,300 tonnes, he said.

"The stock is in rapid decline, and much more needs to be done - and urgently - to prevent this iconic and important fishery from collapsing."

Recreational bass angling at the European parliament

Angling Trust, 16th April 2015

The Angling Trust represented sea anglers at the highest level in Europe this week at an event on the long term management of recreational bass fisheries. David Mitchell, the Angling Trust's Marine Campaigns Manager, attended the event at the European Parliament in Brussels organised by the new Forum for Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment. More than 40 people, including 10 MEPs, attended the event which was hosted by Alain Cadec MEP and chair of the EU Fisheries Committee. Presentations were made by Mr Cadec, members of the European Anglers Alliance, the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association and by Bernhard Friess, Director of Fisheries at the European Commission.

Mr Friess confirmed that the Commission (which has just released its own Q&A document on bass) will soon propose to the EU Member States new catch limits for all commercial fisheries and an increase of the minimum landing size to 42 cm for all fisheries - something the Angling Trust called for in February after proposals were put forward earlier this year for a new MLS to apply only to recreational catches. Mr Friess also confirmed that the Commission is also preparing a proposal for a Long Term Management Plan for the North and the South Atlantic bass fisheries.

The event was concluded by Richard Corbett, MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, who called for a "safety first approach" and fair management of sea bass and for measures in which commercial fishermen should play the main part for the preservation of this iconic species. "Anglers will accept the limitations, so long as they are not the only ones making sacrifices".

David Mitchell said:

"This was an excellent event and a fantastic opportunity to put the issues around recreational fishing and the management of bass in front of our elected representatives in the European Parliament who will have the responsibility of helping to agree a long term management plan for bass. We hope that, as a result of this event, many of them now have a much better appreciation of the role recreational angling should play in the development of a plan."

Popular UK fish at risk from rising temperatures

Guardian, 13th April 2015

Study predicts dinner favourites plaice and lemon sole facing severe depletion and rapid warming of North Sea already forcing haddock out of British waters.

Some of the UK's most popular fish may be driven from the North Sea, and the UK's dinner plates, by rising temperatures, scientists warned on Monday. Fishmonger favourites plaice, lemon sole and haddock are being pushed out of their traditional feeding grounds by rapidly warming sea temperatures. The waters of the North Sea have warmed by 1.3°C in the past 30 years, four times faster than the global average. Since the 1980s landings of cold-adapted species have halved.

Flatfish, such as plaice and sole, live on the shallow, muddy bottom of the southern North Sea. As the sea warms some species are being driven further north. But the rockier, deeper seas to the north are unsuitable habitat for these bottom feeders. With North Sea temperatures set to increase another 1.8°C in the next half century, a team of scientists from Exeter University believes the fishing industry for these species is likely to collapse.

"For flatfish there's really not anywhere to go. They're kind of squeezed off the edge of a cliff," said study author Dr Steve Simpson who is a senior lecturer in marine biology. "In terms of being commercially viable, I doubt these fisheries can continue for much longer."

For haddock, the North Sea is already its southern limit. Their fishery, and much of the UK's supply, is increasingly coming from Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic waters.

The study assessed future distributions of 10 common North Sea fish species and predicted a general trend of decline. By including habitat requirements into its modelling, the new research confounds previous assertions that fish species will simply be able to shift northwards as the oceans warm. Dr Peter Richardson, biodiversity programme manager at the UK's Marine Conservation Society, said the study "rightly questions the assumption that species can simply head polewards as waters warm" and called for stronger catch limits to ensure the North Sea's native species remained sustainable for as long as possible:

"Our fisheries are worth billions, providing an important and healthy source of protein, yet European governments (including the UK) consistently fail to follow scientific advice and set total allowable catches over and above the sustainable limits advised by their fisheries experts. We cannot continue to be so cavalier with such a valuable resource and expect it to be resilient to the impacts of climate change," he said.

The Exeter team has previously found that sardine, anchovy, squid and cuttlefish are likely to become staples of the UK fishing industry.

Simpson said their study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, had confirmed the changing ecology of the North Sea:

"We will see a real changing of the guard in the next few decades. Our models predict cold water species will be squeezed out, with warmer water fish likely to take their place. For sustainable UK fisheries, we need to move on from haddock and chips and look to southern Europe for our gastronomic inspiration," he said.

Separate research released last week found cod increased dramatically in recent years. Cod is an apex predator and a heavily-fished species. These interactions confounded modelling, said Simpson, and the study could not predict its future under a warming climate. Angus Garrett from seafood industry body Seafish said the new research was valuable, but the future for many fisheries remained uncertain:

"Temperature change is clearly influencing fisheries and ought to be considered in fisheries management. How temperature is considered and the modelling of impacts is likely to be a continuing debate but we welcome this contribution to the evidence base," he said.

Just one catch …

Private Eye, Issue 1389 at page 9

Officials at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are scrambling to find a way to reinstate powers to police the inshore fishing fleet, after they accidentally removed all the secondary legislation on which authorities depended to investigate offences.

Through the Sea Fishing (Enforcement and Miscellaneous provisions) Order 2015, dated 8th February, officials hoped to streamline the way EU fishing regulations are enforced by getting rid of a host of "obsolete instruments". Instead, enforcement powers to police sea fishing would now derive from the Fisheries Act 1981.

But the Eye has learned that the bodies set up to police fishing close to shore and manage the waters that local fishermen rely on have no powers whatever under this Act. The Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) could previously board vessels, inspect premises and dole out fines, but now they find themselves obsolete thanks to overzealous civil servants.

Offences such as catching endangered species, fishing in protected areas or using illegal gear can no longer be investigated by the very authorities set up to enforce the rules. Unlicensed vessels could also be able to fish with impunity.

To bail themselves out, officials will need to amend the Marine Conservation and Enforcement Act to restore the IFCAs powers. But with Whitehall now in purdah, they'll have to find a temporary fix or risk several weeks of coastal lawlessness.

Editor's note: To understand how this could happen, we start with the hoary old legal chestnut "what is the legal consequence of legislation which repeals prior legislation and which is itself subsequently repealed? Does the second repeal restore the original legislation ?"

Section 15 of the Interpretation Act 1978 provides that:

"Where an Act repeals a repealing enactment, the repeal does not revive any enactment previously repealed unless words are added reviving it."

Section 16(1)(a) of the Interpretation Act 1978 similarly provides that:

"Without prejudice to section 15, where an Act repeals an enactment, the repeal does not (unless the contrary intention appears)… revive anything not in force or existing at the time at which the repeal takes effect."

Section 7 of The Sea Fishing (Enforcement and Miscellaneous Provisions) Order 2015 revokes paragraph 6 of Part 1 of Schedule 2 of The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Transitional and Savings Provisions) Order 2011. Now, for the purpose of enforcement of "Community Conservation Measures" (see below), the effect of paragraph 6 was to amend The Sea Fishing (Enforcement of Community Conservation Measures) Order 2000 by substituting the following definitions:

In effect, the revocation of paragraph 6 (which, for the purpose of enforcement of "Community Conservation Measures" established the authority of the "inshore fisheries and conservation authority" and "conservation officer") has, in the absence of any "words added reviving it" or a "contrary intention", not revived the "local fisheries committees" or "fishery officer" (both of which have been defunct since 1st April 2011) and, as from Friday 6th March 2015, there has been no competent authority (IFCA) or "conservation officer" to enforce "Community Conservation Measures".

Finally, paragraph 2(1) of The Sea Fishing (Enforcement of Community Conservation Measures) Order 2000 defines a "specified Community measure" as a provision in respect of which, by virtue of section 30(2A) of the Fisheries Act 1981, proceedings may be commenced in any place in the United Kingdom.

In summary, no IFCAs, no conservation officers, no enforcement of "Community Conservation Measures" … and thanks to Private Eye for the heads up.

Acidification killed 90% of marine life

Sea Fishing Magazine, 10th April 2015

252 million years ago, over 90% of marine life were killed off in an occurrence known as "The Great Dying". It was the biggest mass extinction in history, and scientists have now discovered hard evidence that it was in part caused by ocean acidification - something that is also becoming a real problem now. It's a worrying similarity.

Acidification is caused by an increase in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the water. The more CO2 the sea contains, the more difficult it is for marine creatures to survive.

Researchers have found chemical signatures in ancient rock formations in the United Arab Emirates showing that the oceans suddenly became more acidic, making it impossible for the vast majority of sea creatures to survive. Scientists believe this was caused by the continual eruption of super-volcanoes, which released carbon dioxide at a rate comparable to the levels of CO2 that humans are pumping into the atmosphere right now.

"We have found that the oceans 252 million years ago experienced dramatic acidification and that this coincided with a significant rise in carbon dioxide levels. The data is compelling and we really should be worried in terms of what is happening today," said Professor Rachel Wood of the University of Edinburgh.

It wasn't just the oceans that suffered from this acidification - land-dwelling insects and huge forests also experienced mass extinction.

"Scientists have long suspected that an ocean acidification event occurred during the greatest mass extinction of all time, but direct evidence had been lacking until now," said Matthew Clarkson of Edinburgh University, the first author of the study published in the journal Science.

"This is a worrying finding, considering that we can already see an increase in ocean acidity today that is the result of human carbon emissions. The important take-home message of this is that the rate of increase of CO2 during the Permian mass extinction is about the same rate as the one to which we are exposing the ocean to today," said Professor Wood.

Consultation on the Second Tranche of Marine Conservation Zones


This consultation is to seek the views of the public on whether it would be appropriate to designate each of the 23 proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the second tranche and to add new features for conservation in 10 of the first tranche MCZs.

Click here to view the Dover to Deal proposed MCZ, which extends for the entire length of coast between Walmer Castle and Langdon Bay for a distance seaward of 1 km from Mean High Water and covering 10km2.

Why the site is environmentally important

This site helps to address the gap in the network for ross worm reef, which are present on the lower shore where sand borders the edge of the chalk foreshore reef. These habitats recorded together are rare in Kent and have not been recorded elsewhere in the UK. Another gap which this site helps to address is for intertidal under-boulder communities. These are where boulders create damp and shaded areas which provide refuge to important communities of plants such as sea mats, sponges, and tufts of pink coralline seaweed which encrust the under-surfaces of the boulder. This provides a habitat for animals like sea slugs which feed on the sponges, as well as brittle stars, porcelain crabs and squat lobsters which cling to the undersides of boulders as well as other crabs, fish, and young edible lobsters which hide amongst the boulders.

This site includes excellent examples of littoral chalk communities which are unique communities of seaweeds and the animals that associate with them. The area also includes the best example in the region of wave-cut platforms, flat areas at the base of a cliff formed by wave erosion. Below these platforms lie gullies and rock pools, which support several types of seaweed and algae. The chalk foreshore at St Margaret's Bay has one of the richest communities of algae in the south east.

What this site would protect:

Click here to take the online survey. The consultation ends on Friday, 24th April 2015.

Activities that are unlikely to be affected

These activities are known to take place at this site but are not likely to be damaging to the features proposed for designation at their current levels of intensity:

Why Defra is Consulting

The purpose of this consultation is to seek the views of the public on whether it would be appropriate to designate each of the proposed 23 MCZs in the second tranche. We are also seeking your views on adding features for protection to some sites designated in the first tranche. It is also an opportunity to provide any relevant scientific or economic evidence.

Defra welcomes any additional evidence that stakeholders wish to submit on the ecological value and the social and economic impacts. Evidence will need to meet certain quality standards. More information on this is provided in the consultation document.

The evidence that Defra collects during this consultation will be reviewed to ensure sites with important or unique wildlife, plant life and geological features are protected, whilst ensuring long term economic security for coastal businesses.

Final decisions on which sites will be designated will take into account any relevant information submitted as part of this consultation. We will publish details of evidence received and a full Government response to these together with the final decisions on each site within 12 months. This will be placed on the consultations section of the Government web site.

RecFishing Forum gives voice to anglers

Sea Fishing Magazine, 3rd April 2015

The Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment was launched in the European Parliament on 25th March. The launch event, entitled "Why do we need to talk about Recreational Fisheries in the European Parliament? Economics, Environment and Rural Development", was the first occasion for the several MEPs present to talk to representatives of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA).

Outlining the purposes of the forum, Mike Heylin OBE from EAA said:

"25 million people regularly fish across the EU, the biggest EU constituency. They must be better taken into consideration by their EU representatives."

Jean-Claude Bel of EFTTA showed some important figures about the economic and social importance of angling in the EU. He highlighted that 1 kg of fish caught by a recreational fisherman brings 200-300 euros to the economy, and that the economic ripple effect sees more than 39 billion euros annually - and 800,000 jobs.

Mark Owen from the Angling Trust also gave a presentation on the role of anglers as "guardians and protectors of the aquatic environment". He also emphasised the social role of fishing organisations, through projects devolved for instance to youth and people with physical, social or mental handicaps.

The next event of the Forum, entitled "The European sea bass recreational fisheries and its long term management", will take place on 14th April.

The bass bag limit: Angling Trust Q&A

Sea Fishing Magazine, 2nd April 2015

On 29th March 2015 a new bag limit of three fish per person, per day, for recreational catches of bass was made law by the European Commission. The Angling Trust have since come up with a comprehensive guide telling you all you need to know about the measure which is summarised below.

Why has the bag limit been introduced?

In 2014, the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) advised landings of bass to be reduced by approximately 80% due to a serious decline on the spawning biomass of the stock. The EU's technical committee for fisheries looked at surveys from various EU countries and concluded that recreational fisheries were responsible for approximately 25% of all fishing mortality for bass across the EU. This was deemed to be significant enough to be included in any measures necessary to reduce total fishing mortality and increase the biomass.

Are recreational catches really responsible for 25% of the catch?

There is not enough robust scientific data to be able to prove or disprove this with any more accuracy. Recreational catches are an estimate taken from surveys of recreational anglers carried out in France, the UK and the Netherlands. However, we can say that official catch data from commercial landings are notoriously understated with a combination of illegal unreported landings and legal landings sold directly from boats that are not recorded.

How will the bag limit be enforced?

The EU is relying on existing enforcement at national level by Member States. In England, enforcement of the bag limit will be carried out by the Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Who does the bag limit apply to?

Recreational fisheries are defined by this legislation as "non-commercial fishing activities exploiting marine living aquatic resources such as for recreation, tourism or sport". The bag limit applies to all recreational catches, from shore and from boats, using rod and line, nets, spear guns or other fishing gears where the catch is retained for personal consumption and not sold.

Did the Angling Trust support the limit?

Not as a stand-alone measure and certainly not the one-fish-per-angler bag limit initially proposed by the EU. However, in the course of researching how other bass fisheries are successfully managed we looked at other parts of the world, such as in Ireland and in the United States. It was clear from these two examples that bag limits can play an important role, and be supported by recreational anglers. During the course of discussions with the EU Commission and the UK Government we argued that a higher minimum landing size (MLS) would be a better alternative measure to reduce fishing mortality from recreational catches because:

  1. It would be fairer and more balanced, because it would apply to all
  2. Compliance would be higher due to many anglers already adhering to legal size limits or their own limits, which often exceed those set legally
  3. It would protect immature fish and secure that more bass reach spawning size before being captured (no female bass spawn at the present MLS 36 cm).

Is it permanent?

No - not yet, at least. The bag limit has been introduced through an amendment to the 2015 TAC. It will therefore have to be re-agreed and included in the TAC and quota regulations for 2016 unless another, perhaps more appropriate, piece of legislation can be found to maintain it.

Does the Common Fisheries Policy apply to recreational fishing?

Yes, in some cases. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013 states:

"Recreational fisheries can have a significant impact on fish resources and Member States should, therefore, ensure that they are conducted in a manner that is compatible with the objectives of the CFP."

The CFP also gives the Commission general powers to address any kind of negative impact on a stock.

What about commercial fishing?

In January the UK, following pressure from anglers, was successful in getting the EU to agree to the use of emergency measures closing the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel, English Channel and southern North Sea to pelagic trawling (including the use of 'pair' trawls) from until 30th April 2015.

The Angling Trust, BASS and members of the European Anglers Alliance met for a second time with the Commission in Brussels to discuss the proposals being put forward for the mixed fisheries. We were subsequently successful in submitting evidence from the UK showing that many more of the UK's bass fisheries were actually targeted fisheries and should therefore be subject to controls on bass fishing without increasing discards. Proposals for restrictions on other commercial fisheries are now expected to be:

  1. Monthly vessel limits by fishing method (weights to be confirmed)
  2. A new MLS of 42 cm for all fisheries (including recreational catches)
  3. Seasonal closures to be determined by fishing method

If agreed, this will be a very significant shift towards the package of measures being more balanced and the commercial fishing sector playing a more balanced role in reducing total bass fishing mortality.

Why was the bag limit introduced before measures for commercials?

Agreement was reached by the EU Council on a three fish bag limit for recreational catches quite early on. Agreement on measures for 'mixed' commercial fisheries has been much more difficult.

Why three fish?

The Commission's original proposal to be adopted at the Council's December meeting was for one fish per-person-per-day. This was rejected by the Council, and the proposal was amended to increase the bag limit from one to three fish per day.

Is there a long-term plan?

Not yet, but there is commitment to develop a long term management plan (also known as multi-annual plan) for bass. However, proposals for this are not expected to be made until 2017 and will take approximately two years to be agreed through co-decision between the European Council, Commission and the European Parliament (which adopted a resolution on bass earlier this month which included a request to the Commission to bring forward the development of a multi-annual plan).

Will the Discards Ban apply to bass too?

Yes, but not immediately. Timings are unclear but we expect discards of bass to be banned over coming years. This will have implications for minimum landing sizes and minimum conservation reference sizes which have replaced the MLS for quota species since the CFP was reformed.

European Council limits anglers to three bass per day

EU Fisheries, 26th March 2015

The European Council has adopted measures to help bass recover. For recreational fishing, which accounts for 25% of bass mortality, the decision will mean the introduction of a limit of three fish per day per angler. Learn more about bass with the Council's infographic.

Bass is a very valuable fish on which many fishermen, especially small fishing enterprises, depend. With over 1.3 million recreational anglers in France and another 800,000 in the UK, many thousands of jobs also depend on recreational fishing.

Recent scientific analyses have reinforced previous concerns about the state of the stock and advised urgently to reduce fishing by 80%. We are witnessing a rapid decline of bass that risks leading to a collapse if no action is taken.

The daily limit on recreational catches complements the emergency measures which the Commission adopted earlier this year, and which targeted pelagic fisheries.

The Commission has previously taken such emergency measures to protect vulnerable stocks, most recently with anchovy in the Bay of Biscay.

David Mitchell, of the Angling Trust, said the introduction of "bag limits" for recreational anglers would be seen as unfair if ministers fail to bring in further measures to restrict commercial fishers. The emergency ban on pelagic trawling ends on 30th April:

"Anglers will only support restrictions on their own fishing if corresponding limits are placed on the commercial catches along with measures to give greater protection to juvenile fish," he said. He said the other measures "should have happened at the same time" as the bag limits were introduced and he hopes at least some of them will be agreed within weeks.

The Angling Trust is now hoping to make bass an election issue and is encouraging members to demand Parliamentary candidates pledge their support for "a fair, balanced and proportionate" package.

Similarly, the fishing industry is deeply suspicious of the angling lobby and contests both the need and the practicalities of reducing landings by as much as 80%. In a statement the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) said:

"We reject opportunistic moves by some in the recreational sector (clothed in conservationist disguise) to reserve the whole bass fishery for recreational use."

Annual catches of bass are estimated to be 5,600 tonnes in Europe with recreational anglers accounting for 1,500 tonnes. If scientists' demands for an 80% reduction were followed, the total European catch would be about 1,155 tonnes. The precise size of the total catch, however, is disputed, with some in the sector suggesting the real figure may be much higher than official statistics suggest. One of the factors contributing to undercounting is an exemption in regulations which allows commercial fishermen to sell up to 30 kg of their bass catches without recording them.

Charles Clover, chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation, said:

"This bitty implementation of policy is far from ideal - first a ban on pair trawling, then restriction of the number of fish anglers can catch. What is needed is a proper science-based management plan for bass covering all fishing methods which doesn't allow any free riders or unfair advantage between them. It needs to be seen to be fair. In the light of the Ministers failure to agree, I hope we will see new emergency measures from the European Commission covering the forms of netting that have not yet been addressed. If not, national measures will need to be a priority for an incoming British government if there is to be any bass left."

Sustainable fishing would double UK quotas

Sea Fishing Magazine, 13th March 2015

UK commercial fishermen could see their catches doubled in future if EU quotas were in line with scientific advice, a new study reveals.

Catches could double from the current 560 million tonnes of fish per year to 1.1 billion tonnes in just 10 years if stocks were allowed to recover in line with scientific advice, says the New Economics Foundation. These larger catches would mean added revenue of £356 million a year in the UK, based on current prices. Thousands of new jobs could also be created to deal with the increase in catches.

However, if the quotas were to be realigned in accordance with scientific advice immediately, more than one-tenth of current fishing levels would have to be sacrificed in the UK. This figure would be much greater for other member states. This is why, currently, quota negotiations are strongly tilted towards a short-term view - no one wants to decrease their quotas, despite the long-term benefits of doing so.

Griffin Carpenter of the New Economics Foundation said:

"Our analysis shows that rebuilding fish stocks can result in more jobs, more profits and higher wages. Ministers are squandering significant economic potential through their failure to sustainably manage a vital environmental resource."

Fishing quotas at the minute are decided from past quotas, records, and the size of fleets in respective EU member states. Quotas are discussed in Brussels every December, but they aren't actually obliged to consider sustainability and avoid overfishing. In their meeting last December, ministers set quotas that were well above scientifically advised limits for nearly two-thirds of the EU's fish stocks.

Thanks to recent reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy, quotas should be moved instead to a "maximum sustainable yield", which would take into consideration scientific advice. This is only going to be phased in gradually over the next five years, though, so it's not an instant solution. Moreover, scientists and fishermen disagree about the size of fish stocks in European waters, so deciding what a maximum sustainable yield is could be a complicated and divisive issue.

Inshore fishing fleet (discard ban)

Theyworkforyou 12th March 2015

Oral answers to questions (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 12th March 2015.

See also Charlie Elphicke MP page.

The big European bass debate

Simon Everett, Sea Fishing Magazine, 2nd March 2015

The European Parliament had a debate last month about the proposals for the bass regulations. Chairman of the European Fisheries Committee, Alain Cadec, put forward a draft motion on bass which would restrict recreational anglers to a bag limit and an increase in the minimum landing size (MLS). No proposals were put forward to restrict the commercial catching of bass.

UKIP MEP Ray Finch put forward an amendment to try and stave off these regulations and explained that Britain's sea anglers have always had a voluntary code of only keeping a limited number of fish anyway, self regulating the numbers they take to a sensible number, a brace if they are lucky! He explained that this regulation would be the thin end of a very large wedge. Questions were asked about how it would be policed effectively and that if the committee felt the need to do something then they should raise the MLS across the board for all bass landings, rather than set unenforcable bag limits. It was also pointed out that it wasn't sea anglers who caused the reduction of the stocks, but the industrial commercial fishermen.

It strikes me that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is run by the Spanish and French industrial fishing conglomerates, the ones who have caused the problem, but they have massive political clout and are driving this policy of restricting recreational sea anglers so as to deflect the issue away from themselves and create a smokescreen for their activities. The French politicians are afraid of their commercial fishermen, if they do anything to restrict their catches, even if it is for the good of the seas, it will impact on the vast profits and the fishermen will likely blockade the French ports. So they are afraid of political unrest but want to be seen to be doing something positive without upsetting the status quo by implementing measures against RSA. By doing this they can stand up and say they have put conservation measures in place but without upsetting the big industrial players whose pockets they are in.

If we are to see any improvement in our fishing, then better fish stocks are a fundamental prerequisite. To do this we need to change the focus of sea fisheries management away from the commercial sector. The fish in the sea are not there for them to exploit at the expense of other people. The commercial sector should feel privileged they are allowed to make a living from the fish that you, me and everyone else has part ownership of. Imagine if builders and furniture makers were allowed to run riot with chainsaws, cutting down the prime trees in the New Forest and Epping Forest under the pretext that "it is their livelihood" and others who enjoy the trees don't have a say in the matter. There would be uproar, and so there should be over how the fish in the sea are being greedily hovered up for the benefit of a few.

We should be outraged by Europe slaughtering sea life in the name of 'science'

George Monbiot, Guardian, 9th February 2015

While we focus our anger on Japan using 'scientific research' as an excuse to kill marine life, Europe is doing the same thing under our noses with electric pulse trawling, with potentially disastrous effects.

"… fishing in EU waters is smash and grab piracy of the most primitive kind, unregulated, unlicensed, and controlled only by the crudest possible method, namely, the setting of quotas. Everything wrong that takes place on land is multiplied by ten at sea, because politicians reckon that what the eye don't see the heart don't grieve. It's time that changed."

Click here to read full article.

Higher bass minimum legal size must apply to all

Sea Fishing, 4th February 2015

The Angling Trust has told the EU that their proposal to raise the minimum legal size for bass must apply to all those fishing for them. A discussion on further emergency measures for bass will take place in Brussels tomorrow, following the ban on pelagic trawling for spawning fish that was introduced earlier this month.

There have been some indications that the new proposed minimum size for bass of 42 cm would only apply to recreational catches, while commercial fishermen would continue to be able to harvest immature bass at 36 cm. Many see this as discrimination against recreational anglers.

The EU is also proposing a monthly limit on the volume of fish that commercial boats can catch. However, the proposal of one tonne per vessel per month means that up to 90% of the under-10m fleet in England wouldn't be affected at all, according to figures from 2010, so it would be necessary for the small scale commercial sector to play its part in helping to reduce bass mortality through respecting a higher minimum legal size.

Recreational catches are already likely to be subjected to a three-fish-a-day bag limit, so the Angling Trust is insisting that a higher MLS for all fisheries, including technical changes to reduce discards of bass, will help move closer to the required 80% reduction advised by scientists. David Mitchell, marine campaigns manager for the Angling Trust said:

"Reducing total fishing mortality is the absolute priority and recreational anglers are playing their part in helping to achieve this. It's fundamentally important that the small scale commercial fishing fleet, which won't be affected by the proposed monthly vessel limit but which still has a big impact on bass mortality, plays its part too. This can all be achieved in a fair and balanced way with a higher minimum size for all those fishing for bass. It would also be a real kick in the teeth for anglers who have been campaigning for the minimum size to be increased over so many years to now be required to release immature fish in the knowledge that commercial fishermen will still be allowed to land them."

The AT sent the letter to national representatives from the UK attending tomorrow's meeting, as well as other members of the working party, arguing that a new minimum legal size of at least 42 cm (ideally 48 cm) would:

  1. address reducing fishing mortality from the 'mixed fishery' and recreational sectors in a fair, even-handed and non-discriminatory manner
  2. allow small scale vessels with catches below the proposed vessel limit to contribute to reducing fishing mortality in line with the ICES advice
  3. contribute to increasing the spawning stock biomass of bass and build resilience into the fishery
  4. move towards a higher yield per recruit from the fishery which would contribute towards reaching the target of maximum sustainable yield

The Angling Trust and EAA partners will be meeting with the Commission in Brussels on Friday 13th February to discuss the emergency measures for bass.

Q&A with Karmenu Vella

World Fishing, 4th February 2015

In an exclusive interview with Jason Holland for World Fishing & Aquaculture, Karmenu Vella, the new EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs & Fisheries, discusses enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy, the benefits of boosting EU aquaculture and much more.

Q: How do you aim to ensure that all member states become fully compliant with the measures contained within the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, and how will you help those member states that are not financially able to enforce the new regulations?

A: The credibility and success of the Common Fisheries Policy depend on the rules being applied and enforced properly. The reform of the CFP was a long time in the making but now is the time for implementation and making sure that it works in practice. That's why we're working hand in hand with all EU countries to make sure that the right control systems are in place and that compliance is prioritised.

The EU Control Regulation's "net to plate" approach is the framework to achieving that. By looking at every aspect from how, when and where fish is caught we not only allow ourselves to trace products through the supply chain but we help to embed a culture of compliance at every step.

In more practical terms we also encourage close cooperation between EU countries and the European Fishery Control Agency, which carries out a lot of the control work. Finally, as a more dissuasive tool we seek to apply effective and proportionate sanctions for serious infringements to the rules as a disincentive to non-compliance. Those sorts of measures are a last resort and that's why there is €580 million ($666.1 million) of ring-fenced funding in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) earmarked for member states' control expenditure.

Q: What will be the main benefits of EU-wide compliance?

A: Quite simply, without compliance and effective controls we run the risk of the CFP not working for fish stocks, the environment, the fisherman or the consumer. Sustainability is at the heart of what the CFP is trying to do and making sure that the rules are applied properly is essential if we are to ensure the long-term environmental sustainability of EU fish stocks. Only through healthy fish stocks can we ensure a sustainable livelihood for the fishermen of today and tomorrow.

But it's also worth looking at this from the average EU citizen's perspective. How do you know the fish on your plate is sustainable? Was it caught legally? Only by insisting on compliance on boats, in ports, during transport, in processing factories and at the local fish market we can start offering the EU consumer some peace of mind and some certainty about what is on their plate. And that can only be good for business too.

Q: For the first time, the new CFP contains the ambition to revive Europe's stagnating aquaculture industry. While they can have access to EMFF funding, many producers say they struggle against red tape and getting new farms sites approved. How do you plan to help industry overcome these significant barriers?

A: Administrative burden is a barrier to growth which causes major uncertainties for investors. The red tape linked with transposing or applying EU and national legislation can sometimes add to that burden. That's why we have been working closely with EU countries to help them shape relevant aquaculture legislation and administrative procedures. The strategic guidelines which we issued in 2013 for that very purpose are already bearing fruit with a number of member states already enjoying reduced administrative burden.

Some countries are designing coordination structures to ensure smooth cooperation between national and regional level, whilst others are looking at building a permanent platform to ensure constant dialogue between public administration and the industry. We're also seeing some countries working on reducing the delays of registration for new farm sites whilst the establishment of a one-stop-shop for aquaculture licensing will remove more red tape for producers.

We very much welcome such initiatives and look forward to working with EU countries to provide them with good practice examples and a forum to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

Q: The landing obligation came into force on 1 January for pelagic species. It will be extended to demersal fisheries in 2016 and be fully implemented across all TAC and quota species by 2019, but many fishermen remain in the dark about whether they can be properly implemented in the more complicated, mixed fisheries. How do you intend to alleviate their fears over the coming months?

A: The landing obligation entered into force this year for pelagics and for those affected we have issued clear guidance as to what the rules and responsibilities are. But the next phase, demersal fisheries, is approaching fast, so we absolutely need the kind of legal certainty that only a regulation can provide. That's why we are working hard with our colleagues at the Parliament and the Council to help them find an agreement on the so-called Omnibus, which would further clarify technical rules on the landing obligation. I am hopeful and confident that a technical and political agreement can be reached and that we can give legal and practical clarity for the fishermen affected. From our side we'll do whatever we can to make that happen.

Q: Putting the landing obligation to one side, what are the other key tools and measures within the CFP that will contribute most to achieving a more sustainable and economically viable seafood industry in the EU?

A: The new CFP has an ambitious set of tools at its disposal to ensure sustainability and a profitable future for the industry. The central objective of fishing at maximum sustainable yield will bring more stability to the state of the stocks, and therewith improve the catch possibilities in the long run.

Stability is also important for the industry who otherwise could suffer from large variations in the amount of fish they can catch from one year to another. To make this stability happen, we are developing new multiannual management plans for the different EU regions. These plans are the vehicle for long-term management of stocks but they also allow for member states, industry and other local stakeholders to come up with the measures that best respond to the specific needs of their regions.

We're also looking at revising technical conservation measures, which have not been updated for more than 15 years. Not only are they partly outdated but they have also grown into a tangled and confusing web of rules and measures. We plan to simplify them, insert a results-based approach, and allow for the sort of regionalised approach I mentioned previously.

Finally, we have a financial instrument in the EMFF that will support strategic and innovative actions to help the European fleet in its efforts to achieve sustainability. Actions that help achieve more environmentally-friendly and selective fishing, including the reduction of unwanted catches, will be prioritised. We'll give special support to the large number of small-scale fisheries in the EU as they are economically more vulnerable than the other fleets.

Q: Because of failings in certain fisheries, the Commission is looking to introduce a total ban on driftnets. This measure is of significant concern to those fisheries that do operate within current regulations and a number of MEPs have spoken out against such a ban. How will you ensure that the right decision is taken?

A: When we proposed a total ban on driftnets, we were looking to address persisting environmental and conservation problems related to their use. Our goal was also to close any possible loopholes to strengthen control and enforcement on illegal driftnetting. To get to that point we launched a wide public consultation, we conducted several studies, and we did a thorough impact assessment. At the time we didn’t get the detailed information about the use of driftnets and their impact on protected species. Since then, we have been able to get much more data and information and we have now have a more comprehensive view of the situation.

So what’s next? At my confirmation hearing in front of MEPs I promised to have an open mind about it and committed to finding a balanced solution. So we have got back in touch with member states and we have had several meetings with representatives of the most affected regional small-scale fisheries. I also went to speak to MEPs at the end of January to hear their views and concerns. For now it's up to the European Parliament and Council to work on the final text and we stand ready to facilitate those debates in any way we can. I remain confident that there is scope for improvement and for accommodating all the different concerns.

Q: In many cases, scientific data is key to setting accurate catch quotas but in many EU fisheries there is no up-to-date research available. Do you intend addressing this long-term failing?

A: Reliable data is important for good decision-making and that's why we have a comprehensive EU framework for the collection and management of fisheries data. To help widen that knowledge base even further, the European Commission acts as a major facilitator and funder for data collection, scientific assessment work, and research in fisheries and aquaculture. The new CFP has increased the available financial support for data collection and advisory work.

We are in a continuous process of increasing our knowledge base and the number of up-to-date assessment of stocks. The number of stocks for which we receive full biological assessments and advice on fishing at maximum sustainable yield level is growing. We plan keep that curve going upwards in the coming years as part of CFP implementation.

Q: The EU stepped up its efforts aimed at combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing throughout last year, issuing official warnings to a number of countries for not acting appropriately to encourage the sustainability of fisheries resources. Is the battle against IUU being won or have we merely scratched the surface?

A: We are in the fight against illegal fishing for the long term. We see this as a major world problem which depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, threatens food security, puts honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage and weakens coastal communities in developing countries.

We have made a lot of progress already and it all starts from the very simple message that any illegally caught fish is not welcome in our market. We have cooperated with more than 40 third countries, pre-identified 17 countries and identified four as non-cooperating which means banning fish from those countries from entering the EU. But that's a last resort and we have also facilitated fundamental changes in fisheries management in many developing countries and helped them in their own fight against IUU. We have ensured high level of controls from our member states when it comes to importing fisheries products, convinced numerous countries to sanction IUU vessels and worked at a bilateral and international level to advance international cooperation and ocean governance to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal fishing.

But we're not resting on our laurels. How can we when the estimated global value of IUU fishing is approximately €10 billion ($11.5 billion) per year, accounting for more than 15% of the reported value of catches? So we'll carry on our work: working with our member states, working bilaterally with countries around the world, and leading the way internationally when it comes to ocean governance. Already this year I have been in close contact with my counterpart in the US and we are forging ever-closer links in the global fight against illegal fishing.

Q: Two of your stated aims are to achieve “blue growth” and rebuilding fish stocks. How do you intend to deliver on both promises?

A: Sustainable fish stocks and a thriving blue economy are not mutually exclusive, in fact they are complementary. Over the next five years we will keep repeating our "more jobs and more growth" mantra because that's what Europe needs. But we'll also keep repeating words like sustainability, conservation, and biodiversity. They are a key part of our strategy because when we talk about jobs and growth we have to look at what we are surrounded by and see how we can best use our natural assets to our advantage. That's why I am delighted to be Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

We've already spoken about our focus on sustainable fisheries and all the various tools at our disposal in the new CFP to make that happen. I've also talked about how sustainable fisheries are a pre-requisite for the long-term economic sustainability of fishermen. But I want to just touch on Blue Growth as it is another subject close to my heart. As a former Minister for Tourism in Malta I know first-hand the potential the blue economy has and just how important it is for coastal communities across Europe.

A number of new and innovative maritime sectors, such as offshore energy or blue biotechnology, and more traditional sectors, such as tourism, aquaculture and fisheries, can be a major source of jobs. If you add all of that potential together, Blue Growth can create upwards of 1.4 million new jobs in Europe by 2020. But for that to happen we will need investment so our focus will be on creating those investment-conducive conditions by making sure that we know exactly what is going on in our seas and on our coasts, by ensuring they are safe and secure, and by playing our part in setting up a proper international ocean governance system. We have already taken the first steps towards doing that with our Maritime Spatial Planning directive, through our work in international fora on ocean governance, and by focusing on the sectors with the most potential like ocean energy, sustainable tourism, and aquaculture amongst others. I look forward to keeping up that momentum in 2015 and beyond.

Protection for spawning bass

British Sea Fishing January Newsletter, 31st January 2015

For once there has been some great news for UK anglers. European bass numbers have declined by more than 40% since 2010, with the main cause being French pair trawlers targeting bass as they gather to spawn in the English Channel. Not only does this method of fishing catch large numbers of mature bass, it also wipes out the next generation of bass. In December 2014 the European Fishery Commission failed to put forward any measures at all to protect bass with the Sunday Times reporting that representatives of the French bass fishing industry cheered when they realised they would be free to continue to catch spawning bass.

However, all of this has changed when the UK put forward emergency measures which will run from 28th January and run until the end of April and prevent the French trawlers from targeting bass in the southern North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel and Celtic Sea until the breeding season is over. This gives bass some much needed protection, and allowing this species to spawn should see the post-2010 decline stop and bass numbers hopefully recover. It has also been encouraging to hear that the amount of money anglers fishing for bass has been mentioned in terms of protecting stocks - people seem to be realising that the recreational angling industry raises a lot more money than commercial fishing operations, and catches far fewer fish in the process.

EU bass measures

World Fishing & Aquaculture, 27th January 2015

The European Commission has announced new measures to avert the collapse of declining bass stocks and implemented an emergency ban on fishing stocks during the spawning season which runs up until the end of April. It said that this will be complemented by further measures to help ensure that all those who fish bass make a balanced and fair contribution towards saving the stock.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said:

"The impact of this stock collapsing would be catastrophic for the livelihoods of so many fishermen and coastal communities."

The ban on pelagic trawling of the stock will remain in place until 30 April 2015 and will apply to stocks in the Channel, Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and southern North Sea.

Pelagic trawling is a major source of mortality and reduces spawning stock by around 25%, according to the Commission. Therefore, in order to help the bass stock recover, the Commission is currently working on a package of measures to manage both commercial and recreational fisheries more sustainably.

For recreational fishing, which accounts for 25% of bass catches, this would include a limit of three fish per day per angler. Member States would also need to set a minimum size of 42 cm so that fish are not caught, or are released, before they have reproduced.

Simple guide to protecting bass:

Anglers celebrate as EU bans trawling for Bass

Total Fishing, 26th January 2015

Trawling for bass during the spawning period has been banned in a historic set of emergency measures aimed at averting a total collapse of Europe's bass stocks.

The ban on pelagic trawling - which accounts for 25% of the impact on the stock and includes the controversial method of pair trawling - will begin immediately in the Channel, Celtic sea, Irish Sea and southern North Sea and run until April 30th during which time adult bass aggregate to reproduce and are most vulnerable.

The EU is putting forward further measures to deal with the impact on bass stocks of recreational and other commercial fishing methods. For recreational bass angling the proposals include a three fish a day bag limit and an increase in the legal minimum size of bass from 36 cm to 42 cm.

The European Commission is also proposing limiting catches for other commercial bass fisheries and is working on a proposal with member states which will be taken to the Council of fisheries ministers as soon as possible.

The emergency measures have been introduced following scientific advice in June 2014 that recommended an 80% cut in catches from the previous year and confirmation that continued fishing pressure was leading to serious harm to the reproductive capacity of the stock. This is the first time that Article 12 of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy has been invoked due to "A serious threat to the conservation of marine biological resources …".

The Angling Trust and its partners at the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (B.A.S.S.) and European Anglers Alliance have been campaigning tirelessly for the introduction of conservation measures for bass - a crucially important recreational species and one that generates hundreds of millions of pounds and supports tens of thousands of jobs across Europe. In 2012 the Angling Trust organised a delegation to the then Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to press the case for bass conservation measures in the face of evidence demonstrating that stocks were in trouble.

The Angling Trust will be continuing to work with the UK and the Commission to ensure that the measures to limit other commercial bass fisheries are in proportion to the new bag limit and minimum size being proposed for recreational catches. In addition the Trust will be working with the UK to agree on what additional measures the UK can take to restore the UK bass fishery.

David Mitchell, the Angling Trust's Marine Campaigns Manager, said:

"Emergency measures such as this, can last for a maximum of 12 months so it is crucial that the Commission and member states now follow through on the commitment to develop a long term bass management plan which the Angling Trust and our partners will play a key role in helping to develop. This is an historic decision for recreational fishing and hopefully represents a sea change in public policy towards marine conservation. However, there's a long way to go yet to achieve what is needed for a truly sustainable fishery."

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust, said:

"Bass anglers have been calling for action to protect stocks for nearly a decade and it seems that the UK government and European Commission have at last acted, in the face of undeniable scientific evidence and a concerted campaign by the Angling Trust and BASS. The immediate emergency measures that have been confirmed are very welcome and the intention to follow these up with further restrictions on commercial exploitation is encouraging."

Nigel Horsman, of the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society, said:

"This is a great day for Dicentrarchus Labrax, the fabulous European bass, and what we have been working so hard and waiting so long for. We also look forward to the production of a long term management plan for bass, which will lead to healthy stocks of all sizes of bass for the benefit of everyone who uses this stock sustainably. I would like to pay tribute to the fantastic work of everyone in the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) and the Angling Trust who campaigned for this for many years. The strength and breadth of that support has been invaluable in achieving this amazing result. We know that recruitment to the adult stock will be weak for the next few years, but I hope these measures will ensure that the current stock remains broadly stable until environmental conditions allow a full stock recovery, which we can cherish and then enjoy great British Bass fishing for many years to come."

Bass trawl ban

Sea Fishing Magazine, 20th January 2015

The European Commission has issued a ban on pelagic trawling of sea bass during spawning season, which runs until the end of April. Yesterday's announcement is part of a package of measures aimed at averting the collapse of the declining sea bass stock.

These measures protect the stock from being targeted when at its most vulnerable; pelagic trawlers in the spawning season make up 25% of the impact on the stock. It is anticipated that the decision will be adopted and come into force before the end of the month.

Recognising that all those who fish sea bass should make a balanced and fair contribution to saving this stock, it is proposed that the pelagic trawling ban will be complemented by a number of other measures which the Commission and the countries involved - UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands - are putting together jointly. This will include measures to manage recreational fishing and limit catches of all other commercial fisheries. The Commission will work with the countries involved to finalise these measures and table a proposal to the Council in the coming weeks.

The Commission will publish full details of the measures once they are adopted.

Bass anglers urged to flood EU commissioner with emails

Sea Fishing Magazine, 6th January 2015

The Angling Trust has begun the new year battling for bass with a fresh call to anglers urging them to flood the EU commissioner with emails supporting the call by the UK for emergency measures to save threatened bass stocks.

In December, the UK government called on the EU Commission to implement emergency measures to try and prevent a collapse in bass stocks following the failure of the recent Fisheries Council meeting to reach an agreement on bass conservation measures. The Commission has the power to introduce emergency measures for a six month period should the EU Member States be unable to reach agreement.

Angling Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd has written on behalf of the Trust to fisheries commissioner Karmenu Vella saying:

"There is no doubt that given the parlous state of bass stocks emergency measures are now the right thing to do. As the national representative body for angling in England we urge you, most strongly, to use the emergency measures open to the Commission, through Article 12 of the CFP regulation (1380/2013), to close Area VIIe, to all targeted trawling for bass from 1st January 2015 until 1st May 2015 in order to reduce fishing pressure on this year's spawning aggregations. Furthermore, ahead of the implementation of minimum conservation reference sizes, we urge you to increase a minimum legal size to be above the 42 cm breeding size so any new adult entrants to the stocks do at least get a chance to breed and replace themselves before they can be legitimately harvested. We would also like to see a complete phasing out of destructive pair trawling for bass and a move to creating a sustainable line caught only fishery."

To view the Angling Trust's letter to the commissioner in full, click here

Other EU Member states had to submit comments about the UK proposal by 6th January and a decision on whether to adopt these measures with immediate effect is expected from the Commission sometime after 14th January.

Angling Trust campaign coordinator Martin Salter added:

"Time is running out for bass stocks. Whilst politicians dither and dally the pair trawlers are busy at work hoovering up what is left of the spawning stocks of bass right now. In the face of scientific advice stating a need for an 80 per cent reduction in bass catches to avoid a stock collapse the deliberate targeting of this winter's spawning aggregations has to be stopped by any means possible."

In a mail out to members, the Angling Trust says:

It is vital that we show strong support for these emergency measures and we are asking Angling Trust members to email the Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, with a short message of support. Feel free to cut and paste some of the Angling Trust letter into your own emails. We need your help to save our bass. Please get typing today!

The email address is:

British bass protection

World Fishing, 31st December 2014

The Angling Trust has stepped up its bid to enforce the unilateral protection of British bass stocks and accused the UK government of failing to secure an agreement to protect bass at the European Fisheries Council meeting.

To make matters worse, the trust said, Ministers have claimed to have secured "a fair deal for fisheries", despite the fact that they have failed to take on any of the measures in response to the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas' (ICES) recent call for an immediate 80% reduction in bass landings in order to avoid a total stock collapse.

It now wants an urgent meeting with the UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice to discuss a timescale for the introduction of national bass conservation measures including introducing domestic measures on bass minimum landing sizes, more nursery areas and increased protection for estuaries.

Newly-reformed Common Fisheries Policy stumbles at first hurdle

Marine Conservation Society, December 2014

MCS Fisheries Policy Officer, Debbie Crockard, reflects on another closed door meeting to set fishing quotas:

We were hopeful that the ministers would look to the future and apply the new CFP in a way that would ensure sustainable and profitable fisheries for the future of fish and fishermen. To achieve this, the MCS believes that fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is key to ensuring long-term viability of the industry and that, while it may in some isolated cases cause short-term economic impacts, this will be balanced by long-term gains. In cases where there may be significant impacts, a phased-in approach may be applicable until 2020, but in such cases evidence needs to be provided to support the delay in reaching MSY.

Ministers have chosen not to follow scientific advice and reduce the quotas for several stocks - a huge disappointment and a sad day for EU fish stocks. Examples of quotas set above scientific advice include:

In these cases we expect to see transparent and detailed evidence to justify any deviation from MSY requirements of the European legislation. MSY targets must be met by 2020 at the very latest and by delaying their application without significant and justifiable reasons may result in more difficult and extreme cuts to quotas being made further down the line. For those fisheries with TACs not set in line with MSY advice there must also be a clear road map detailing how this fishery will reach MSY by 2020 at the very latest.

Of particular concern to the MCS is the lack of agreement of measure to manage bass which is currently heading towards the lowest recorded spawning stock biomass, corresponding to highest recorded fishing mortality. Scientists have recommended that a catch reduction of 80% will be required to halt the decline of the bass, and that further measures will be required to ensure its sustainable exploitation. While the UK government apparently fought for protection of bass stocks, no agreement was reached on this topic during the negotiations and emergency measures will likely need to be applied to prevent the stock from crashing.

The MCS believes that following these negotiations it is additionally important for Member States to acknowledge those sectors within their commercial fleet who

The new CFP has stumbled at its first hurdle, putting the CFP ambition at risk as well as delaying the long-term sustainability of our fisheries.


Marine Conservation Society, December 2014

Sea Fishing Magazine, 9th December 2014

Conservative MP George Hollingbery, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling:

"Sea Angling 2012 shows that there are 884,000 sea anglers in England. They directly pump £1.23 billion into the economy, and 10,500 full-time jobs depend on that spending. Indirect spend is equivalent to £2.1 billion and 23,600 jobs … and the VAT collected from sea anglers dwarfs the first sale value of the entire commercial fish landings in the UK."

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) supports the scientific recommendation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that an 80% reduction in fishing mortality is vital to ensuring the future of the bass stock around the UK. Unless urgent action is taken to reduce fishing mortality by 80%, a complete moratorium on bass fishing may be required in the future to prevent the complete collapse of the stock.

MCS is looking to Ministers, businesses, commercial fishers, anglers and consumers to take urgent action in order to reduce catches in line with scientific advice.


The bass stock in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, English Channel and southern North Sea is hugely valuable for both the commercial and recreational sectors, but has in recent years come under significantly increased pressure - commercial landings have more than doubled since the early 1990s. Critically, research from the UK Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) has shown five successive years of very low numbers of young fish reaching maturity (poor recruitment), giving every indication that the stock is heading towards the lowest level of spawning biomass ever recorded, with a reduction of approximately 60% in the last five years alone.

In June 2014, ICES recommended that total landings of bass from both commercial and recreational fisheries in eco-regions Celtic Sea, West of Scotland and the North Sea should be no more than 1,155t in 2015. To place this in context, ICES currently estimates that the recreational catch alone stands at 1,500t, with commercial landings in the region of 4-6,000t. With the spawning stock biomass currently headed towards the lowest spawning stock biomass ever observed (5,250t), even those significant cuts proposed are only likely to slow the decline in the short term, rather than immediately increase the level of spawning biomass.

What measures need to be taken?

Urgent management measures need to be taken in order to achieve the recommended 80% reduction in catch. Coordinated efforts are needed from all Member States accessing the fishery, of which the UK and France are responsible for the majority of the commercial catch, with the UK, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium also having significant recreational catches, which comprise approximately 25% of the total catch.


Businesses can:

Consumers can:

Recreational anglers can:

Voluntarily increase the size of fish retained and support proposals to increase the Minimum Landing Size (MLS) to at least 45cm to allow fish to spawn at least once. The current MLS of 36cm means that the vast majority of fish are caught before they are able to spawn and contribute to the growth of the population. Anglers can voluntarily choose to only keep bass if they are longer than 45cm.

Only keep what you really need! And support proposals for a bag limit for recreational anglers. The angling community has widely acknowledged the need for a bag limit, given the need to reduce catches across all sectors. Anglers can voluntarily choose to only keep a small number of fish or exercise the practice of catch and release already popular amongst many sport fishers.

Better monitor catches. The angling community can widen and enhance existing voluntary catch reporting initiatives and can help report any incidences of bass being sold illegally to restaurants.

Commercial fishers can:

Bass get parliamentary support

Fishing Magic, 10th December 2014

Something remarkable happened in Parliament last week; there was a debate about the parlous state of our bass stocks and every MP who spoke in the chamber supported dramatic reductions in commercial fishing. Many went further and proposed that bass should only be legally caught by rod and line because recreational angling is so much more valuable to the economy and to society. No, you are not dreaming - it really happened.

This was a far cry from sea fisheries debates of the past which saw MPs almost climbing over each other to demand that commercial fishermen in their constituencies should be allowed to carry on exploiting dwindling stocks without regulation. This is a huge moment for sea anglers. For years we have been ignored in the public debate and for decades MPs have been completely immersed in the idea that the commercial fishing sector is a vital part of our rural economy and fisheries ministers have been deaf to the repeated calls from fisheries scientists and sea anglers to rein in the unsustainable activities of the trawlers. Commercial fishing was seen as a great provider of jobs and prosperity and - in the short-term mind set of our political system - they have resisted any serious constraints on commercial fishing. They ignored sea anglers, thinking of us as a small group of irrelevant hobbyists, making fanciful claims about declines in fish stocks.

Wednesday's debate was the complete opposite and our elected representatives seem to have undergone a collective epiphany. George Hollingbery, the MP for Meon Valley who, to his great credit, called the debate, spoke passionately and eloquently of the disastrous state of affairs:

"We are fishing more, we are increasingly targeting sea bass, we are specifically fishing out breeding shoals and we are not allowing the young stock to reach spawning age … there could not be a worse way of managing a fishery that we apparently want to keep for the longer term."

Former Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, looked back to the terrible decision by his successor Jonathan Shaw to reduce the Minimum Landing Size for bass back in 2007 when he should have increased it:

"All I can say to the current Minister is, 'Please learn the lessons of that mistake and go for an increase in the minimum landing size.' It is absolutely insane that we allow people to catch the vast majority of bass before they even reach spawning size."

There was widespread support in the debate for an increased Minimum Landing Size and measures to stop the exploitation of spawning fish to be introduced urgently, both of which are key pillars of the arguments we have been making, along with the Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society, for the past decade. The Angling Trust will be pressing Minister Eustice to make bass a recreational-only species in the weeks to come and at the annual fisheries debate later in December.

The tone of the debate on bass was music to our ears, but even more significant was the clear realisation among MPs that sea angling is actually worth far more to our economy and our society than commercial fishing. Richard Benyon MP highlighted the economic case for action by quoting from a report commissioned by the Blue Marine Foundation with support from the Angling Trust in the past few months about the fishery in Sussex. This showed that between 258 and 267 tonnes of fish were harvested commercially in 2012, and somewhere between 10 and 19 tonnes were harvested recreationally. Taking the median of those two, about 5.7% were landed from the recreational sector. As Benyon pointed out, what is really important is that the economic output per tonne in Sussex is 40 to 75 times higher for recreational than commercial. The employment that is generated, calculated per tonne, is 39 to 75 times higher for recreational bass fisheries than commercial. The report states clearly that the final economic and employment impacts of recreational bass fisheries in Sussex are estimated at £31.3 million and 353 full time equivalent jobs. The final economic employment impacts of commercial bass fisheries in Sussex were estimated as £9.25 million and 111.28 full-time equivalents.

John Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, also referred to economic arguments to make the case for conservation and quoted from DEFRA's Sea Angling 2012 report, which shows that there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, pumping £1.23 billion per annum directly into the economy, supporting 10,400 full-time jobs.

These economic reports, which the Angling Trust has helped compile and publicise, at last seem to have been taken on board by our politicians. The simple fact is that, although commercial fishing looks like an important industry because it uses boats and cranes in busy harbours and ports, the sea angling industry is actually far larger. Sea angling is just less conspicuous, because although there are nearly a million people fishing, they do it in very remote places, quietly spending money in rural economies and supporting small businesses. What's more, sea angling does far less damage to fish stocks and doesn't destroy the sea bed habitat, or strangle dolphins in nets.

It is wonderful news that our politicians have now grasped this. This cataclysmic shift in political thinking has taken years to achieve. Part of the reason is that the evidence is now so stark: trusted scientific bodies agree that if we don't stop netting bass then the stocks will disappear but the arguments about bass also relate to countless other species of importance to recreational sea anglers, like bream, cod, mullet and plaice and the Angling Trust will continue to use them over the months and years to come to make the case for conservation measures that follow scientific advice to be introduced urgently to protect stocks for the good of anglers, and for the long term future of commercial fishing.

Channel ecosystem transformed by unsustainable fishing practices

Marine Conservation Society

A recently published report shows that many fish species, especially those at the top of the food chain, are faring badly in the English Channel. The report's authors say that this is evidence of "fishing down the food chain". Since the 1940s, commonly-landed fish like spurdog, cod, and ling have come to be replaced in fishermens' nets by fish such as small spotted catsharks (dogfish), and shellfish such as scallops, crabs and lobster. The authors recommend a network of fisheries closures to help get the ecosystem back on the path to recovery. Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS senior biodiversity policy officer, says

"This report adds evidence to what we have known for a number of years now - that the huge efforts of fishing boats from many nations are continuing to fish down the food chain in the English Channel - and elsewhere. We really need governments to take on board the urgent need to better protect our seas. There isn't one square kilometre of the English Channel that is protected from all forms of fishing. Recently the government has applied pressure to stop destructive fishing in protected areas where reefs exist in the English Channel. This demonstrates that recovery is possible if areas are closed to damaging fishing gear."

A number of Channel sites are timetabled for consultation as "Marine Conservation Zones" in Spring 2015. MCS will be keeping up the pressure on Government to designate these sites, and will be seeking your support nearer the time.

Report's Conclusion:

"The community-level changes observed in the English Channel reflect those that have occurred in other heavily-fished systems around Europe and the rest of the world. The use of the Marine Trophic Index (MTI) and the Fisheries-in-Balance Index (FiB) on this long-term data series have helped expose a major shift from demersal fish to shellfish landings in the English Channel as a consequence of an unsustainable fishing practice fuelled by "perverse economic incentives". These trends may be reversed by removing fishing pressure from within a network of closed areas and by implementing more rigid management measures including decommissioning schemes and reduction in fishing effort."

Overfishing and the Replacement of Demersal Finfish by Shellfish: An Example from the English Channel, Molfese C, Beare D, Hall-Spencer JM (2014)

Bass - don't let the EU off the hook

B.A.S.S., 11th November 2014

For years, the EU and Fisheries Ministers have succumbed to pressure from commercial fishing lobbyists and set catch limits far in excess of what the scientists said was sustainable. The new Common Fisheries Policy ("CFP") requires the EU to fish sustainably from 2015, by following the scientific advice about how much fish can be caught. The first big test of this new approach will be the December EU Council meeting, where the Council of Fisheries Ministers of the EU Member States set the "fishing opportunities" for the majority of EU fish stocks.

The scientific body which advises the EU on fish stocks, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas ("ICES"), has advised that stocks of bass have fallen so low that catches for 2015 must be cut by a massive 80% in order to avoid a collapse of the stock. This situation has come about due to a combination of increasing fishing pressure and a number of poor spawning years, leading to low numbers of young bass growing to become adults and reproducing.

So you would expect that the EU would now be proposing wide-ranging rescue measures for 2015 to save the bass for the Fisheries Ministers to agree in December. Measures that have been discussed include:

However, the EU has just published its proposals and it appears that the legal requirement to fish sustainably from 2015 has being thrown overboard. The EU has proposed:

Recreational anglers and conservationists are understandably outraged. It is clear that the measures proposed go nowhere near achieving the 80% cut in catches advised by ICES; and to add insult to injury, the proposals disproportionately target recreational anglers while commercial fishing largely gets off the hook.

The sad, but obvious, conclusion appears to be that once again the EU has caved in to the commercial fishing lobby and turned a deaf ear to the scientists. Our only immediate hope lies with the Fisheries Ministers of the EU Member States and our MEPs; If we can persuade them to listen to our protests then they can instruct the EU to replace its proposals with a meaningful action plan that will in time result in a large, sustainable, bass stock.

B.A.S.S. is therefore urgently encouraging everyone who is concerned about our marine environment to write to their MP, MEPs and the Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP, to demand an 80% cut in the amount of bass landed from 2015, as the scientists advise, before it's too late.

Please also sign the petition at:

M.P. for Dover & Deal: Charlie Elphicke M.P.

Click here to send a single email to all eight south-east M.E.Ps (Catherine Bearder, Keith Taylor, Daniel Hannan, Janice Atkinson, Richard Ashworth, Anneliese Dodds, Nigel Farage and Nirj Deva).

Sea Fishing Magazine article (13th November 2014)

EU to limit anglers to one bass a day

Footprint, 6th November 2014

The European Commission has recommended that anglers should be fined if they catch and keep more than one bass a day as part of its effort to prevent over fishing.

The proposal comes as the EU warns that stocks of the popular fish are in "rapid decline" and measures need to be taken in order to limit the number of bass caught by recreational anglers. The one-a-day restriction will apply to over 200,000 anglers who currently fish from boats around the British Isles, despite strong evidence suggesting that commercial fisherman, particularly French trawlers, are to blame.

The EU's recommendations were based on scientific evidence compiled by The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea which has suggested an 80% cut in bass fishing throughout the European Union.

The Angling Trust, told The Times that the proposed one-per-day limit was "grossly disproportionate" and would threaten thousands of jobs, including people who employed charter boats, in fishing tackle shops and at seaside pubs and guest houses. The group also disputed the claim that anglers were responsible for up to a third of bass caught. Martin Salter, the trust's campaign co-ordinator, told The Times:

"The commission is targeting the people least responsible for bass mortality. It's a bit like trying to reduce road deaths from speeding by targeting cyclists rather than drivers."

He also added that a limit of two or three bass a day could be maintainable as long as tougher restrictions were brought in to monitor commercial fishing.

Last week the Angling Trust launched their own campaign to encourage the Fisheries Minister to increase the legal minimum size of caught fish from 36 cm to 45 cm to ensure that younger, smaller fish have the opportunity to breed and increase numbers.

Nigel Horsman of B.A.S.S. said:

"Urgent and very significant action is needed to prevent a total collapse of bass stocks, of a kind that some other fisheries around the world have struggled to recover from. Bass is our most valuable sea fish due to the very high economic value derived from recreational sea angling and we simply should not have allowed stocks to have been overfished to this extent."

Write to your MP to save bass

Angling Trust, 31st October 2014

The Angling Trust has this week urged anglers to flood MPs' offices with thousands of letters and emails pressing parliamentarians to raise the bass conservation issues with the fisheries ministers in both Westminster and the Welsh Assembly Government. A template letter to MPs has been prepared alongside a new, political Fishing Lines briefing (see links below) which includes a series of helpful parliamentary questions making the case for action now to save our bass.

The move comes after the publication by Cefas of results from the recent Solent bass survey in the English Channel confirming that there have been five poor year classes in a row (2008 - 2012) which offers a bleak prospect for the future of bass stocks.

The issue was raised directly at last week's National Angling Summit at Defra with fisheries minister George Eustice, who has agreed to look again at the longstanding case for raising the bass minimum landing size (mls). This has now been followed up with a joint letter from the Angling Trust and the Bass Angler's Sportfishing Society (B.A.S.S.) to the minister challenging the current policy which has appeared, until now, to rely on the EU to implement common measures across the whole North Atlantic fishery rather than taking domestic measures to benefit the inshore waters.

The Fishing Lines briefing to politicians highlights the powerful economic case for recreational sea angling. It says:

"A collapse in bass stocks or a total moratorium on all forms of bass fishing would be disastrous for recreational sea angling which, according to Defra's own Sea Angling 2012 report shows there are 884,000 sea anglers in England who directly pump £1.23 billion p.a. into the economy and upon which 10,400 full time jobs are dependent. If induced and indirect impacts are taken into account these figures soar to £2.1 billion and 23,600 jobs. The VAT alone which is collected from sea anglers dwarfs the entire value of all commercial fish landings in England. In purely economic terms, we would be better off if bass were retained as a line caught species only with the bulk of the market demand met by farmed fish. This would immediately revive the UK fishery for both the inshore under ten metre commercial fleet, who would be in position to provide a premium product caught in a sustainable way, and the recreational sector - the majority of whom practice catch and release."

It goes on to stress the need for urgent domestic conservation measures, similar to those already adopted by the Dutch and Irish, irrespective of the outcome of the current EU process which may well end up being watered down by the European parliament.

In their joint letter to the minister, B.A.S.S. and the Trust press the case for raising the bass minimum landing size beyond the lowest spawning length of 42 cm to allow the species to successfully breed. They wrote:

"It is self evident that allowing the harvesting of a species before it has had an opportunity to breed is completely unsustainable and will lead to serious stock depletion. Why have a bass mls at all that fails to do the job of protecting immature bass?"

Raising the minimum legal size for bass from 36 cm to 45 cm in the UK would achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Contribute towards the necessary 80% reduction in catches recommended by ICES which is highly unlikely to be achieved by EU measures alone.
  2. Improve the recruitment of bass and protect the year classes upon which a stock recovery will have to be built.
  3. Contribute to the UK's obligation under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy to achieve maximum sustainable yield for all stocks.
  4. Reduce the fishing mortality from both recreational and commercial fishing in a fair and even-handed way.
  5. Sow the seed for the development and long term increased profitability of the £5m commercial and £200m recreational bass fisheries in the UK.

Angling Trust Campaign Chief Martin Salter said:

"Successive fisheries ministers from both sides of politics have been well aware of the increasingly parlous state of bass numbers and the long overdue need for the introduction of measures to prevent a catastrophic stock collapse. Sadly, it now seems that this collapse could be about to happen. With the exception of Labour's Ben Bradshaw, who tried unsuccessfully to raise the ridiculously inadequate bass minimum landing size (mls), and the Conservative's Richard Benyon, who instigated the current mls review, other ministers have been reluctant to either heed the warnings or follow scientific advice. The recent ICES advice for a massive 80% reduction in bass mortality gives George Eustice the perfect opportunity to introduce long overdue conservation measures to save this most popular of sporting fish. The more political pressure we can bring to bear to the less chance there will be of anglers voices being drowned out by the commercial sector's lobbyists."

Nigel Horsman of B.A.S.S. added:

"The scientific evidence is alarmingly clear. Urgent and very significant action is needed to prevent a total collapse of bass stocks, of a kind that some other fisheries around the world have struggled to recover from. Bass is our most valuable sea fish due to the very high economic value derived from recreational sea angling and we simply should not have allowed stocks to have been overfished to this extent."

Angling Trust Marine Campaign Manager David Mitchell said:

"Thankfully recommendations to reduce catches by 80 per cent are not common but unfortunately - due to total unwillingness by the EU and the UK government to act sooner - that's where we now find ourselves with bass stocks. The situation is bleak and the scientific advice must be followed. It can be achieved but will require two layers of action to achieve what is necessary, one at EU level and one at UK level. Any deviation from this jeopardises the future of the species and bass fishing not just in the UK, but across much of Europe."

Contact details for MPs

Draft letter to MPs

Fishing Lines briefing paper

SSACN campaign for EU ban on landing tope

For Argyll Website, 31st October 2014

SSACN reports that, following years of campaigning backed up by the data from its Scottish Shark Tagging Programme (SSTP), tope (Galeorhinus galeus) is a new addition to the European Commission's recommendation for prohibited fish in 2015.

The work and campaigns of SSACN contributed to the designation of a Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI) for tope in 2012. This designation made tope in Scottish waters the best protected in Europe. However, due to the highly migratory nature of tope, evidenced by several tagging programmes, SSACN has spent many years campaigning and lobbying for an increase in their protection throughout European waters.

While inclusion on this new list does not automatically mean increased protection for tope (and the other shark species on the list, including spurdog and porbeagle), it does mean that they will be discussed directly by all EU fisheries ministers in a meeting on the 15th and 16th December of this year. Ian Burrett from the SSTP says:

"I have been tagging tope for many years and every year there are fewer of them. It cannot be a coincidence that they are disappearing and the EU has no science-based catch limit for them anywhere."

The SSTP has noted declines in tope numbers over the last decade and since they are targeted by several nations there is sure to be some opposition to their inclusion on the list. However, this is a major step towards increased protection for this species and SSACN is delighted that its sustained efforts have propelled the species into the frame of discussion at these December meetings.

The final proposal will be decided at the meeting on the 16th December and all decisions will come into effect from the 1st of January 2015.

Kent & Essex IFCA considers local fisheries management options

Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (KEIFCA)

A meeting will take place on Tuesday, 4th November 2014 to discuss in detail the potential fisheries management options for the following four MCZ sites\proposed MCZ sites:

  1. Folkestone Pomerania MCZ
  2. Dover to Deal proposed MCZ
  3. Dover to Folkestone proposed MCZ
  4. Hythe Bay proposed MCZ

At this meeting members of KEIFCA together with representatives from the Fishing Industry, NGOs, Defra, Natural England, Cefas, Environment Agency and the MMO will meet to discuss the data, process, regulatory options and timelines for delivery.

The meeting will take place at the Pleydell Room at The Best Western Clifton Hotel, The Leas, Clifton Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 2EB beginning at 11am. The first half of the meeting will be open to the public and any interested party is welcome to attend. Details of the matters to be discussed can be viewed by clicking here.

If you wish to come to this meeting then please contact the office on 01843 585310 or email

South East Fishing Forum Invitation

Fishing Magic: Wednesday, 8th October 2014

Anglers are invited to attend the Angling Trust South-East Fishing Forum on Thursday, 6th November 2014 at the Jack and Jill Inn, Brighton Road, Clayton, West Sussex BN6 9PD. Tea and coffee will be served from 18.45 and the meeting will start at 19.15.

The meeting is open to all and free to attend and anyone wishing to do so should register their intention with John Cheyne

Items that will be covered include:

  1. New invasive species update
  2. Cormorant predation news
  3. Combating illegal canoeing progress
  4. KHV advice
  5. Environment Agency update
  6. Migrant angler issues
  7. Q&A session for anglers to ask about the issues they are concerned about

The Angling Trust will also be holding their South-East Forum AGM which will run for 10 minutes at the start of the meeting. Posts up for election are Volunteer Chair and Secretary. If anyone wishes to stand for either of the posts they should contact John Cheyne

2013 UK Sea Fisheries statistics

Marine Management Organisation: 25th September 2014

Marine Management Organisation (MMO) published its annual UK Sea Fisheries Statistics 2013 report today. Available at, the report includes detailed figures on the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen, the quantity and value of landings, international trade and the state of key fishing stocks. The report highlights that in 2013:

MMO Acting Chief Executive, Andy Beattie, said:

"We are pleased to see that demersal species have increased to the highest level seen for more than a decade. Landings of pelagic species have fallen slightly, but we continue to work closely with fishermen to help keep fisheries open for as long as possible, while ensuring stocks are maintained for the future."

Angling Trust Survey

Angling Trust: Monday, 15th September 2014

Anglers from right across the country are being urged to make their views known on the issues that matter to them and their fisheries via an online survey that will run through September and October.

The Angling Trust & Fish Legal were launched just over five years ago and the organisations are seeking the latest views from their members and non-members alike to find out what anglers want to see happen.

The Angling Trust runs campaigns, and Fish Legal takes legal action, to fight numerous threats to fish stocks such as poaching, predation, pollution, habitat damage and over-abstraction. The unified organisation also promotes the benefits of angling to society and protects anglers' rights to go fishing. The Trust also has a wide range of programmes to get more people fishing more often and manages a growing calendar of national and international competitions. The survey is intended to identify the top priorities for the angling community to back up its campaigns and legal action.

Over the past five years the Angling Trust has been very successful recruiting clubs as members, and now has over 1,600 clubs and fisheries in membership, along with more than 100 trade members, but it has only recruited 17,500 individual anglers. This is a small fraction of the large angling population and so the Angling Trust is asking anglers from all disciplines to let them know what else it can do, and what benefits it can offer, to persuade a larger number of individuals to support its work with an annual subscription of £25.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said:

"This angling survey is an important opportunity for anglers to give us their views not only about the work of their representative body but also on any issues that they feel are important to the future of angling. This might include worries about declining fish stocks, threats to anglers' rights and the lack of young people coming into our sport. We will publish the results of the survey in November and will use it to prioritise our campaigns, and Fish Legal's legal work, over the coming year. I urge everyone who cares about the future of fishing to get involved and have their say - it only takes 10 minutes."

Link to the survey

Angling Trust warns government to act on bass

Sea Fishing Magazine: Thursday, 28th August 2014

The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) recently recommended a staggering 80% cut in catches of bass in order to protect the future of the species. In the face of this scientific advice, the Angling Trust has written to George Eustice, the UK's fisheries minister, to ask him to introduce conservation measures to protect UK bass stocks. The Trust claim that failure to take immediate action to protect dwindling bass stocks would deal a "fatal blow" to the credibility of both the UK government and the EU in managing commonly-owned sea fisheries resources.

The conservation measures proposed by the Angling Trust include:

David Mitchell, marine campaigns manager for the Angling Trust said:

"Failure to act now will see the spawning stock of bass further reduced to a level where a total moratorium on bass fishing in Europe may be the only way to let the species recover. This would have a devastating impact on local communities who rely on bass fishing and for whom bass represents an iconic natural asset. Given the warnings that recreational anglers and scientists have been giving for many years now, which the Government has repeatedly ignored, the collapse of bass stocks would be a devastating indictment of the Government's failure to manage our sea fisheries in the public interest. We need to act now at both EU and UK levels if bass stocks are going to be given a chance to recover."

Last year, scientific advice from ICES recommended a 36% cut in catches for 2014 - something that was never implemented by policy makers or fisheries managers and which has now lead to the drastic recommendation for an 80% cut in catches. The Trust has also written to the director general and commissioner for fisheries and maritime affairs at the EU calling on him them both to focus on the implementation of emergency measures to protect bass stocks as a matter of urgency.

The next meeting of the Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) will be held at 10am on Thursday, 4th September 2014 at Whitstable Castle in Kent. One of the important items on the agenda will focus on how the authority should respond to the problems now being recognised with regard to bass. This is a chance for local sea anglers to go along to the meeting to find out more, and perhaps to make a representation from the public gallery. You can also write to the IFCA with any views you may have and ask that your correspondence be put in front of the authority members. The following meeting will be held on Friday, 21st November at the Council Chamber, Gravesham Council Offices, Gravesend, Kent.

Gurnard and chips, please …

Guardian: Saturday, 2nd August 2014

Cod and chips could soon become a dish of the past, as Britain's waters become ever warmer. Marine experts have warned that rising sea temperatures are transforming the makeup of fish stocks in our coastal waters. Where cod and haddock once thrived, bass, hake, red mullet and anchovies are now being caught in rising numbers. If Britain wants sustainable fisheries round its shores, it will have to turn to these for the fish suppers of the future, they add.

"We are going to have to be much more flexible about the fish we eat as our coastal waters continue to warm," said Professor Richard Lampitt of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. "The idea that the cod is the only fish worth eating is part of a mindset that we can no longer support."

Marine scientists have found that the seas round the UK have risen in temperature by a remarkable 1.6°C since 1980, a jump that is almost four times the global average rise for ocean temperatures. Britain's position on the relatively shallow continental shelf of Europe, and the enclosed nature of our seas - the North and Irish seas and the Channel - have intensified the impact of global warming. As a result, our waters are now attracting more and more unexpected visitors, including dolphins and a pair of humpback whales - a rarity for UK waters - that were seen in the Irish Sea last month. Other changes have been even more profound.

"Over the last 35 years, 15 of the 36 species surveyed in the North Sea have shifted latitudes," said oceanographer Professor Callum Roberts of York University. "The average shift was 300km north."

Cold-loving fish have moved north towards Iceland and the Faroe Isles while warm-water fish have moved up from the south to take their place, added Roberts. Cod is now hardly found in our waters, for example, while the John Dory, a narrow-bodied fish with a long, thin jaw that was once found only near the south-west tip of England, has colonised the North Sea as far as Scotland.

"The trouble is that our national appetite for fish is still monopolised by the 'big five': cod, haddock, tuna, prawns and salmon," said Professor Stephen Simpson of Exeter University. "But very few of these are caught in our waters. So we have to import them - cod from Iceland, tuna from the tropics, for example - or they are grown on fish farms, like the salmon. Only haddock survives in some northern UK waters."

At the same time, however, stocks of gurnard, bass, John Dory, ling, hake, sardines and other fish are spreading from the south into British coastal waters.

"Unfortunately, UK fishermen who are bringing them in cannot find any market for their catches in the UK. As a result they having to sell them to Spain and other European countries," said Simpson. "We should be eating these fish. They come from our waters today and if we ate them instead of cod we would no longer have to import so much fish. But we won't do that until we change our attitudes to the fish we eat in Britain. We are out of date. It is as simple as that."

Next month, a conference, Sustainable Fisheries in 2050, is to be held in London. Scientists, fishing industry representatives, supermarket executives, consumer groups and conservationists will discuss ways to market Britain's new generation of fish stocks, to try to make them as popular as cod and haddock were in the past. "It is a tricky task but I am optimistic we can do that," said Simpson.

Problems lie ahead, however, an example being provided by the mackerel. Until recently, it was rated one of the sustainably caught fish in the North Sea with quotas having been agreed and established by the EU and Norway. Then the mackerel started to move north as seas warmed and stocks reached Iceland and the Faroe Isles. Their fleets started fishing the mackerel in vast numbers. The result was a major dispute with the EU and Norway: the so-called mackerel wars, which have yet to be resolved and which have seen UK ports blockaded so that Faroese and Icelandic fishing boats could not land there. "There will be lots more cases like this as the sea warms," said Roberts.

In addition, the impact of warming waters is hitting stocks and environments already battered by overfishing. For decades, trawlermen have dragged vast, 30-tonne nets with metal doors and chains over much of Britain's coastal waters, in an attempt to catch every cod and haddock they could find. Seabeds in places such as the Firth of Clyde have been ripped up and left utterly barren.

"Three-dimensional, complex habitats rich in coral, sponge and sea fan have been turned into endless monotonous expanses of shifting gravel, sand and mud," said Roberts. "Species that are now shifting their ranges north into these impoverished ecosystems will find very little to sustain them."

Cod is one of the big five seafood dishes that dominate our diet in the UK, along with tuna, prawns, haddock and salmon. Most are either imported or farmed or both. If Britain is to maintain sustainable fisheries in its own coastal waters and avoid importing foreign fish then we need to stop eating these forms of seafood, say experts. The herring is one of the winners in the change in UK seas. It is common, rich in healthy oils and has a lifestyle that lends itself to sustainable fishing. The red gurnard is also thriving, spreading northwards into waters once dominated by the cod, while the Cornish sardine is also making a comeback. All three are recommended by researchers.

Fishing pressure taking heavy toll on English Channel

Monday, 14th July 2014

Decades of overfishing in the English Channel have led to the removal of many top predators from the sea and left fishermen 'scraping the barrel' for increasing amounts of shellfish to make up their catch, according to new research. Marine biologists at Plymouth University and the international non-profit research organization World Fish conducted analyses of catches over the past 90 years and found significant evidence of the practice of 'fishing down the food web'. Sharks, rays, cod, haddock and many other species at the head of the food chain are at historic lows with many removed from the area completely, they say.

The report used catch statistics from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to establish a 'mean trophic level' for catches - an average for how far up the food chain the fish are located. Professor Jason Hall Spencer, of the School of Marine Science and Engineering, and the Marine Institute, said:

"It is clear from our analyses that fishing pressure has caused significant changes to food webs of the English Channel over the past 90 years. The mean Trophic Level of English Channel landings has fallen by 0.1 unit per decade, one of the fastest rates reported among other heavily fished regions of the world, providing yet more evidence that 'fishing down food webs' is a worldwide phenomenon."

Today, the UK and France land around 150,000 tonnes of seabed fish and shellfish per year from the 75,000 km2 Channel - a huge increase from the 9,000 tonnes recorded in 1920 and the 51,000 tonnes in 1950. During that time, the composition of landings has altered dramatically, with sharks and rays declining from 34% of catch in 1920 to 6% in 2010. The contribution of 'cod, haddock and hake' similarly fell from 48% to just 4% over the same time frame.

Spurdogs, tope, thornback rays, cod, ling and hake show the most remarkable decline, while flounders, halibut and soles have changed relatively little during the time-series.

The falling levels of finfish has been counter-balanced by increased landings of shellfish such as scallops, and of squid, octopus and cuttlefish. This has in turn raised concerns over long-term sustainability, and the potential damage done to the marine environment as a result of dredging and trawling for these invertebrates.

Plymouth researcher Carlotta Molfese said:

"Fisheries typically remove top predators first and as a result their direct competitors and prey are able to prosper, affecting the overall productivity and ecological stability of the ecosystem. Severe declines in the populations of major predator species have now been reported around the world."

The researchers say that, far from being a modern phenomenon, overfishing can be traced as far back as the 19th century, with declining stocks reported in 1863. But geographic expansion into new fishing grounds and improved technology combined to maintain increased landings. Hall-Spencer added:

"All around the UK we are scraping the barrel, destructively dredging the seabed for scallops and prawns as fish have disappeared. When destructive fishing practices are banned, marine life soon recovers. So we urgently need a network of recovery zones in the English Channel to allow marine life to bounce back."

EU Bass Management Plan

Tuesday, 10th June 2014

EU Member States are preparing a bass management plan, which concerns the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, English Channel and the southern North Sea.

European bass (Dicentrarchus labrax - what we call "bass") is one of the most important and valuable species to recreational angling and its dependant businesses, but stocks are in decline due to overfishing and poor recruitment in recent years. Something needs to be done, say scientists, the European Commission and the European Anglers Alliance (EAA).

If the EU Member States involved don't agree a regional plan soon then the European Commission might include bass in the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) and quota system for the first time. EAA says that it is opposed to a bass TAC for a number of reasons and has developed a position paper which it hopes will help to avoid a bass TAC and encourage Member States to agree a bass management plan.

The EAA says that preparing a bass management plan is a difficult task as the lack of sufficient scientific information presents a significant problem. The change in the European fisheries management regime based on landings to one based on catches is another issue which may need to be factored in. This bass plan only concerns some northern EU waters but there are bass in other EU waters too. Therefore, an EU wide bass management plan has to be developed gradually and adjusted in the short, medium and long term.

Commercial catches in 2012 were 4,060 tonnes. ICES has advised that commercial landings should be no more than 2,707 tonnes in 2014. This is a significant reduction, but only mirrors the fact that the bass stock is in serious trouble. In its position paper EAA has given an estimate for the number of anglers fishing for bass and the socio-economic value of these anglers to Europe as a whole. EAA estimates that two million sea anglers, out of 8 to 10 million in total, regularly or occasionally target bass in EU waters. One million of these anglers fish the waters concerned by this bass management plan.

The EAA conservatively estimates the socio-economic value of recreational bass angling to be an average of €100 (£80) per bass angler per year but Government surveys show much higher values for sea anglers in general, for example the Sea Angling 2012 study in the United Kingdom estimated that "annual trip spend per angler is €761 (€795 including major items) - respectively £615 and £640 - and annual spend on major items is €633 (£510) per sea angler giving an overall total of €1,394 (£1,125) per sea angler."

Sea Angler Magazine: Mailbox

Issue 505: 8 May - 4 June 2014, page 36

Chart (below) showing weight designation (in pounds) of "codling" by 25 authors of sea angling books published over the 105 year period 1892 to 1997

Put simply, because:

a "rule of thumb" is required to protect the species: so, if it's shorter than 2 ft (60 cm) or weighs less than 6 lb (2.7 kg) return it alive (the "6/60" rule) …

Table (below) showing the median (6), average (5.28), mode (6) and standard deviation (1.06) of these designated codling sizes

Sustainability of Commercial Cod Fishing

Chart (below) showing minimum "retention" or "landing" sizes (length) of cod from 1740 to date

Chart (below) showing (a) proposed solution to the problem of unsustainable overfishing by the motorised trawler fleet, (b) current decline in cod stocks created by the commercial fleet encouraged, aided and abetted by UK and EU legislation, and (c) proposed solution to ensure sustainable catches of cod. On average sexual maturity in cod is achieved at 24 inches (60cm) so set the MLS at that length. This solution was first acknowledged in 1895 and is as valid today as it was 120 years ago …

"Alan Yates on Sea Fishing" (1st January 2014) Alan Yates Blog

Talking about where fishing is going, it is so bad in places and at times it is impossible to ignore who is to blame. The greedy commercial fishermen have all but decimated our seas and no amount of bull from them about there being plenty of fish around will alter the fact that I am not alone in NOT being able to catch anything worth landing, especially in the winter and in terms of cod! Sea angling, especially from the shore, is DIRE and yet millions of us in the UK continue to fish. That's why I believe that no matter where the fishing goes there will always be anglers who will make the most of the smallest fish - you only have to look at the Continent to see that.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) via the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Inshore Fishery Conservation Authority (IFCA) recently produced the result of their 2012 sea angling survey of England. The document makes interesting reading and its like will eventually put an end to the commercial exploitation of our sea by commercial fishermen as it is gradually being realised that sport angling produces more revenue and leisure time activity for the nation than commercial fishing. What's more, because fish caught on a hook can be returned and caught again and again, the revenue etc is ongoing and continuous unlike the commercial fishing which even kills the undersized fish it catches and has already wiped out most of the prime fish species.

The survey estimates there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy - in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million. Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million.

The survey also found that

Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling - almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore.

The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish.

Remember the survey was just sea angling in England.

Click here to view the Survey.

"Sea Angling 2012: Final Report" (27th November 2013)

Sea Angling 2012 was established to find out how many people go sea angling in England, how much they catch, how much is released, and the economic and social value of sea angling.

This was to help local and national policy makers make balanced, well-informed decisions on sustainable development of all forms of sea fishing, and help other organisations - such as sea angling bodies – to develop their own policies. The surveys also met UK obligations under European law to estimate recreational catches of several species including bass and cod. Data were collected from over 11,000 sea anglers in England through an Office for National Statistics (ONS) household survey, face-to-face interviews with anglers by inshore fisheries and conservation authorities (IFCA), catch diaries and online surveys.

Read Sea Angling 2012 – a survey of recreational sea angling activity and economic value in England (PDF 7.5 MB)

Summary of findings

The surveys estimated there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy - in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million of gross value added (GVA). Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million of GVA.

Sea angling also has important social and well-being benefits including providing relaxation, physical exercise, and a route for socialising. Anglers felt that improving fish stocks was the most important factor that would increase participation in sea angling.

Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling - almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore.

The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish.

The Sea Angling 2012 surveys of shore and boat catches give the most comprehensive estimates ever for England, and have been carried out using rigorous statistical protocols. Estimating total annual catch weights of species proved particularly challenging for shore angling and private boats due to difficulties in estimating the number of days fished from the ONS household survey, and in encountering private boats whilst landing. Total annual catch estimates for bass and cod, as required for the EU Data Collection Framework, are shown in the table below.

Figures in normal or bold type for shore or private boats are from the same estimation method.

The figures for shore and private boats are the extremes of a range of estimates from several different approaches to analysing the data. The charter boat estimates may also have some bias if the sampled boats had different catch rates, on average, to boats not participating in the survey. These uncertainties should be taken into account when using the results.

Recent surveys in France indicated that recreational fishers caught and kept around 940 tonnes of bass in the English Channel, of which 80% (750 tonnes) was by sea anglers. This is of similar magnitude to the Sea Angling 2012 estimates for England, given the uncertainties in the estimates. The total annual kept catch of North Sea cod taken by recreational fishers in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands is estimated to be around 1,200 tonnes.

The information and knowledge acquired in conducting this project will be valuable in determining the design of future data collection surveys.

"Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority" (22nd November 2013)

Marine Conservation Zone Designation

On Friday 22nd November 2013 the Marine Environment Minister, George Eustice, announced the introduction of twenty seven Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to contribute to a network of Marine Protected Areas in English seas. Four of the MCZs announced are in the Kent & Essex IFCA district. These are:

A decision on a fifth MCZ in Hythe Bay has been deferred until early 2014

Kent & Essex IFCA has a duty under Section 154 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009 to further the conservation objectives of Marine Conservation Zones and can introduce byelaws regulating fishing activity where necessary. In order to sustainably manage sea fisheries resources and further the conservation objectives of the zones, Kent & Essex IFCA will:

Where management by means of byelaw is necessary we will also enforce these byelaws to protect the zones and/or features. In certain circumstances KEIFCA may make an emergency byelaw where it is considered there is an urgent need for a byelaw and that the need to make the byelaw could not reasonably have been foreseen.

Commenting on Marine Conservation Zones, Natural England Lead Marine Adviser and IFCA member Lisa Jenner said:

"MCZs aim to protect the diversity of marine life in UK waters and nationally important habitats and species. Alongside other marine protected areas, they contribute to an ecologically coherent network of protected areas to build resilience into our environment. With a coastline of over 12,000km the UK has a large marine area, rich in marine life and natural resource. It is important to recognise that our seas are not just places of important biological diversity, they also provide us with a variety of goods and services including, food, carbon capture, climate regulation, pollution control, energy, building materials, recreation and transport. This makes the marine environment key to England's social, economic and environmental well-being and provides significant opportunities for the future that should be protected."

"Alan Yates on Sea Fishing" (30th July 2013) Alan Yates Blog

Lots of talk about the potential fishing bans in areas around the UK. Hythe Bay is one in my region and the local fishermen are up in arms and organising meetings with MPs etc. Of course the anglers are joining in and the Hythe Bay situation has reached panic stations for many. Some may scoff and say it's only going to involve the commercials and it probably will, but there are so many opinions involved with everyone wanting their say who knows where it's going to end? As an angler of 60 years I have seen the fishing deteriorate dramatically and to me it's obvious that the commercial fishing, EU and foreign trawlers etc are to blame. It's not the number of fish it's just the quality. Instead of cod, plaice, sole etc, it's wall to wall dogfish, plus ray and smooth hound and it's obvious what is happening. The species that can reproduce in a year or so can survive the commercial onslaught, the species that take several years to mature and are popular on a plate cannot! Fishery conservation requires a commercial fishing ban inshore, catch limits, bigger size limits for anglers including an upper size limit for bass and compulsory catch and release.

"Operation Sea Angler: The Second Wave" (2013) Mike Ladle & Steve Pitts at pages 67 & 68

Cod stocks and survival

… By now everyone must be aware that the stocks of cod off our coasts have been pushed to the edge of commercial extinction … A cod larva stands about the same chance of survival to maturity as we do of winning the lottery.

On average, only a few from the millions of eggs produced by a pair of cod will survive to become mature fish. A spot of extra fishing pressure, pollution, starvation or predation and the future survival of Mr and Mrs Cod and their offspring is, to say the least, uncertain.

The massive and relentless impact of modern commercial fishing methods, with sophisticated stern trawls and side-scanning sonar, means that our favourite fish needs protection. In the past, a size limit and net mesh restrictions were sufficient to prevent over-fishing of immature cod, but more recently a quota system has been added. When the quota is reached cod can no longer be landed until the ban is lifted for the following season. In fact, it now looks to us as though only a total ban (or a miracle) will save the cod stocks.

"One hundred and twenty years of change in fishing power of English North Sea trawlers" (2008) G. H. Engelhard at pages 1 to 5 & 18


Fishing vessels differ in fishing power - that is, in the quantity of fish they would catch per unit time if they were fishing at the same time and location - and there is a general trend of increasing fishing power over time. Typically, fishing power studies are limited to comparisons over 1–2 decades, but here I attempt to quantify this trend for English North Sea trawlers over the past 120 years. A review of fishing history shows how sailing trawlers, steam trawlers, and currently both motor otter trawlers and twin-beam trawlers have in turn dominated the trawl fisheries. A huge, overall increase in fishing power has occurred but the trend has been all but linear: fishing power has sometimes "leapt" forward within a few years, but at times has also stagnated for decades. Compared with historical sailing trawlers, motor otter trawlers around the Millennium are estimated to have 50 times higher cod fishing power, and twin-beam trawlers to have 100 times higher plaice fishing power. However, this does not mean that fisheries have become more profitable, because increases in catch rates have lagged far behind those in fishing power, and everything points in the direction of great overcapacity of the current international North Sea trawling fleet.

Era 1 - 14th to 19th century: from sailing to early steam trawling

Driven by the industrial revolution, subsequent population growth and increasing food demands, especially in newly developing industrial centres, the British sailing trawl industry in the North Sea expanded greatly during much of the 19th century. Of crucial importance was the construction of the railway network, which opened up the industrial centres as inland markets for selling fish products in a fresh state: fish brought ashore during the late afternoon were transported by rail overnight to reach the inland markets as early as the next morning. There was significant innovation in the design of sailing trawlers between about 1850 and 1880, the period of most marked expansion of the sailing trawl fleet: vessels became larger, carried two masts instead of one and used larger beam trawls with greater catching capacity. During the 1870s when trawling by sail in the North Sea reached its peak, auxiliary steam engines were installed to haul the trawls, and there was widespread use of a "boxing fleet" system, allowing sailing trawlers to stay at sea for longer while their catches were taken ashore by steam cutters – fast, steam-powered vessels that on an almost daily basis travelled between the ports and the fishing grounds until the 1890s. However, despite these developments, it was steam power that caused the decline in trawling by sail from about 1880 on.

Steam had first been used in British sea fisheries in the 1850s, in the form of paddle vessels, such as two paddle steamers introduced in 1856 to Grimsby. However, these initial attempts could not cover the working expenses, and died out. The first commercially successful steam trawlers were converted paddle tugs that during the late 1870s worked out of north-eastern English ports. It was, however, during the 1880s that the steam trawling industry really took off, with the arrival of the first purpose-built steam screw trawlers in Scarborough and Grimsby (1881), Hull (1885), and within a few years each of the other major fishing ports. Steam trawlers had a range of advantages over sailing trawlers. They were not subject to the mercies of the wind, could range further, trawl at considerably greater depths and tow fast enough to encourage the switch to the otter trawl, which was a more effective gear for many fish species than the beam trawl. Further, the supremacy of the steam trawler was ensured by the combination of iron hulls, and later steel hulls, and compound, then triple-expansion, steam engines. This was coupled with a change in vessel ownership structure, from skipper ownership to the development of limited liability steam trawling companies.

Garstang (1900) quantified this first, major change in fishing power of North Sea trawlers. Observing that in the sailing trawl fleet virtually no change in vessel design and only limited change in fishing practice had taken place since about 1880, he adopted the sailing trawler or "smack" as a standard unit of fishing power, and expressed the average fishing power of steam trawlers in terms of smack units. Based on the average annual catches of vessels fishing on the same grounds during the period 1883 - 1885, he estimated that compared with sailing trawlers, the first steam trawlers were about 2.6 and 4.6 times as efficient at catching plaice and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), respectively, and that the combined fishing power for all demersal species was four times higher.

Newly built steam trawlers gradually increased in size, and Garstang (1900), assuming that tonnage was equivalent to fishing power, estimated that by 1889 the steam trawler had become five times as efficient as the smack, and 5.5 times by 1893. The fishing gear on these earliest steam trawlers was the beam trawl, which had been adopted from the sailing trawler. There was a further increase in fishing power from 1895 to 1898 with the introduction and widespread use of the Granton otter trawl on steam trawlers. In an otter trawl, two comparatively small otter boards or doors, functioning as underwater kites, generated and maintained the spread of the net, making the large and cumbersome beam of the old beam trawl obsolete. Not only was the otter trawl more efficient at catching large aggregations of fish than the beam trawl in use then (by a factor of 1.37 according to Garstang, 1900; see also Lee, 1915), but it could also more conveniently be stowed aboard ship. By 1898, otter trawls were adopted on virtually all steam trawlers. Garstang (1900) concluded that the resulting total fishing power of a single steam trawler by 1898 had become equivalent to eight smack units, or twice that of the 1884 steam-propelled beam trawler.

Era 2 - First half of the 20th century: domination of steam trawling

Around the turn of the 20th century, steam trawlers were being built rapidly in Great Britain, and by 1900 their combined number in English and Scottish east coast ports was no less than 1,251, according to official statistics. There was also a continued expansion of the fishing grounds worked by British steam trawlers, which by 1900 included the entire southern and central North Sea, and by the 1920s, also almost the entire northern part. Before that, steam trawlers had already begun fishing in distant waters, such as off Iceland (1891) and in the Barents Sea (1905). From about 1900 to the late 1950s, steam trawlers were by far the most important component of the British fishing fleet, and in most of those years landed at least 80% of Britain's entire North Sea demersal catch. However, there was a general decline in steam trawl effort over much of this period.


The most significant, single leap in fishing power was probably that of 120 years ago when steam trawling was introduced, leading to an increase in its very first year by a factor 4.6 (cod) or 2.6 (plaice; Garstang, 1900) compared with sailing trawlers. Rapid improvements in steam trawler technology followed and, by the 1930s, their fishing power had become equivalent to 10 - 25 (cod) or 4 - 5 (plaice) smack units. However, the most significant increase had already occurred before WWI, so Alward (1911) rightly characterized the steam trawler of his time as "a machine for catching fish such as never existed before".

Synopsis of 20 years of change in fishing power in British North Sea trawlers (1880 to 1900 only)

Editor's note: the introduction of the steam trawler in 1878 had an immediate and disastrous impact on fish stocks. In 1887 John Bickerdyke referred to the problem in these terms:

"… certain fisheries on the British coasts run the risk of extinction owing to the reckless way in which they are worked. The poorer classes of fishermen, who most feel the decrease in the numbers of fish, have no influence, and the more wealthy netsman and owners of steam trawlers - men of limited vision, do not seem inclined to assist in clipping their own wings."

see, for example, Garstang (1900) [1] on the dramatic increase in fishing power when the era of steam-powered propulsion followed that of wind-powered. This persistent and continuing abuse has been well documented during the past 135 years …

The most significant, single leap in fishing power was probably that of 120 years ago when steam trawling was introduced, leading to an increase in its very first year by a factor 4.6 (cod) or 2.6 (plaice; Garstang, 1900) compared with sailing trawlers. Rapid improvements in steam trawler technology followed and, by the 1930s, their fishing power had become equivalent to 10 - 25 (cod) or 4 - 5 (plaice) smack units. However, the most significant increase had already occurred before WWI, so Alward (1911) rightly characterized the steam trawler of his time as "a machine for catching fish such as never existed before".

[1] Garstang, W. (1900) "The impoverishment of the sea" Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK 6, 1 - 69.

"Is DEFRA the Department for the Eradication of Fish and Recreational Angling ?" (July 2008) Total Sea Fishing at pages 62 & 63

Bob Cox ponders the ramifications of the failure of DEFRA's sea angling consultation document.

So, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA) consultation document into the future of sea angling is over, with only 491 people bothering to respond to it. My first thought was that this was a surprisingly low number, until a mate of mine pointed out one possible reason why.

The last consultation that DEFRA ran on a sea angling issue was the proposal to increase the minimum landing size (MLS) for bass to 40 centimetres. There were 2,700-plus responses to that consultation - the majority in favour of an increase in the bass MLS. But what happened ? DEFRA officials persuaded the new minister, Mr Shaw, that the short-term interests of the commercials were more important - he caved in and the plan was scrapped. Why then should anglers believe that this consultation would be any different ? It seems that sea anglers' lack of trust was enough for them to decide that enough was enough.

Among those who did respond was the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees' (SFC) chief executive Peter Winterbottom, who responded on the SFC's behalf. Remember, if DEFRA gets its way with the Marine Bill, it will be the SFCs that will be responsible for the fish that our sport relies on, and they will be whom we have to deal with.

Mr Winterbottom's response was quite long and somewhat dismissive of recreational sea anglers (RSAs), and one point he made I found of particular interest. Some time ago DEFRA commissioned a report from Drew Associates, (see below) a company of consultants, mainly ex MAFF/DEFRA employees. Drew Associates' task was to evaluate the socioeconomic value of RSAs. The company came up with a sterling value of £538 million a year - it is this figure that really annoyed the commercials and those who represent them, and Mr Winterbottom is no exception it seems. In his response he wrote:

"We note that the background paragraph on page 4 recalls the Drew Report. This is fair and proper; it exists. But it is a partial representation of the relative economic significance of RSAs and commercial fishing. The calculation of the 'worth' of the former sucks in as much downstream expenditure as it is possible to do. Drew's calculation of the 'worth' of the commercial sector stops at first landings, and thus excludes all downstream expenditure including purchase of supplies for crew, equipment for crew and vessel, fuel, ice, chandlery, electronic equipment, added value for processing and distribution and so on. No responsible manager can rely on Drew for true economic value of RSAs or commercial fishing."

I will concede that the value of processing and distribution add value to the commercial sector but not as he says, for unless all commercial fishermen have fairy godmothers to pay all their overheads and running costs, they must be paid for out of the earnings of the boat, i.e. the money taken at the time that the fish are first sold! The following also contains some worrying misconceptions:

"The Sea Fisheries Committees are ready to play a full part with the RSA members of their committees and, more widely, to increase awareness and understanding. This is, of course, a two-way process - for the realities and needs of the commercial sector have to be understood by the RSA community, as much as the RSA's problems have to be understood by the commercial sector. It may be that different weights have to be given to the needs of the two sectors - for one is engaged in putting food on the tables of the nation (and internationally) and the other is fishing for pleasure. In advance of publication of the Marine Bill, I think that the only other main point to be made at this stage is that we await the outcome of the work currently being done by Dr Mike Pawson and others at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)."

Here he is referring to the Fisheries Challenge Fund (FCF) which I will come to shortly.

There he goes again: "The commercials put food on the table and we only do it for pleasure." He has completely disregarded the livelihoods of the 19,000 jobs created by RSAs … But since that figure also came from the Drew Report, that also is an inconvenient truth. Mr Winterbottom goes on to say:

"The same act of balancing sustainable RSAs against unsustainable use of coastal access points or pathways may have to be gone through by inshore fisheries managers and coastal local authorities. Other broad sustainability issues include the RSA demands on bait species, incidental mortality of sea birds, and the effect on fish stocks of the not inconsiderable take by RSAs. These considerations and related ones will become of greater significance if the strategy succeeds in making a significant increase in RSA activity. We will not comment on the sustainability issues that others might raise about the practice of driving a 150-mile round trip just to go sea fishing. The association works for sustainable management of inshore waters."

"Just to go sea fishing!" It's called tourism and, the last I heard, it is one of the biggest industries in the world.

So it would appear that the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees is not exactly in our camp, but it is this organisation that may well figure large in our future. Mr Winterbottom may well warm to us in time - he was, for many years, a senior civil servant in MAFF/DEFRA. When he retired he was quoted in the commercial fishing paper "Fishing News" (November 2001) as saying:

"Advances in technology enable the industry to catch fish faster than nature can replace them. I have grown weary of hearing that it is 'the other boat', 'the other port' and 'the other country' … it's not. Everyone must recognise their own contribution to the current stock crisis."

Now he seems to be the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees champion as chair of the Association.

I've mentioned before … that there is a project to see what effect closing an area of sea to commercial bass netting would have on sea anglers' catches. It is called the Fisheries Challenge Fund (FCF). Would our bass angling improve, would we catch more and bigger bass - if our bass angling did improve, would we go fishing more often and would more anglers take advantage of net-free areas ? It's a no-brainer really, but the theory needs to be tested.

Jonathan Shaw announced the project at the same time as he kicked the increase of the bass MLS into touch; a sort of consolation prize perhaps. The project is in two stages. The first stage is a feasibility study to see what is and what isn't possible. This includes the necessity to restrict commercial extraction of bass by netting, to a point where one can be confident that the end results of the study are believable and robust enough to be used in formulating future policy.

A situation must be created where we can be certain that after an area has been closed for a few months, and the word is out that a good head of bass has built up, that gill netters don't slip in under the cover of darkness and have a field day. If a few thousand bass were removed in this way, it would distort the final result and could eventually lead one to believe that the cessation of netting had no beneficial effect - that would be a shame.

So, in order for the results to have meaning, any selected sites would have to be out of bounds for netting bass. To achieve this DEFRA will have to look for ways to legally call a halt to the commercial extraction of large numbers of bass for the duration of the project. That may or may not be possible, since most of the rules and regulations that DEFRA has at its disposal were formulated for the benefit of commercial fisheries management, not RSAs. If it's not possible for DEFRA to stop commercial bass netting for the period of the experiment, the second phase will not take place.

Sea anglers must also buy in to being restricted to some extent, in that there would need to be slot sizes and bag limits - there's no point in stopping commercial extraction only to have anglers taking what the netters don't. The whole idea of the project is to create a situation where the bass stock improves, both in the numbers of fish and the size of fish, so anglers will be expected to play their part. In practice most anglers now fish in a responsible way, and peer pressure may well pull the more wayward back into line. It certainly has in the USA, where bag limits and slot sizes play a major part in the well-managed east coast red drum and striped bass fisheries. Take more than your share there and you will be in deep you know what …

If anglers, local clubs and charter boat skippers feel that they have no interest in participating in the project, then the second phase will not take place. So, with a few sites being looked at and the two front runners put forward to DEFRA, it will be interesting to see if DEFRA has the means to deliver its part. If it doesn't then we may well have to wait for the necessary legal niceties to be put into place before the second phase can take place. If DEFRA does have the powers it needs, and wishes to move forward, then RSAs will need to get their act together and stand up and be counted. Time will tell.

Managing Europe's inshore fisheries: Harnessing the European Fisheries Fund (2005) at pages 15, 16 & 17

This report was commissioned by the RSPB from Clare Coffey of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), London, and written for BirdLife International.

… Apart from commercial fishing and fish farming, recreational sea fishing is a significant and growing sector in some inshore areas of the EU. The total recreational fishing industry (freshwater and marine) in Europe is estimated to be worth €25 billion. There are approximately 25 million anglers that fish at least once a year, of which 6-10 million are sea anglers. Inshore waters in England and Wales are used by more than a million sea anglers each year (Drew Associates, 2004).

In 2003/4, the UK Prime Minister's Strategy Unit put forward recommendations for the future of the UK fishing industry. According to this work, the fisheries sector is held responsible for the following environmental impacts:

Fishing is not the only human activity causing change in the UK's marine environment, but it is the most significant activity and may reduce the resilience of the marine environment to other pressures. (Source: Laffoley and Tasker, 2004)

In late December 2002, EU Fisheries ministers reached agreement on a new basic Regulation for the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (Regulation 2371/2002) and, in doing so, put in place a new strategic framework governing fisheries and aquaculture across the EU. The new framework emerged as a result of the pressures and trends outlined above, but much remains to be done before the new regime is translated into more concrete and detailed measures that lead to practical change.

The specific objective of the new regime is to ensure that fishing provides 'sustainable economic, environmental and social conditions', including application of the precautionary approach to protect and conserve living aquatic resources, to provide for their sustainable exploitation and to minimise the impact of fishing activities on marine ecosystems. The new CFP is also to involve the 'progressive implementation of an eco-system-based approach to fisheries management' (Article 2).

Although the conservation of Europe's fisheries resources falls to the CFP, the new regime gives Member States the power to manage their inshore fisheries (out to 12 nautical miles), including minimising the effect of fishing on the marine ecosystems. Access to inshore waters can be restricted, until 31 December 2012, to local fishing vessels that traditionally fish in those waters, although some 'foreign' vessels are allowed to fish in the 6-12 nm zone. National measures must at all times, however, be compatible with the objectives set out in Article 2 and no less stringent than existing Community legislation including, among others, the EU's nature conservation Directives.

Labour's Charter for Angling (2005) at page 4

A recent study of the sea fishing industry in England and Wales showed that recreational angling is worth £538 million a year (nearly as much as the commercial fleet at £600m) … Britain's 1.1 million sea anglers contribute £1.3 billion to the economy every year … This prompted the government to state:

"fisheries management policy should recognise that sea angling may, in some circumstances, provide a better return on the use of some resources than commercial exploitation."

Put simply, there is a better economic return in limiting the over exploitation of the sea by commercial fishing and allow sea angling to develop and prosper …

"The End of the Line" (2005) Charles Clover at pages 85 to 88

The Inexhaustible Sea ?

Lowestoft, England. The irony slaps you in the face like the January gale. The fish dock is all but empty, the herring drifters gone, the last beam-trawlers that sailed from here broken up or sold to flail the bed of some other ocean, but the government laboratory that was set up to ensure the survival of a plentiful supply of fish lives on, dominating the town, costing taxpayers money, monitoring a sea that it was supposed to save. The laboratory's new 73 metre (240 ft) research vessel, the Endeavour, which cost £24 million, dwarfs other boats in the dock. Yet, despite all this public expenditure we have a sea where two-thirds of the major commercial fish species are 'outside safe biological limits'. That is the accepted scientific way of saying that they are close to the point of no return.

… Not being a scientist, I find myself unenlightened and annoyed by the vast amount of bureaucratic language churned out by the majority of fisheries scientists. They might believe they are being neutral and non-judgemental, but they are in fact betraying a clear bias in favour of large-scale industrial fisheries as the principal use of the sea.

… Michael Graham was a scientist whose contribution to the theory of fishing - which chiefly involves describing overfishing - was large and timely. The years 1945 to 1958, when he was director of the Lowestoft laboratory, saw it achieve world leadership in the understanding of sea fish populations. He was an idiosyncratic employer, ordering that young scientists, or naturalists, as he insisted they were called, went to sea.

To a later generation, trying to explain why the North Sea and other seas declined and their fishing ports collapsed, Graham is a seminal figure, both for his influence on the golden age of fisheries science and for his restless advocacy of 'rational' fishing and the conservation of biological systems on which humans depend for food. The starting point for anyone trying to understand his views and ideas on fishing is The Fish Gate (1943). In this slim book, in the muscular English of wartime, Graham explains why the idea of free fishing failed in his lifetime and why that failure was compounded by the scientific errors and evasions of previous generations.

When Michael Graham started work at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' Lowestoft laboratory in 1920 it had been a demonstrated fact for at least 35 years that industrial trawling can cause overfishing. In Britain, where fishing was first industrialised with steam trawlers working out of Hull, Grimsby and Aberdeen around the 1860s, it was the fishermen, not scientists, who first pointed out that fish populations in parts of the North Sea were being systematically wiped out. The absence of fish in their old grounds required them to steam further out to sea to find new ones. The scientific establishment, in the shape of Thomas Huxley, met this observation with contempt. Huxley chaired a commission in the late 1860s looking at whether fishermen had grounds for concern. He was still expressing the view that (the) commission (had) formed nearly 20 years later in 1883:

I believe that it may be affirmed with confidence that, in relation to our present modes of fishing, a number of the most important sea fisheries, such as the cod fishery, the herring fishery, and the mackerel fishery, are inexhaustible. And I base this conviction on two grounds: first, that the multitude of these fishes is so inconceivably great that the number we catch is relatively insignificant: and secondly, that the multitude of the destructive agencies at work upon them is so prodigious, that the destruction effected by the fishermen cannot sensibly increase the death-rate.

Another parliamentary inquiry, of which an ailing Huxley was a member, reversed those conclusions within the decade.

… Michael Graham's given task on joining the Lowestoft laboratory was to study the North Sea cod fishery … In a 1935 paper Graham conclusively showed that the stock was overfished. His book, The Fish Gate, reminds us that by 1939 the North Sea was exhausted and many fishermen unemployed - the inevitable result of free fishing.

… Professor John Shepherd of Southampton University, a former deputy director of the Lowestoft laboratory and one of the small group of fisheries scientists to emerge from the British government machine with integrity, once put it better than anyone else: "We will always have a problem until we recognise that a scientist's first duty is to the truth. His second duty is to the public interest and his third duty is to the minister."

Research into the Economic Contribution of Sea Angling, Drew Associates (2004) at pages 1, 6, 9 & 10

This study was commissioned by the Economics and Statistics Group of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The research was undertaken by Drew Associates Limited between April, 2003 and October, 2003. The research team was led by Dr Bob Crabtree of CJC Consulting and the economic valuations were undertaken by Professor Ken Willis of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The research team wish to acknowledge the considerable help given throughout the study by many people and organisations. Particular thanks are due to the staff at Defra, especially those in the Rural and Resource Economic Division, in Fisheries Divisions III and IV and members of the Project Steering Group. We are much indebted to the sea anglers who took part in the Focus Groups; to those secretaries and members of the angling clubs that participated in the club survey; to businesses that contributed to our business surveys; and to the large number of sea anglers who gave us their time while engaged in their recreation around the coastline of England and Wales.

Information was obtained from a number of surveys, the main ones being … 900 anglers … and … 130 businesses surveyed.

The economic contribution of recreational sea angling in England and Wales … The total expenditure by anglers resident in England and Wales was estimated as £538m per year from 12.7m angler days of activity … Around half of the expenditure (52%) was by own boat anglers and reflects the importance of capital expenditures on boats and equipment. Shore anglers were the next most important group (37% of the total expenditure). In terms of first round impacts, the spending translates into 18,889 jobs and £71m in suppliers' income … Angling spending by visitors was just under 1% of total tourism spending.

71% of anglers perceived a decrease in numbers caught over the last 5 years, and 62% a decrease in fish size …

Future prospects for the sector depend mainly on demand, fish stocks and facilities. There appears to be a stable or possibly increasing demand for sea angling with higher income groups being more prominent. Projection of the current trends indicates an increasing use of private and charter boats. There is some evidence of increasing corporate involvement in charter boat angling.

Growth in the sector in England and Wales may be inhibited by lack of fish or poor fish quality … In some regions all types of angling are limited by low stocks.

"The Complete Book of Sea Fishing: Tackle and Techniques" (1992) Alan Yates and Jed Entwistle at page 51

6. Beach and Promenade Fishing for Bass, Cod, Rays and Flatfish

Beach fishing for bass

Whilst bass can be caught from rocks, in estuaries and over sand, they are really a fish of white water and surf. The bass is considered the sea angler's only game fish, and is far removed from the mundane pouting, flounder or eel. From the shore this sleek silver torpedo is a fine catch indeed, and whilst not as great a fighting fish as its sheer beauty and classic surf environment would portray, it is a highly sought sea angling species. Unfortunately for the bass and for anglers, it is also highly prized by restaurateurs, its flesh selling for a high price with taste less important than the tag, 'sea bass'. In recent years the heavy commercial pressure of the monofilament gill net and that from anglers themselves has so decimated the bass shoals that it is considered under threat. Unlike many other species, the bass is relatively slow-growing; and because it is plate-sized bass, which have not yet reached breeding maturity, that are sought com-mercially, its future really is uncertain, with its reproduction cycle thus threatened.

"Go Fishing for Cod" (1989) Graeme Pullen at pages 12, 13 & 14


Codling are generally regarded as smaller fish, though at which stage of its life a codling becomes a cod is unknown. The term codling I have seen applied to a fish of 10 lb and that I would almost certainly classify as a fully grown fish. In my mind a codling can be called a cod when it reaches a weight of about 3 lb. If they weigh under one pound they can be called codlets, and anything under four ounces is a fish finger! It's hard to become conservation minded with this species as it is such a primary food source and is not under direct threat of extinction, although commercial fishing must surely be taking its toll on stocks …

… Cod are prime white-fleshed eating fish. In most angling circles you would be deemed a bit short in the brain department if you put them back alive, as it would be like emptying the cash register over the side. However, I respect the individual views of each angler, and if your mind is set on the preservation of the species through conservation then by all means return fish. What I should point out, however, is that those fish returned, with the exception of beach-caught fish, have little chance of survival. They have a swim bladder, and when pumped up to the surface blow up with air and are unable to swim back down if released. Some species can have this air bladder punctured by a sharp ice-pick which pops the air bag just behind the pectoral fin. I have done this with 50-lb amberjacks off wrecks in Florida, and it has been proved by tagging that they will survive. Even when that air bladder is pierced, however, the cod can't muster enough strength to get back down to the sea bed, and is simply swept away on the tide. It is better to keep them for eating, than see them go to waste due to misguided conservation efforts. If you catch more than you can eat or freeze down, either find a market for them or simply give them away to friends and relatives.

"The Sea Angler's Sporting Fish" (1985) Mike Millman at pages 14, 19, 30 & 32

Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus)

… One of the great food fishes, it is taken in huge quantities by commercial fishermen, although there is evidence that, due to overfishing, their numbers are decreasing …

Ling (Molva molva)

… The wrecks and great under-water canyons harbour large numbers of big ling and they find a plentiful supply of food on which to grow fat, for the rough ground prevents trawling, consequently the shoals of smaller fish are not decimated …

Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)

… Hey-day for the Skerries was undoubtedly in the sixties, when hundreds of outstanding fish were caught. Illegal trawling inside the Skerries Buoy has depleted the stocks with the result that the catches are now by no means what they were. Small inshore boats continuously work the ground and it has been known for big foreign trawlers to make a quick run across the banks before making off back into international waters, with a catch valuable enough to have made the risk of arrest worthwhile …

Thornback Ray (Raja clavata)

Not so many years ago the thornback ray was to be found in great numbers all around the coastline of the British Isles, providing both boat and shore anglers with fine sport. Unfortunately, mainly due to inshore commercial trawling, the numbers and average weight of fish caught on rod and line has dropped dramatically in the past four or five years, so much so that it is now a noteworthy piece of angling news if one scaling over 18 lb is caught …

The Daily Express, Friday 26 June 1981 at page 39

Hook for the Cook

Angling by Alan Bennett

A couple of angling pals in the Isle of Man claim the world speed record for catching, cooking and serving a mackerel. Last season they achieved this incredible culinary feat in less than one minute. Off the hook, into the already-sizzling pan and served up on the scrubbed pine table In the wheelhouse - a dish as dainty as ever emerged from the sea.

Many a schoolboy has started his sea angling career with a glinting string of freshly-caught mackerel. They are the most unsophisticated fish. Suicide pilots pulsating with power from nose to tail, ever hungry, hard-battling. Now, as the water warms, they are showing again all around our coasts, but I sometimes wonder how long they will continue to return.

Sadly, generations of commercial fishermen have taken the mackerel for granted, believing the shoals to be inexhaustible. The mackerel have been over-fished and, if care is not taken, the same fate that overtook the rich herring shoals could befall them. Sport fishermen can help to conserve mackerel stocks.


Take what you need for bait and your own table. Don't take more than you need … it's a sad sight to see scores of prime mackerel left to rot on the pier by anglers who should know better.

If you want a few tasty mackerel for the pot - and a scrap into the bargain - here's my favourite method. Try a light 7 to 8 ft. spinning rod, centre pin or fixed spool reel, 10 lb. breaking strain line and a small hook. I like a light balsa float and a couple of medium-sized split shot. Herring or mackerel strip makes a good bait, but herring roe is best.

In early summer mackerel feed mainly on sprats, plankton and small pilchards. By the middle of the season they are taking sand eels, marine worms and infant coal fish. Drift lining from the pier with light tackle on a sunny day can really be exciting. Use a mackerel or herring last with no weight. Pay out the line and let it drift with the current. Retrieve slowly. And when he hits that bait, keep your line tight. If you let it go slack, he will shake himself off the hook.

"Sea Angling Supreme" (1979) Mike Millman at page 112

The subject of conservation is not by any means new. In the 1887 preface to Bickerdyke's Angling in Salt Water the author said: "It is generally believed that certain fisheries on the British coasts run the risk of extinction owing to the reckless way in which they are worked. The poorer classes of fishermen, who most feel the decrease in the numbers of fish, have no influence, and the more wealthy netsman and owners of steam trawlers - men of limited vision, do not seem inclined to assist in clipping their own wings. I venture to say that if sea angling comes into general favour, the followers of the contemplative man's recreation will again be foremost with sound reasons in urging upon the Government the necessity of properly protecting our sea fisheries." Nearly a hundred years ago, then, at least one man was already campaigning for the vital protection of our sea fisheries. I wonder what he would think of the situation today.

"The Fisherman's Guide to Sea Fishing" (1979) Eric Shults at page 147


Mackerel Feathers

Three feathers only

The taking of large catches of mackerel in this way - and they are extremely easy to catch - is regarded by some as unsporting, and is very wasteful if, as is often the case, many fish are killed when not needed for bait or food. This is all the more serious when the mackerel, like other species, is being depleted too rapidly by the growth of commercial fishing.

The Daily Express, Friday 26 October 1979 at page 43

Don't pander to a zander!

Angling by Alan Bennett

I was roach-fishing with friends on the salmon-rich River Tweed when a bailiff joined us - stealthily, as is the wont of bailiffs everywhere.

He said: "I take it, gentlemen, you intend to kill all the roach you catch. They're vermin, and we do not like them at all in these parts."

We did not, of course, kill our roach, preferring to return them unharmed to the water where, I am sure most anglers would agree, there was plenty of room for both them and the lordly salmon.


Coarse fishermen hate killing fish, but sadly some are having to do so in the case of the rampaging zander, that roach-gobbling machine which has become public enemy no. 1.

The Anglian Water Authority has just granted a Fenland club permission to kill zander in a bid to stamp out the alarming spread of the species.

Now the club plan to hold a series of night matches to eliminate as many zander as possible.

Shoals of sharp-toothed zander have recently ripped the roach population on the club's twenty foot drain water to shreds.

An open match was won with a miserable 2½ lb. of fish, and in a club match only one angler out of 24 weighed in.

Zander are a major threat to our traditional fishing.

For several seasons fishing on the Great Ouse in the Ely area has been deteriorating. It is now admitted by the water authority that zander are to blame. Their spread has been incredible.

Alwynne Wheeler, curator of European fishes at the Natural History Museum, says: "The zander will eventually be found in all the major river systems of lowland Britain."


For those anglers who fish the Thames, Trent, Welland, Nene, Severn, and a host of smaller waters, the future is not looking good.

And still there are misguided - and malicious - anglers breaking the law by transferring zander to new waters just because they enjoy fishing for them.

Eventually the problem should balance out as it has done on the Continent, but in the meantime there will be many frustrating years.

Zander most not be allowed to gain too strong a hold. It would be tragic indeed if future generations of anglers did not know the thrill of a good net of roach or bream.

The Daily Mirror, Thursday 11 October 1979 at page 27

Mirror Fishing Club

Curtains for Bass ?

By Hal Mount

Sea angler Bob Craig and his pals are hopping mad. Once a year they treat themselves to a bass fishing trip over Devon's prolific Eddystone Reef. Safe from the attentions of trawlers- the jagged rocks would rip costly nets to shreds – the Eddystone thrive and grow fat in protected environment.

But now this Mecca of the dedicated bass man is threatened with extinction by the growing practice of gill netting, adopted by some commercial fishermen.

Hung like a curtain in the water, the gill net traps fish as they swim into its mesh. And, unlike the trawl, it can be lowered over wrecks and rocky areas.

Local anglers and charter skippers, concerned about what they describe as the "indiscriminate slaughter" of fish stocks, are petitioning Peter Walker, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, in an effort to curtail the activities of commercial boats.


"Is it worth booking a trip off Eddystone while this sort of thing is going on?" asks Bob Craig. My advice: check with your prospective skipper before making plans.

Meantime keep your fingers crossed in the hope that the Minister, when he receives the petition, will act to prevent the wipe-out of Britain's bass Mecca.

"Fisherman's Handbook" The Marshall Cavendish Volume 2, Part 49 (1978) Mike Millman at pages 1366 to 1369


Saltwater - the Future

The future of good sea angling depends very much on what happens in commercial fishing today. Despite recently imposed limits for foreign trawlers and quotas for a variety of species, Britain's sea fish are still very much under siege. Sophisticated trawl­ing methods lead to the removal of tens of thousands of tons of fish from our waters. Already their effect is keenly felt by the inshore fishermen who make their living handlining from small craft for mackerel in winter. But it is the tip of an iceberg.

Take the case of the many small-boat skippers, who are the backbone of the sea fishing business. Between May and September they sail daily out of ports dotted around the coastline of the British Isles, carrying up to ten eager anglers. Looe's sharking fleet, some 30 craft strong, is typical. Without exception, by the end of October the boats have returned to mackerel fishing, which continues throughout the winter. But now their skippers are facing bankruptcy, caused by overwhelming competition from outsize craft. The situation is so bad that many are on the point of giving up the sea for more regular and lucrative employment. If they do, it will end boat fishing as we know it today.

Effects of commercial fishing

Purely from the angling point of view, commercial fishing will have disastrous effects on various species in the future. Pollack, coalfish and ling - the main quarry of dedicated boat anglers - rely heavily on mackerel for food, and it is well known that these predators follow the mackerel shoals as they make their way into our waters. This is mainly why wreck fishing is so spectacular in the winter. Now, with mackerel thin on the ground, this attractive branch of boat fishing is suffering, and there has been a definite decline over the past two winters.

As a result, three top wreck skippers have quit the game and are now working on deep sea trawlers. The fishing grounds off South-West England, generally accepted to be among the finest in the world, resemble Piccadilly Circus at rush hour. Huge boats from Russia, East Germany, Denmark, Spain, Cuba, Scotland and, of course, England, work around the clock. Two hundred tons of fish per day by each boat is an average catch. Three such catches add up to about a million mackerel. Informed estimates suggest that, at this catch rate, the species could be almost absent from our waters within three years.

In talking about such vast numbers of fish, it is difficult to believe that just two mackerel represented a day's catch for 16 small boats 'hurdy gurdying' in Falmouth Bay a few months ago. At the same time, the Hull trawler was scooping up 530 tons of fish south of the Wolf Rock Light off Land's End! No matter how prolific a species is, it cannot stand such pressure for very long.

The bass, the king of sea fish for many anglers, is also being plundered from our inshore grounds, often wantonly. Typically, a trawler sounded a large shoal of bass swimming near the bottom. After waiting over them for some hours until they moved into midwater, a mixed catch of bass and mackerel was netted. Not wanting to waste time in sorting, the skipper aborted the entire catch. The second haul met with the same treatment, adding to the waste. On the third pull it was all big bass, which made £5,000 on the market. This incident could well be an everyday occurrence, for at times the seabed from Eddystone to the Lizard is covered with a thick carpet of dead fish. For some months the smell of rotting fish brought up by bottom trawlers was enough to make har­dened crews physically sick. Terry Burnell, a dedicated Brixham angler, has approached his MP, requesting that the appropriate Minister be asked if he was aware of such practices, and if bass stocks were considered large enough to withstand such depletion. A further important question was on the introduction of conservation measures for the bass, particularly in view of this fish's value to thousands of anglers.

A form of conservation already exists, as no fish below 15in in length may be landed commercially, but all this achieves is to ensure that more fish are added to the pile of bodies already on the bottom. Unfortunately, the bass commands a high price and will always be much sought after com­mercially. It is also a species with a very slow growth rate and some predictability.

Many famous groups of rocks have resident bass populations. Roy Slater, the man who caught the British record fish of 18 1b 4 oz, believes the Eddystone shoal contains 2,000, most of them big; that is, specimens up to 25 1b. They move off the rocks in large numbers to feed at infrequent intervals, but never venture more than a few miles. Should they do so when a couple of midwater trawlers are in the vicinity, they could all too easily be scooped up, destroy­ing Britain's Eldorado of bass angling.

Inshore netting

So far we have looked at the depletion of our fish stocks by the activities of large trawlers, but the proliferation of trammel, gill, and tangle nets, set inshore, is also taking its toll. The National Federation of Sea Anglers, which represents British sea fishing enthusiasts, is acutely aware of the damage involved. It is therefore trying to bring pressure in the proper quarter to have these practices stopped.

Nets set in Torbay have taken large numbers of bass, mullet, wrasse, pollack and dogfish from areas fished traditionally with rod and line. The Wyvern Division of the NFSA, which controls the local sport, say the netting is directly responsible for the dearth of fish from shore marks. They also make the point that the high price of fish has induced not only commercial netsmen, but also part-timers and amateur boatmen, to participate. It must be emphasized that, except for bass, there is no legal commercial size limit, and that the taking of small fish will have serious long term effects on the South-West as a leading angling centre.

Devon's anglers are asked to pass any details of inshore netting to their club secretary so that a full picture can he obtained. This feedback has already revealed that large numbers of diving sea birds have been killed, with the result that widespread publicity was given to the protected guil­lemots which died after being netted a few yards off-shore on the south side of Berry Head. Letters to the RSPCA point out that all Devon clubs condemn the senseless and indiscriminate killing of fish and wildlife, and its own members are naturally con­cerned for fish stocks.

To instill the idea of fish conservation in the minds of many commercial fishermen, particularly those engaged in crabbing and lobstering, is perhaps the most difficult job of all. Big wrasse are so plentiful in the Lizard area of Cornwall that they are used as bait for the pots. Gill nets set at various spots around the headland catch, on average, 30 fish up to 6 lb in 24 hours, and these are promptly chopped up with a meat cleaver. The attitude is simply that with plenty of wrasse, why bother with the future. Wrasse provide plenty of rod-bending sport - many a youngster has cut his teeth on a good ballan - and their survival in num­bers is vital to the shore sport of tomorrow. Needless killing of this colourful species has been perpetrated by commercial fishing and anglers for years.

It is of paramount importance to return wrasse to the water unharmed. Which is better, the fish gasping its life away on the rocks or swimming happily around in a deep pool left by the tide until the time for the homeward trek? It is usual for caring shore anglers to return the catch and the quicker others get the message the better, for it is a key concept for anglers of the future.

What else can be done to preserve our fish heritage? Quite a lot. Anglers should stick together, and join official clubs, which must be affiliated to the NFSA. Combined strength counts a great deal when it comes to arguing the case for conservation. Governing bodies should encourage anglers to fish for sport instead of silverware. One way to achieve this is by increasing specimen medal qualifying weights by at least 50 per cent to ensure that only adult fish are retained. Furthermore, all bag-filling com­petitions must be taboo, as these are archaic and out of step with conservation.

The future

Assuming that commonsense prevails, and that there are still fish to catch, the future of sea angling will be one of great change. Charter boats will be larger, faster, and fitted out to cope with week-long expeditions far from our shores. Day wrecking trips will mean just that, if one wishes to fish a mark with guaranteed success, but the cost could be high. Electronics in the service of fishing are already sophisticated but during the next decade we may have underwater detection gear that can pin-point wrecks and rocks lying within a 5-mile radius of the craft. Who knows, perhaps an enterprising skipper will install under-water television. There is no doubt that anglers would like to see what is going on far below. Such equipment, not much bigger than a Decca system, is already being used by the Bovisand Diving Centre, where many of Britain's oil rig divers are trained, and it is only a short step to installing such apparatus in a wrecking craft.

Tackle will also change as space-age materials replace conventional ones. Carbon-fibre, with its great strength and lightness, should have seen off hollow and solid glass by the mid 1980s, and rod rings will be made almost exclusively from diamond-polished aluminium oxide, which has tremendous benefits in counteracting line friction and wear. Reels with carbon-fibre spools and Teflon-coated moving parts will bring a new dimension to the angler's equipment. The future is certainly full of intriguing possibilities, but one thing is very clear - whatever the gear or wherever it is used, the great thrill of the chase, and the rod bending into the fish of a lifetime, will be the same as a century ago.

"Cod Fishing" (1978) Bob Gledhill at pages 8 to 11


If you believe that trawling affects only offshore fisheries and that the small inshore boats do little if any damage to fish stocks, talk to someone who remembers rod and line fishing in the years between 1945 and 1948. Six years of world war had kept trawling down to a bare minimum and the cod had a chance to grow without interference, showing what stocks were like a couple of hundred years ago. It only took the trawling industry three years to get the level of fish stocks down to its pre-war level, but those halcyon years showed what cod fishing sport could be like if the cod wasn't a fish that was so suited to a jacket of batter.

The great tragedy about cod trawling is the size limit. Logically, the size limit should be after the first spawning year. This way, although the cod is trawled up, it has had a chance to replace itself. This is the way size limits are operated with that other highly commercial fish, the plaice, which spawns at nine inches and can be trawled at ten inches.

Even a fast-growing cod will be 4lb before it is sexually mature, and think how many cod under that size are trawled up. And dare I suggest that anglers take more immature fish than mature fish ?

Cod - the fish and how it works

… The age of sexual maturity of the cod varies widely. The dense shoals of spawning cod that descend upon the Lofoten Islands off the North West coast of Norway every spring can be anything from eight to 12 years old before they mature. This is a direct result of poor feeding. Around the shores of Great Britain, where the feeding is good, cod can be as young as two or three years when they mature … The growth rate of cod varies with the quality of the feeding. Rich, inshore waters provide a much higher growth rate than deeper, offshore areas. The average growth rate for inshore cod is shown in Figure 1.

Growth Rate Scale for Cod
Age in Years 1 2 3 4 5 6
Average Length in cms 18 36 55 68 78 89
Length Increase in cms 18 19 13 10 11 -
Percentage Increase 100 52 23 14 14 -

… Many of the statistics on cod fecundity and growth that form the basis of study today comes from the pioneering work of Michael Graham who, in the 1920s-40s, made extensive studies of cod from the North Sea. His growth rate figures were 3¼in in six months, 6-7in after one year, 10in after one and a half years, 14in after two years, 17in after two and a half years, and 22in after three years.

Figures published in the late 1960s by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of cod growth in the Irish Sea were: one year, 8in (4oz); one and a half years, 12in (¾lb); two years, 16in (1½lb); three years, 20in (2½lb).

Thirty years of research has done nothing to invalidate Michael Graham's work or to show any appreciable change in the growth rate of cod despite a considerable reduction in numbers.

The Daily Express, Friday 22 December 1978 at page 25

Old Father gets fresh!

Brave new hopes of salmon returning to the murky waters of the Thames

Angling by Alan Bennett

Roll on 1982 - if the Thames Water Authority's dreams come true we should all have a very fair chance of hooking fresh-run salmon down Limehouse way.

Perhaps Honourable Members of Parliament will be casting tempting flies from the House of Commons steps. And pigs might fly …

Well, good luck to the brave forecasters of the water authority and their scheme to bring back the leaping silver salmon, but are they expecting too much too soon?

Once, before the industrial revolution and subsequent population explosions sullied the sweet waters of the Thames, it was a fine salmon river.

Earlier this year the water authority launched a seven year programme to establish whether young salmon placed in the now far-from-sweet Thames would ultimately return as adult fish.


Already biologists have established sites where tiny young salmon (parr) can be introduced, mature and migrate to the mighty Atlantic, carrying with them a memory of the nursery to which, hopefully, they will return two or three years later to spawn.

In mid-summer three feeder streams were each stocked with 1,000 parr.

Last month scientists checked out their progress under natural conditions. They were electro-fished out, counted, weighed and measured before being returned.

A few were taken for gut content analysis to establish feeding patterns.

The fish were in excellent condition and had put on plenty of weight.

Next year 50,000 parr will be introduced into the Thames. It is fondly hoped that these will produce a major smolt run in 1980 and lead to the return of mature breeding salmon in 1982.

I am not alone in thinking that this vision of a brave new world for the Atlantic salmon is just a little premature.

Maybe the year 2,000 might see mature salmon running the Thames, but in the meantime there will have to be a great deal of hard work and much hard cash put into cleaning up Old Father Thames's still-murky character.

The Daily Express, Friday 15 December 1978 at page 37

The Zander - will he be friend or foe?

Alan Bennett's Angling

Fifteen years ago fisheries officer Norman McKenzie released 100 9 in. long alien fish by the name of zander into the innocent waters of the Great Ouse Relief Channel.

Ever since that day, depending how you feel about zander, you either bless or curse the name of McKenzie.


For the razor-toothed zander - the European pike-perch - flourished, colonised dozens of other waters and now there is no doubt that its claim for British citizenship is fully established.

Whether you hate the zander as a roach-eating killer or love him as a sportfish equal to the pike, there can be little doubt that his coming has changed the face of British freshwater fishing. In the opinion of many it is a change for the worse.

A survey by expert specimen hunters Barrie Rickards of Cambridge and Ron Linfleld of the Anglian Water Authority shows that zander are voracious, pack-hunting killers and are continuing to spread, by their own efforts and the illegal re-stocking by anglers who have little thought for the sport of others.

With an amazing survival record in new waters, they can rapidly establish themselves to the detriment of other native species.

Most anglers want to catch roach and bream and are increasingly disturbed by the thought of losing these popular species.


But this may well prove to be a fairly temporary occurrence. Zander tend to eat themselves out of house and home and then have to move elsewhere, take up residence in new stretches or, in an enclosed water, eat their own cousins.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest that the condition of pike in the Great Ouse Relief Channel gives cause for concern.

They are neither as large nor as well-conditioned as they were before the Day of the Zander.

Any zander-loving angler who takes it upon himself to give nature a hand by popping a few fish into virgin water would be doing his sport a great disservice.

"How to Improve Your Sea Fishing" (1978) Melvyn Bagnall at pages 9 & 22


Restrictions on trawling in Icelandic and other distant waters have led to increased pressure on North Sea stocks and there is a clear danger that cod will be fished to near extinction - as happened with haddock in the north-west Atlantic. At present commercial fishing is a free-for-all with nations happily taking cod from the sea before the fish have had time to grow to a size at which it makes economic sense to kill them. If cod were allowed to live until they were six years old they would weigh between 10 and 15lb. But the majority are taken at three years when they weigh only 3lb to 6lb. This clearly illustrates that the seas are not being adequately farmed for their cod crop. If there is any consolation in this for anglers it must be that in the very near future the trawling industry will fish itself out of existence. Twentieth century logic should be capable of preventing such a calamity but it is right to point out that cod fishing is in some danger.


It would be a crime to discuss the bass without stressing the necessity for conservation, for they have been hit harder than most species by overfishing - and not just the commercial fishermen are to blame. Greedy anglers have also done their share of damage by killing large numbers which they cannot possibly dispose of. Bass are not fast-growing and anglers who kill them, especially the smaller fish, are ruining their future sport. Once an angler has caught sufficient fish for his purposes he should return any surplus to the water. The National Federation of Sea Anglers have long been pressing the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to introduce a size limit for bass. The Federation's aim is to make it illegal for bass under 14 inches to be removed from the water. But at the time of writing there was still considerable indignation among sea anglers that the Ministry should see fit to continue with the inadequate 10-inch limit. Bass of this size will not have reached spawning maturity and will not have spawned even once before they die.

"The Guinness Guide to Saltwater Angling: Light tackle technique for British waters" (1977) Brian Harris at pages 223 & 224

16 Flounders and Plaice

… Many areas that were once great plaice grounds, where good bags could be caught from the shore, now no longer exist. Trawlers and trammel nets have not only ravaged the stocks, but have used chains and heavy weights on the trawls to tear up the very grounds that harboured the fish: mussel-beds, cockle-beds etc.

Even the so-called protected areas - which include the nurseries of valuable food fish - have been plundered, perhaps because the British Government's fishery protection organisation has proved to be less than adequate.

Two examples come to mind. Foreign and British trawlers have for years plundered the Skerries bank off Dartmouth in Devon, an area where trawling is expressly forbidden, yet the boats get away with it repeatedly in broad daylight! Thus for years has Britain been seen as the lion with no teeth. The Com­mon Market agreement has without doubt signed the death warrant of many flatfish-producing grounds. Another example, of which there is ample knowledge, is the Rye Bay area of Sussex where the greedy trawlers from Hastings were not content to have a decent yearly return but felt obliged to get 'the lot' before visiting trawlers got it. The result was annihila­tion of the mussel-beds which attracted the plaice in the first instance: trammel nets were set and trawlers went up and down between them, dragging tons of ironmongery that broke up the mussel-beds, tore up the sand and stones, and sent the plaice into the wait­ing nets.

But the plaice have never re-colonised the area. All this, and more, has gone on under the eyes of the local fisheries inspectors. Almost every tide, Hastings trawlers make that last sweep and end up landing tons of undersized fish which are left to rot on the beach in full view of anybody who cares to look! Just over the back of the beach trippers can buy plaice, dabs and other illegally landed undersize fish from men who can sell them at bargain prices. Even photo­graphic evidence and dates and times published of the offences have failed to get any reaction from the authorities.

"Wreck Fishing" (1975) (Osprey Anglers) Clive Gammon at page 47

5. Conservation and Controversy

The time seems ripe, therefore, for a sensible look at what wreck fishing is doing. It may not be solely a matter of fishing out wrecks. It could well be the case that the mature fish which provide most of our inshore stocks, especially in the West Country, spend time on wrecks, so that to take the gloomiest point of view, the wreck fisherman may not only be destroying his own particular golden goose but a whole gaggle.

We are not going to arm ourselves with any relevant facts just by going fishing and talking about it in quayside pubs. There is an urgent need for a properly based enquiry by scientists into what is happening. Unfortunately, as always, anglers can look in vain to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to do anything to help. The Ministry, as far as its scientific investigations go, seems only to be interested in large-scale commercial fishing, which is why we know a great deal about cod and plaice and virtually nothing about conger eels and coalfish.

So, for the moment, until we have a govern­ment enlightened enough to realize that the leisure industry and its connection with some­thing like a million sea anglers is economically important and worthy of study, anglers must rely on their own resources. It is only in very recent years that they have begun to organize them­selves, and an important function of the com­paratively new National Anglers Council might well be to try to discover more facts about the wreck fishing situation by setting up its own scientific survey. The old-established National Federation of Sea Anglers rarely looks further than a day-to-day administration of the sport, being more concerned with trophies and prize lists, so it often seems, than with matters which affect the sport more deeply. This kind of project might deservedly win the support also of the Angling Foundation, an organization set up by the tackle trade to finance projects for the better­ment of sport fishing in Britain.

"The Long Book of Sea Fishing" (1975) Dick Murray at page 62

The bass is a fine sporting fish so to save damage always use a landing net. Never a gaff.

Always return your bass to the water. The angler who stands proudly with a pile of dead bass at his feet doesn't deserve the fine sport which they have given him.

"Estuary Fishing" (1974) Frank Holiday at pages 37 to 39 & 76

Chapter Two

Boat Fishing

Commercialism versus conservation

Any angler owning a boat and fishing from it successfully will encounter the commercial aspect of sea fishing. Bass and other prime fish have a ready sale to cold storage companies. As prices move upwards and it remains a fact that almost every species is marketable there is a temptation to join the growing number of weekend fishermen whose main idea is to forget the sport and work on the business. Over-fishing is not a problem that is getting any better.

Some beaches are regularly swept by seine-nets and this certainly does nothing to improve the bass fishing which often detriorates to the disappointment of tourists who have spent good money to enjoy the angling. Pro rata a bass available for catching by visitors produces far greater economic gain to a community than does a bass captured by a netsman. Exactly the same argument applies to salmon. Yet there is no government policy to limit the killing of either species or to make the best economic use of what we have available. The system still operates as it did in medieval times.

Over-fishing is not of course confined to bass. The owner of a small boat was recently fined £25 for bringing ashore a quantity of soles smaller than 25 cms long. At a resort well known to me it is commonplace to see undersized plaice and other flatfish being landed, usually at night. As for amateur trawler-men - there is really no check on those who find it profitable to drag a small trawl around close inshore.

The fact is that the laws relating to the seas around our shores are hopelessly out-of-date. Those of us who were writing about the dangers of pollution in the angling press twenty years ago have lived to see the nation slowly become aware of the situation. I have no doubt that this will be so over conservation. By insisting on restraint by fishermen at the Icelandic fishing-grounds the Icelanders have done the world a service. [5] The greedy inroads being made at the grounds by ships of various nations, including Britain, would have rendered the grounds barren within a measurable time.

All shallow sea (under 5 fathoms at the bottom of spring tides) should be designated as conservation areas in which trawling of all sorts and seine-netting were not allowed. Long-lining and angling would be permitted but with closer checks on the size and numbers of fish retained. There might be exceptions for certain prolific fishes such as herring and mackerel. These banned areas could easily be rendered unfishable to trawlers by a system of underwater obstacles. Artificial reefs made of discarded car-bodies and similar scrap have already proved their worth in some parts of the world and the idea should be taken up around Britain without delay.

A serious and vigorous conservation of fish-stock is of advantage to everyone - to the nation, the professional fisherman and the angler. If many of the species now familiar are seriously reduced in numbers - and this seems inevitable - then everyone is the loser. On the whole anglers are aware of the situation just as they were aware of pollution twenty years ago; this awareness needs extending widely and quickly. The hundreds of sandy bays around our coasts are particularly vulnerable to these commercial depredations, especially to beam-trawlers which leave behind them a sterile legacy of ploughed-up sea-beds which take years to recover. To continue like this is madness when mankind faces the greatest protein problem in its history.

The only alternative to conservation must be synthetic food. Fat plaice and plump soles will come to be delicacies our grandfathers enjoyed and they will take their place beside quail, bustard and similar historic dainties. Soya meat (fish flavoured) will be our last lingering look at the treasures of the sea we failed to husband in time. [6]

Chapter Five

Estuary Bass

Feeding and inshore movement

Scientific work on bass movements in the sea has produced some interesting results. Beginning in April, 1970, the National Bass Tagging Scheme was instituted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Some 959 bass were tagged with the help of nearly twenty different angling clubs. The results to date (1974) suggest that the smaller and younger fish, tagged mostly in estuaries and rivers, have tended to remain on home territory. Offshore fish tended to move around a little more even though, all things considered, they too were fairly static. Two fish tagged at Bude in Cornwall moved some distance - one ended up in the Hayle estuary and the other in South Wales. Of the 59 tagged fish captured to the beginning of 1973, 51 were caught by anglers, 7 by trawlers and 1 was taken in a salmon net. Bass are long-lived fish and since some hundreds of tagged bass are still not accounted for a final analysis is not yet possible. Any angler who does catch a tagged bass is requested to send details of the fish and where caught plus the tag to the Fisheries Laboratory, Lowestoft.

Not unexpectedly this report suggests that bass are creatures of habit with a fondness for their own estuaries. This is a good place to make a plea regarding conservation. Since the tagging experiment suggests that they are fish who like familiar haunts it is therefore entirely possible to fish a beach out by killing numbers of schoolies over and above any reasonable requirement. Anglers must act as active conservationists even though the impact they make in practical terms is modest. However it is only by thinking and acting as conservationists that any impact will be made on the real culprits. Some beaches I fish are swept by longshoremen using seines who are urged on by commercial firms advertising for such bass at something over 30p a lb. These sweeps along the shore should be illegal. They ruin beaches for weeks and it is a great disappointment to angling tourists - now a useful part of the economy in western areas - when they find the bass fishing poor due to the depredations of a few individuals. Conservation is still largely a word with the Ministry of Fisheries. Later, I will explain how inshore fishes could be conserved at very little cost.

[5] The Icelandic Cod Wars were a series of confrontations in the 1950s and 1970s between the United Kingdom and Iceland regarding fishing rights in the North Atlantic. The conflict ended in 1976 when the United Kingdom accepted a 200 nautical-mile Icelandic exclusive fishery zone.

[6] Soylent Green is a 1973 science fiction film which depicts a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and all year humidity due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including "soylent green".

The Daily Mirror, Thursday 10 May 1973 at page 33

Mirror Angling Club


By Hal Mount

Soaring fish prices play a big part in this, I fear, but until the Ministry of Agriculture deals with this issue the unchecked slaughter of inshore fish will continue. Bass in particular are being hard hit, and there is a real danger of this species being wiped out on some coast lines.

The Daily Mirror, Friday 21 April 1972 at page 25

Mirror Angling Club

A very gentle art!

Whether a fish will live or not when it is returned to the water (and this is the accepted practice in freshwater fishing) depends entirely upon the way in which it is handled.

Rough handling will undoubtedly damage the scales and leave the fish open to attack by waterborne disease.

But the greatest danger lies in injury to the gills, the most sensitive area of all.

Gill damage is inevitably fatal, and it is the clear duty of every angler to ensure he keeps his fingers away from this vital area whenever a fish is being landed, returned or held, while a photograph is being taken.

I'm becoming increasingly concerned by the number of pictures in the angling press ot fish being held by their proud captors in a manner guaranteed to result in fatal injury.

Anglers, keep your fingers away from those gills.

The Daily Express, Thursday 17 September 1970 at page 8

Proved: there's profit in plaice from a cage

By Alexander Kenworthy

Plaice reared in cages, like broiler chickens, may soon be appearing on fishmongers' slabs.

For Britain is leading the world in developing a method of fish farming.

Scientists have already proved it a commercial proposition by rearing plaice in a Scottish loch said Mr. Ian Richards at the British Veterinary Association's Congress at Coventry yesterday.

The caged fish grew at twice the rate expected in the open sea. At this rate each cage was capable of producing a ton of fish every two years.

The trials, which started seven years ago, proved that it is feasible to rear fish to market size on a commercial basis said Mr. Richardson, who is employed by the White Fish Authority.


Sole, grey mullet and turbot were also reared to marketable size in 18 months in warm water discharged into the sea from power stations at Carmarthen and Hunterston.

There was no danger from radioactivity, and housewives agreed they tasted as good as fish caught by traditional methods.

Mr Richardson said that America, France and Japan were looking into the possibilities of sea farming because some areas were becoming over-fished and stocks were diminishing.

The White Fish Authority had solved the main problems in this country, spending £400,000 but £1 million was needed to lay the foundations of an industry.

The minimum market for sole, turbot, brill and plaice, which were the most promising crops for the fish farmer, was worth approximately £37 million a year.

Shellfish farming could also become big business and a profitable export industry.

"The Modern Sea Angler" (1958) Hugh Stoker at pages 151 to 153

Chapter Eleven

The Fish's World

… In recent years it has become increasingly obvious that life in the sea is far from inexhaustible. Most anglers now realize that it is in the interests of their sport that small, immature fish should be returned to the water alive, and they abide by their own personal weight and size limits, or those laid down by angling clubs and authorities.

A minority, however - and quite a large minority at that - take the selfish view, and are in the habit of putting anything and everything in the bag. Such people, when reason will not prevail, should be shamed into mending their ways.

Small fish which are to be returned to the water should have the hook removed gently, so that the mouth, eyes, or jaw are not damaged. Also, because the slime on a fish's body is Nature's protection against various diseases and parasites, care should be taken to see that it is not removed by rough handling. If a landing-net is available, hold the fish inside the meshes; in this way a firm grip can be obtained with very little pressure of the fingers.

Some fish, when taken from fairly deep water, will be so damaged by the change in pressure that they will have little or no chance of survival, even if returned straight away. Wrasse and pouting in particular are subject to this sort of trouble, and when caught by the boat angler from fairly deep marks they are often hauled aboard with stomach and swim-bladder protruding from the mouth and eyes starting out of their sockets.

Fortunately, however, the majority of fish do not suffer to anything like the same extent, and will survive even after being taken from quite considerable depths. For instance, experiments have shown that young plaice put back into sea water stand an excellent chance of living, even after several hours of jostling and crushing in a trawl. In one test, when the fish were returned straight away, 71 per cent survived. When another batch was replaced after lying on deck for an hour, 36 per cent survived. No figures are available for fish caught on hook and line, but there can be little doubt that the survival rate would be even better, as many fish get trodden underfoot and injured when the contents of a trawl are being sorted.

Finally, lest any reader should think I have exaggerated the need for all fishermen, both professionals and amateurs, to help conserve our stocks of sea fish, I reproduce below some tabulated statistics showing how the North Sea plaice stocks have fluctuated in recent times.

It will be seen that after being reduced by many years of intensive trawling before the war, the plaice stocks replenished themselves when hostilities curtailed the activities of the professional fishermen. After the war, however, the resumption of trawling operations quickly brought about a decline in the numbers and size of the fish once more. For example, most of the fish caught during the twelve months following the spring of 1946 were between six and eight years old, and 15½ inches long. By 1949, however, most of the plaice being caught were four or five years old, and only about 12 inches long. Moreover, a great deal more time and money had to be spent in catching them.


Year Catch (cwt) Effort (hours fishing) Catch per 100 hours
1936 310,958 1,674,924 18.6
1937 299,264 1,573,266 19.0
1938 244,674 1,359,102 18.0
1946 526,838 694,276 75.9
1947 433,187 791,936 54.7
1948 382,410 850,862 44.9
1949 304,661 875,406 34.8
1950 273,222 859,548 31.8
1951 278,505 872,395 31.9
1952 276,877 828,275 33.4
1953 304,255 811,841 37.5

Note.- The years 1945, 1946, and 1947 were particularly favourable for plaice spawning in the area covered by the above statistics. This caused a temporary 'bulge' in the population of the fishery, which in turn was reflected in a slight upwards trend in catches per foo hours of fishing during the years 1952 and 1953.

The same story could be told for many other kinds of sea fish, and it is high time we heeded the warnings of the marine biologists and fisheries research officials. Fish must be caught, and larders must be filled. But, in the name of common sense, let those fish taken be mature specimens which have already spawned. In filling our larders, do not let us empty our seas.

"Bass: How to Catch Them" (1955) Alan Young at pages 90 & 91

Chapter VI

School Bass

A Plea

With many species of sea fish the numbers caught by anglers is infinitesimal compared with those taken by commercial fishermen. With bass this is fortunately not the case. If they were of more than limited commercial interest it is doubtful if bass would survive in sufficient numbers to make angling for them worth while.

Far too many immature school bass are killed by anglers. It may be thought, on the analogy of cod, mackerel, etc that the few thousands killed by anglers can make no difference. I am sure that this is not the case and that the very considerable number of school bass of less than 1½lb or so taken by anglers has a marked effect on the number of mature bass around our coasts.

The young bass, from the egg stage to maturity some five or six years later, encounters many perils. Those that survive to become mature at least deserve a chance to propagate their species, but this chance is too often nullified by anglers.

School bass fishing is very good sport, and one which I enjoy. I do not for a moment suggest that any ban should be put upon it. I do, however, appeal to anglers to impose upon themselves a size limit and a number limit. They can make the size limit ¾lb, 1lb or (and this is best) 1½lb. The number limit can be a brace or half a dozen, or even more, providing that it will stop the removal of dozens at a time. It is not necessary to stop fishing when the limit is reached: sport can still be enjoyed, and if the angler returns surplus fish alive to the water he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he is doing something to improve the bass fishing of the future.

"The Sea Angler's Fishes" (1954) Michael Kennedy at page 479

Appendix II

Commercial Sea Fishing

The most important question affecting sea fishing today - that of over-fishing - is explained nowhere more lucidly than in Michael Graham's The Fish Gate [3], which all interested in the sea-fishing industry should read.

[3] "The Fish Gate" (1943) Michael Graham

"The Technique of Sea Fishing" (1953) W. E. Davies at pages 12 & 13

Chapter I: Introductory

The Toll of Industry

As the writer sees it, more and more freshwater anglers will be taking up sea fishing in the future than ever before and the reason for it is not far to seek. Many a river and stream, which not so many years ago, teemed with fish, is now dead. They have either been fished to a standstill or killed by pollution.

… Industrial growth has caused the unnecessary death of millions of fish and the defilement of thousands of miles of water. Nature, unaided, is powerless to stand the strain … Serious attention to the twin problems of restocking and pollution is long overdue so is it any wonder that freshwater anglers are turning to the sea for their sport ?

"Sea Angling Modern Methods and Tackle" (1952) Alan Young at page 100

Other Fish


A generalization about flatfish, however, can be inserted here. Intensive inshore trawling for flatfish, particularly plaice and soles, has resulted in a serious reduction in their numbers, so much so that areas once teeming with these fish are now no longer worth fishing. The trawls cannot be operated where rocks are numerous and it may pay the angler to study the coastline or the chart. Flatfish do not care for rocky ground but there are many comparatively large patches of sand lying between rocks which would prevent trawling. Such areas may well prove profitable to the angler.

"Modern Sea Fishing" (1937) Eric Cooper at pages 213 & 232

The Flatfish

With the amount of in-shore trawling carried on of late years, many of the grounds where the angler could once rely on getting large numbers of good (plaice) specimens to-day will give poor results. The best fish are now generally found on those smaller sandy patches set here and there amongst rocky ground which prevents the trawl being worked.

Less-Sought-After Fish

The most likely time of the year to come across a specimen (red mullet) is from June onwards, when the fish come in-shore to sandy bays in the vicinity of rock. If there should be a drain discharge near by so much the better, for it is a foul feeder.

"The Sea Fishes of the British Isles both Fresh Water and Salt" (1936, second edition, 1961 reprint) J. Travis Jenkins at page 15


The fish of the British Isles, whether fresh water or salt, are a great natural as well as national asset. It is notorious hat the stock of freshwater fish is nothing like it used to be, or ought to be. Indifference on the part of the public is largely responsible for this. The pollution of streams by sewage and manufacturing effluents, poaching and overfishing by netting, not only in estuaries but in fresh waters as well, all share in the blame for the present state of affairs. Fortunately public opinion is awakening, and the passing of remedial Acts of Parliament, notably in the case of pollution, is producing an ameliorative effect.

In the case of salt-water fish the conditions are widely different. Some fish - mostly those of pelagic habit - show no signs of overfishing, though they may and do show seasonal and annual fluctuations. Other sea fish, of which the Plaice may be taken as example, clearly show a marked and rapid decline in abundance. The cause of the decline in the case of sea fish is due to one cause and one cause only - overfishing. Since the present generation is the trustee for future genera­tions in the matter of preserving our species of fish and of maintaining a reasonable supply of the same, it behoves us to consider briefly the measures that are, or might be, taken to prevent wholesale destruction, and to restock where overfishing has been allowed to go on in the past. The main remedies are artificial hatching and rearing of fish, and legislative measures for protection, including size limits, the closure of fishing-grounds and the enforcement of a close season.

"The Sportsman's Library: Sea Fishing" (1935) Major D. P. Lea Birch ("Fleur-de-Lys") at page 142

Chapter X: Flat-Fish

From the commercial point of view, the plaice is the most important of our flat-fishes. This distinction is likely to prove disastrous to the species, for it has been decidedly over-fished, and is rapidly declining in numbers. It keeps to comparatively restricted areas and so does not have the same chance of holding its own as other far wandering and migratory fish. Trawling causes the most appalling destruction of immature plaice, which get crowded together with masses of all sorts of debris from the bottom into the trawl, and are mostly dead or dying by the time they are turned back into the sea.

"Deal and Walmer Angling Association: A History from 1904 to 2002" (2002) Marcel Baut at page 187

20th August 1928

… His Worship said that the scarcity of fish was not peculiar to Deal alone, but along the south coast. The matter was raised at a meeting of the Cinque Ports, where another meeting was arranged with the Ministry of Fisheries, to see what could be done. The suggestion which he and the other Mayors made to the Minister was "stop trawling within a three-miles radius for six months of the year". Their interview, however, was of no good, nothing had been done. The Mayor was given a hearty vote of thanks for his services on behalf of the Deal and coastal anglers in connection with his visit to the Ministry of Fisheries.

"Modern Sea Angling" (1921) Francis Dyke Holcombe at page 3


… the great diminution of trawling during the years of war … must necessarily have an immensely beneficial effect upon maritime fish life of which … the sea angler … will reap the advantage in the years to come.

"Angling in Rivers, Lakes & Sea" (1920) Walter Matthew Gallichan ("Geoffrey Mortimer") at page 109

Part III

Sea Fishing

Chapter III

Other Sea Fish

"There are plenty of good fish in the sea" in spite of the steam-trawlers …

"Sea-Fishing" (1911) Charles Owen Minchin at pages 12 & 13

Chapter II: The Bass

… On the Atlantic coast of the United States (and now on the Pacific coast also) there is a very closely allied species which has stripes, and is called the "striped bass" [9]. It is a very fine sporting fish, and grows to a much larger size than our native species, and, as it had been successfully transported from the Atlantic to the Pacific and acclimatised on the shore of California and Oregon, there was at one time some talk of endeavouring to introduce it here. Unluckily, the striped bass, which is to some extent anadromous, [10] is very fond of the small fishes which it finds in fresh water, so some alarm was manifested as to the danger, real or imaginary, to the descending smolts of salmon and sea-trout, and it was thought wiser not to run the risk of doing mischief which could not afterwards be undone. It is quite possible that there was no real danger to be apprehended, for it is the opinion of Mr. C. F. Holder, a leading light among American sea-fishermen, that the striped bass would confine itself to a diet of crustaceans and leave the salmonidæ alone; while, on the other hand, Mr. Worth, of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, thought that there would be some risk, and expressed the view that if the responsibility rested with him he would certainly be against the introduction of the striped bass here.

The bass is pre-eminently a sportsman's fish, considered to be of so little commercial importance that in the best handbook extant of our mercantile marine fishes it is dismissed cursorily after a mere mention of the name. Nevertheless, a good many bass are netted or hooked by the professional fishermen, and, as the fish always fetches a fair price at the waterside, some of these men, who possess exceptional skill or special knowledge of the haunts and feeding habits of bass, manage to pick up quite a comfortable livelihood while the season lasts. Unfortunately, a great deal of netting of the small, immature fish goes on in some of the estuaries of the South Coast, which is a killing of the proverbial goose, for the fish (which grow very fast) would, if left in peace, soon become of dimensions to yield good sport on the hook and be a great attraction to angling visitors, who would be glad to resort to these places if only they were certain of obtaining sufficient amusement with rod and line.

[9] Editor's note: The maximum scientifically recorded weight of a striped bass (Morone saxatilis) is 57 kg (125 lb). The common mature size is 120 cm (3.9 ft). Striped bass are believed to live for up to 30 years. The maximum length is 180 cm (6 ft) and the average size is about 67 to 100 cm (2.2 to 3.3 ft) and 4.5 to 14.5 kg (10 to 32 lb). In comparison, the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax - "bass") can grow to a total length of over 1 m (3.3 ft) and a weight of 15 kg (33 lb). The largest bass caught from the UK shore by rod weighed 8.958 kg (19 lb 12 oz).

[10] Editor's note: "anadromous" means migrating up rivers from the sea to breed in fresh water.

"Practical Sea-Fishing" (1905) P. L. Haslope at page 3


Unlike rivers and lakes, now so jealously guarded, the sea is free to everybody, and the amateur can cast his line where he pleases without any fear of being ordered off …

"The Salt of My Life" (1905) Frederick George Aflalo at page 23

Speaking Generally

The chalk foreshore of Kent, the sandy bays and shingle beaches of Sussex, and the rocky grounds of Devon and Cornwall yield the finest chance of bass and mullet, or mackerel, cod, pollack, whiting, conger, every sea-fish, great and small, that means anything to the fisherman or epicure. Here and there, over-fishing has unquestionably worked the evil on the home grounds, of which it is capable, but the fishes most favoured by the sportsman - the bass, the pollack and the grey mullet - are in no danger of being trawled much nearer to extinction, since that devastating engine captures them only incidentally and not of set purpose. The pollack keeps to the rocks, and the worst intruder in its stronghold is the trammel or handline. The other two thrive in sheltered estuaries and shallow creeks, equally beyond reach of the most effectual commercial methods of capture. Now and again we hear accounts of bass being driven away by dynamite, but such practices are much less rife with us than on southern shores, where indeed the indiscriminate use of bombs has ruined once productive home grounds.

Russian Outrage on Hull Fishing Fleet
Dogger Bank, 22nd October 1904

"The London Magazine" (1904 - No 71 Vol XII) A. E. Johnson at pages 585 & 586

From Deep Sea to Dinner Table

Mr John Smith, as he sits at his dinner table in a select district of Suburbia, and contemplates the delicate morsel of boiled halibut before him, gives never a thought as to how that succulent dainty found its way to the table. He saw it, perhaps, lying yesterday on the fishmonger's slab, but of its history prior to its advent there he is, in all probability, profoundly ignorant. At all events, it is not unreasonable to suppose that were he told that but a week or so ago his evening meal had been disporting itself in waters not so very far below the Arctic Circle, a thousand miles and more away, his astonishment would be considerable, and not a whit to be lessened by a further knowledge of the arduous toil which its transport thence had entailed upon numbers of his fellow men.

There is a general idea among those unlearned in the lore of fisheries that the fish consumed in this country comes principally, if not entirely, from the North Sea. In former days this was, to a very great extent, true, but at the present day it is the remarkable fact that, so far as the species caught by the method of trawling (principally cod, haddock, plaice and halibut) are concerned, the North Sea is practically exhausted. This lamentable state of affairs is directly traceable to the application of steam to the deep sea fishing industry. In the old days of the fishing smack, sailing pretty much whithersoever the wind and tide listed, the shoals were given at least a sporting chance. Then came the steam trawler, independent of wind and tide alike. A favourable patch of ground with abundance of fish would be struck. Over the side would go a buoy, and whereas the smack would have made perhaps but a single haul in its passage, round and round that mark would ply the steamer till scarce a fish remained to be caught.

Fortunately a remedy for the dire prospect caused by an exhaustion of the North Sea fisheries was found before a crisis was reached in the opening up, some score of years ago, of the fishing grounds off the south and west coasts of Iceland …

The Fisherman's Home (1904)

The Daily Express, Friday 26 September 1902 at page 4

Fish Getting Scarcer

One of the resolutions to be brought forward at the National Conference of Fisheries Protection Association, to be held at Grimsby on Tuesday and Wednesday next, deals with the depletion of the North Sea fishing grounds.

This subject was fully dealt with in Tuesday's issue in an able article by Mr. F. G. Aflalo, and the conference is to be asked to demand that steps be taken to prevent the diminution of the supply of food fishes in the waters around our eastern coast.

Other matters that will be pressed are the establishment of telegraphic communication with Iceland and the Faroe Isles, the question of owners' risk on railways, and the establishment of a Fishery Department.

The Daily Express, Tuesday 23 September 1902 at page 2

A Famine in Fish

The Question Whether the North Sea, our Main Fish Supply, will Become Barren

By F. G. Aflalo

It is about fifteen years, more or less, since Mr. W. S. Gilbert, with his charming prescription of platitude wrapped in epigram, told enthusiastic Savoy audiences that "there are lots of good fish in the sea." This was a highly original remark on Mr. Gilbert's part, and made me wonder at the time whether he was a sea fisherman, like myself.

There is no doubt that Mr. Gilbert was in the right. There are many good fish in the sea; yet I question whether even his optimism would find support in the bare statement of the fact if he had to make his living by getting them out of it. The fact is the good fish are receding more and more from the over-fished zone around the land; the fishermen have to go further and further to make poorer catches than they made twenty years ago in sight of their own windows; and if things pro from worse to worst there is serious menace of the good fish in the sea having to lie there.

This will mean that they are commercially extinct. When one writes or speaks of the exhaustion of an area, of salt water, or of the extermination of any particular fish, he speaks, of course, from the commercial point of view. Of course, it is virtually impossible that the operations of man should entirely deplete any sea or portion of a sea of its fish, or should catch all the individuals of a certain species of fish so that the species should henceforth be reckoned as extinct as the dodo.

Commercial Extinction

When, therefore, those who always see the bright side of things (chiefly because they lack the courage to see the truth) insist on this impossibility, they do but beg the question. No one has ever asserted in all seriousness that the plaice or sole will be absolutely exterminated by trawling, either in the North Sea, or, for the matter of that, in any single bay or inlet of that sea. What may, and indeed, it seems what will, happen is that these fish will, thanks to overfishing, become so scarce in localities where once they were plentiful that it will no longer pay to catch them.

For all practical purpose, then, so far as the supply of the market and the employment of fishermen go in those areas, the fish would be extinct. When a mining syndicate has drawn its ore down to a certain depth, I imagine it relinquishes the enterprise not because there is no gold left, but because it no longer pays to bring the gold so far to the surface. Save for the distinction between the vertical operations of the miner and the horizontal activity of the trawler, the case is almost precisely analogous; and not until we reduce artificial restocking of the sea to a practical measure instead of a scientific experiment will it be necessary to discuss the fisheries on any other basis.

Once the fisherman begins to sow where he has for centuries only reaped, then, indeed, the fisheries will approximate to agriculture in the ethics of profits, diminishing returns, and all the other fascinating jargon of the political economist.

Great International Enterprise

A renewed attention to the case of the North Sea has inevitably followed the announcement that the International Council for the Study of the Sea has fairly embarked on its programme at Copenhagen. The share assumed by his Majesty's Government in this interesting and valuable enterprise has been the subject of some bitter and unreasoning criticism at home.

It has been urged that the investigations of Mr. Garstang's committee on over-fishing in the North Sea can be of no value to England; and it has been, most illogically, I think, objected that the other nations concerned have a far greater interest at stake.

The strongest argument, to wit, that several countries which fish the North Sea have not thought it worth while to be represented on the council, is in reality the weakest. The two countries standing out are Belgium and France. As Belgium contributed to the North Sea fleets this year a total of just six vessels, and as five of these returned to port after five months of hard fishing with a total catch of one hundred and fifty tons, it will perhaps be granted without demur that Belgium's stake in the North Sea fisheries is hardly so great as to compel her to spend money in studying the causes of their falling off.

This leaves France as the single maritime nation of importance in Northern Europe that has declined to co-operate. It is almost past belief that a nation that has ever been in the van of scientific discovery should set its face against such enterprise, and the reasons must surely be written on parchment in the Chancelleries, and must rest on considerations over and above any question of fish and fishermen.

The Disappearing Sole

The chief food fishes of the North Sea are, I suppose, the cod, the haddock, the herring, the plaice, and the sole. It is the last two only which are seriously threatened with what I have ventured to call commercial extinction. Biological considerations, into which there is no room to enter here, render it extremely improbable that the first three, which are round fish, should be appreciably nearer their commercial extermination for a long time to come. One fact in support of this may be named here, and that is that they perform such immense migrations as periodically take them away to the deeper seas out of ken of the fishermen, and out of reach of their nets.

With the flat fish it is otherwise, and the maritime Governments bordering on the North Sea have for years been confronted with the problem of their increasing scarcity.

We shall all await with interest the reports which may be expected from the international committee in the charge of Mr. Garstang, and it is a feather in the cap of the Plymouth Marine Biological Association that a naturalist so long associated with its work should have been placed in command of this particular branch of the council's deliberations. That the committee may be able to throw new light on the causes of this depletion, other, perhaps, than that over-fishing to which they have so far been exclusively attributed, is far from improbable, but I am less happy with regard to the remedies that they may suggest.

They have not, it is true, suggested any yet, for the disease must be diagnosed before the remedy is indicated, but he who takes in hand the restoration of an exhausted fishery of such extent takes in hand a big job. At the same time we may watch with attention the progress of this great work, and it is not perhaps too much to hope that France may awake to her responsibilities as a great scientific nation, and may, for her credit's sake, throw in her lot and her francs with the rest before the results reach the stage of actual promise of-benefits. To wait until there seemed some certainty of reward might be shrewd, but it could hardly be regarded as public-spirited.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 27 & 28

Chapter IV

The middle or midship, to use a shipbuilding term, section of Dover's fishing ground extends from the East Cliff to the western side of the Admiralty, the latter structure acting as a sort of partition or neutral ground to be hereafter described. The Bay proper … During the summer months it is here that trawlers may be seen dragging astern nets whose capacious mouths swallow up all the unfortunates which come across their path, and yet the cry is - still they come. Tomorrow will be just the same, the next to no diminution, and so on ad infinitum. To the prodigality of the sea there appears no end, accounted for by the special provision which enables fish to multiply in such a manner as almost to baffle our finite comprehension.

"Practical Letters to Young Sea Fishers" (1898) John Bickerdyke at pages 6, 210, 211 & 225


Not the most learned writer on fishing can tell a man how to catch fish where there are none.

Deep Sea Fishing

The reason why such a large hook is used on a hand-line while a small one is preferred for the long-line, may require some explanation … On many of the banks … over-trawling is ruining the fishing, and the long-liners now endeavour to catch small fish which years ago they despised.


At one time the coasts of Devon and Cornwall used to literally swarm with (bass), but, owing to the persistent netting, or the ever increasing steamboat traffic, or from scarcity of the natural food supply, they are becoming scarce, except in a few favoured spots.

"Sea Fishing (The Badminton Library)" (1895) John Bickerdyke at pages 8, 267 to 285 & 293 to 299

… trawling in territorial waters is not only inimical to the sport of the sea angler, but also most injurious to certain fisheries and to the local professional fishermen who depend upon them for a subsistence.

It is with great reluctance that I venture any remarks which may lead to an increase in trawling; for the practice has long been doing great injury to the fisheries all round our coasts. Flat fish, and, in particular, soles and plaice, have become exceedingly scarce in many places. Unless trawling is absolutely prohibited in territorial waters, and the sale of immature flat fish is made an offence, irreparable harm will be done to a very important calling.

In this matter the sportsman and the poorer fishermen who obtain a living by setting long lines near the coast are on the same footing. Both of them suffer from the disastrous effects of not only the destruction of immature fish, but also of over fishing the shallow inshore grounds. The sea is no doubt a large place, but the portions of it which can be profitably fished are far more limited than the general public suppose.

… Even the trawlers and their learned friends admit that certain kinds of fish are scarcer than they used to be.

Are the fisheries deteriorating or not ? The only practicable way to test the question is to compare the season's catches at the present day made by one or some other given number of boats, with the catches made by the same number of boats, working similar gear, at an earlier period of similar duration.

Perhaps the most useful work the Marine Biological Association ever did was in sending Mr. W. L. Holt to make investigations into this subject. In the report of the Association for October 1894 there is a paper by this gentleman on the destruction of immature fish in the North Sea. He states that the suggestions as to size limits embodied in the draft report of the parliamentary committee would, if carried into effect, leave the North Sea fishery in statu quo. So much for committees. With regard to one important flat fish, he says:

"That plaice are actually decreasing in the North Sea is a fact so generally recognised that it hardly needs illustration … The scarcity is most felt in the winter months, when, for whatever reason, the fish are very hard to catch."

Mr. Holt regards steam trawlers as most powerful engines of destruction, dangerously so, in fact, in the present state of the grounds. With regard to the advantage of closing the fishing grounds within the three miles' territorial limit of the shore, Mr. Holt gives an account of some trawling which was carried on by Professor McIntosh, on the Garland in the neighbourhood of Scarborough, with the object of obtaining soles to stock the Scotch Fishery Board's hatchery at Dunbar … The fishing grounds had been closed to trawlers for two years, and the local people believed that a considerable improvement had already manifested itself in the local line fishery. Soles seemed scarce, but those taken were fine fish, and it was a curious fact that the local fishermen were catching soles very easily on their lines, though the steam trawler took very few … Mr. Holt's conclusion is that the sole fishery had greatly revived since trawling was forbidden in those waters.

It is often put forward on behalf of the trawlers that all undersized fish are returned to the water, being unsalable. But this is one of those dreadfully unpractical remarks put forward by unpractical people, who quite overlook the injury done to the fish while in the trawl …

I have not the slightest wish to write anything which would injure a very important branch of the fishing trade, and it may be said, of course, that I am chiefly interested in preserving sea fish for the use of sportsmen. If, however, it is shown that overtrawling is being carried on, and that certain fisheries are being seriously injured, it should be obvious that any reasonable restrictions on trawling, which tend to promote the welfare of the fisheries, are really most of all in the interests of the trawlers.

… The history of many a fishing ground reads somewhat as follows: a little trawling and a good deal of line fishing and average quantities of fish caught year by year. Then come more trawlers, and for several years more fish are caught than previously, owing, of course, to increased and improved methods of capture. But soon follows the inevitable falling-off in the productiveness of the fisheries, the men cry out, and there is a royal commission or a special committee. In due course a blue book is published, sooner or later a general election occurs, new fishing grounds are discovered, and the matter is forgotten.

They seem to manage these things better in Denmark. The Government of that country, finding that the English and other foreign trawlers were beginning to injure the Faröe and Icelandic fisheries, have recently prohibited trawling in those waters. The mere possession of a trawl on those fishing grounds entails a heavy penalty.

What could be more forcible than the statement of the Select Committee of 1893 ? That committee reported, as regards the great fishing grounds in the North Sea, that the consensus of evidence of a number of persons interested in the fisheries, whether professionals or landsmen, whether smack-owners or fishermen, whether scientific experts or statisticians,

"showed that a serious dimuntion had occurred among the more valuable classes of flat fish, particularly soles and plaice - a diminution which was to be attributed to overfishing by trawlers in certain localities."

Note. Only a few days before the publication of this book, and therefore too late for more than this short notice, there appears a most important report on "Trawling in the North Sea", with special reference to the destruction of immature fish, by E. W. L. Holt. It is issued as a special number of the "Journal" of the Marine Biological Association [2], and I earnestly commend it to the attention of all those interested in the preservation of sea fish.

[2] Holt, W.L. (1895) "Examination of the present state of the Grimsby trawl fishery Part 1." Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, pages 345 - 371

Chapter VIII: Sea Fishing from Yachts and Large Fishing Boats

It is with great reluctance that I venture any remarks which may lead to an increase of trawling for the practice has long been doing great injury to the fisheries all round our coasts. Flat fish, and, in particular, soles and plaice, have become exceedingly scarce in many places. Unless trawling is absolutely prohibited in territorial waters, and the sale of immature flat fish is made an offence, irreparable harm will be done to a very important calling.

In this matter the sportsman and the poorer fishermen who obtain a living by setting long lines near the coast are on the same footing. Both of them suffer from the disastrous effects of not only the destruction of immature fish, but also of over-fishing the shallow inshore grounds. The sea is no doubt a large place, but the portions of it which can be profitably fished are far more limited than the general public suppose.

For some reason or another a number of leading scientific men have for some time been rather fighting the battle of the trawler, and a cry of delight was raised by them when some one pointed out that the eggs of the principal food fishes float on the surface. "Therefore," said they, being all unpractical men, "you see, after all, the trawlers do no harm; for they do not disturb the eggs." These worthy but unpractical people altogether left out of consideration the fact that the eggs hatch, and in due course the resulting small fish retire to the bottom, where they are scraped up by the trawl together with stones, prickly sea urchins, conger eels, spiny thornbacks, oysters, sharp-edged shells of various kinds, and a vast quantity of debris; and that, after being towed along in the cod of a net in such dangerous company, these wretched little creatures are brought out and emptied on deck, crushed, bruised, and injured almost beyond the power of identification.

It has been truly said that you can prove anything by means of statistics, and figures have been used to prove that our fisheries are not being injured by trawls. The proof is easily effected in the following manner: The number of boxes of fish caught in 1866, let us say, are not so many as the number of boxes of fish caught in 1895. "You see," says the trawler, "we are catching more fish now, therefore our fisheries cannot be falling off." But the weak point in this argument is that there are many more vessels with much more deadly engines of destruction engaged in the fishing industry now than there were in 1866, which is the real reason why more fish are brought to market. Moreover, our boats go farther afield to new fishing grounds. Even the trawlers and their learned friends admit that certain kinds of fish are scarcer than they used to be.

… Mr. Holt regards steam trawlers as most powerful engines of destruction, dangerously so, in fact, in the present state of the grounds. With regard to the advantage of closing the fishing grounds within the three miles' territorial limit of the shore, Mr. Holt gives an account of some trawling which was carried on by Professor McIntosh, on the Garland in the neighbourhood of Scarborough, with the object of obtaining soles to stock the Scotch Fishery Board's hatchery at Dunbar, &c.

… It is often put forward on behalf of the trawlers that all undersized fish are returned to the water, being unsaleable. But this is one of those dreadfully unpractical remarks put forward by unpractical people, who quite overlook the injury done to the fish while in the trawl. Referring to the trawling experiment off Scarborough, Mr. Holt said "a rather large quantity of undersized haddock, whiting, and gurnard were thereby destroyed, while the destruction of small plaice, though not great in actual numbers, was very considerable in regard to the local supply of this species."

… I have not the slightest wish to write anything which would injure a very important branch of the fishing trade, and it may be said, of course, that I am chiefly interested in preserving sea fish for the use of sportsmen. If, however, it is shown that overtrawling is being carried on, and that certain fisheries are being seriously injured, it should be obvious that any reasonable restrictions on trawling, which tend to promote the welfare of the fisheries, are really most of all in the interests of the trawlers.

Many people are blinded by statistics and remain quite ignorant of the fact that it is the vast quantities of fish brought from the more distant fisheries of Faroe and Iceland, which swell the takes and promote the illusion that our own fisheries are as fruitful as ever. The history of many a fishing ground reads somewhat as follows: a little trawling and a good deal of line fishing and average quantities of fish caught year by year. Then come more trawlers, and for several years more fish are caught than previously, owing, of course, to increased and improved methods of capture. But soon fellows the inevitable falling-off in the productiveness of the fisheries, the men cry out, and there is a royal commission or a special committee. In due course a blue book is published, sooner or later a general election occurs, new fishing grounds are discovered, and the matter is forgotten.

They seem to manage these things better in Denmark. The Government of that country, finding that the English and other foreign trawlers were beginning to injure the Faroe and Icelandic fisheries, have recently prohibited trawling in those waters. The mere possession of a trawl on those fishing grounds entails a heavy penalty. What could be more forcible than the statement of the Select Committee of 1893 ? That committee reported, as regards the great fishing grounds in the North Sea, that the consensus of evidence of a number of persons interested in the fisheries, whether professionals or landsmen, whether smack-owners or fishermen, whether scientific experts or statisticians, "showed that a serious diminution had occurred among the more valuable classes of flat fish, particularly soles and plaice a diminution which was to be attributed to overfishing by trawlers in certain localities."

With the North Sea herring fleet "capsized"
The Graphic (June 1894)

"The Sea and the Rod" (1892) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske & Frederick George Aflalo at pages 207, 210 to 213 & 215 to 217

Chapter XXI

The Fisheries and the Legislature

(Reflections on the Sea-Fisheries Conference held at the Fishmongers' Hall, Feb. 24th - 26th, 1892, Sir Edward Birkbeck, Bart., M.P., in the Chair.)

"Licence they mean when they cry liberty !" [4]

I shall consider together the first two items that came under discussion at the Conference, the prohibition of sale of under-sized flat-fish and the baneful effects of over-trawling, as they are intimately connected with one another. In all but first-class fishmongers' shops under-sized flat-fish are constantly exposed for sale in a manner calculated to arouse the interference of the most lenient legislature. The trawl gathers into its gaping mouth all that comes in its way, and as it scrapes the sand, the pressure of the fish one on the other, as well as their frantic efforts to escape, cause so much injury to mature and immature alike, that the latter, even if duly returned, would in their weakened condition soon fall a prey to inimical species, in spite of the excellent means of concealment with which nature has furnished them.

Some folks are so provokingly optimistic that it is impossible to bring home to their sanguine minds the decay of a once great industry. They utterly abuse blue-books and statistics to their own ends: they would unhesitatingly quote the fisheries returns for the last two years, pointing to the total weight of plaice landed in England and Wales during the years 1890-91 as respectively 622,757 cwts. and 711,322 cwts., and they will ingenuously ask how it is that any one can grumble about the decadence in the coast fisheries in the face of such returns. They make no allowance for the thousands of pounds that are annually spent in the purchase of improved gear; they are perhaps ignorant of the fact that, whereas a box of plaice should contain under fifty fish, over a thousand "ivy-leaves," as the wretched little things are appropriately nicknamed, are not now uncommon; and the result of this "free-fishing" may be approximately assessed from the startling truth that in a consignment of 1,500 boxes of all kinds of ground fish recently landed at Billingsgate, there was not a single plaice !

With regard to the North Sea Fisheries, there has only been one argument of any weight against any legislation other than international, and that is, that by leaving the immature fish to foreign trawlers, we might injure our fishermen without greatly benefiting the fisheries. As Denmark and Belgium, however, have already taken very decisive steps in the matter, and the other countries concerned would in all probability follow if we were to lead, the one cause for objection is practically removed.

It will be urged by many epicures that a moderate-sized sole is more delicate eating than a very large one, but there is a medium course in everything, and the "ivy-leaves" are about to be prescribed.

There will be a new scale of sizes for saleable flat-fish, including the following dimensions:

This will be the first step. A future conference may rise to the necessity for a close-season, but there is as yet no mention of it.

Trawling, too, of every kind, sail and steam, is to be excluded from the three-mile limit. It may perhaps remain an open question at present whether the spawn of other species than the herring fertilizes at the surface or at the bottom; but whether or not he can be called to account for damaging the spawn in its early stages, he has quite enough to answer for in the systematic depletion of great fisheries and the extermination of immature and spawning fish.

The actual depth at which the Gadoids deposit their spawn may, as I said before, be as yet an open question; but there can be no doubt that, in common with all other commercial species, they approach the coast for the purpose of spawning. It is therefore of the utmost importance that within the three-mile zone, fishing operations should be confined to hand-lining; a net sweeps up everything, sickly fish and healthy, but a fish on the feed is rarely in bad form.

I have already had occasion to mention the decline of the oyster-fisheries, and have even hazarded a few suggestions as to the causes of this national calamity. The late Mr. Francis Francis, who sat on more than one committee of inquiry into the question of oyster legislation, was of opinion that over-dredging was the main source of evil; and so eminent an authority as Mr. Pennell would appear to share the same opinion, since his proposals (letters to the Times, 1874, etc.) refer purely to regulations affecting the size and weight of dredges, close-time, and prohibition of dredging at night.

No mention is made of river-pollution, nevertheless facts and statistics all point to this as at least as baneful in its effects as the old grievance of over-dredging. When at the Mumbles some years ago, I noticed a distinct metallic flavour in the oysters taken from Swansea Bay, which arose, I felt convinced, from the immense quantities of vitiated water flowing from the extensive copper works at Swansea. The importance of this evil cannot be overrated, for no one can deny - no one, that is, who has compared the small, succulent, and thin-shelled "native" with the Channel oyster, coarse and tuberculated - that oysters thrive best in shallow, brackish water, and, if the original nursery of the "native" be taken into consideration, a chalky subsoil would appear to particularly favour the growth of this esteemed species. The pollution in the lower Thames is sufficient to vitiate all the oyster's powers of reproduction; hence arises the falling off in "spat" so perceptible of late years.

I have often, as a sea-angler, had occasion to follow bass and mullet to the mouth of the Stour, and it certainly appears to me, speaking under correction and without any experience in practical oyster-culture, that the sandy estuary of that comparatively uncontaminated river might conveniently be laid out with gravel for the accommodation of oysters. Some years have elapsed since the shadow of my rod last darkened the Stour, and, for all I know to the contrary, there may already have been some such venture, successful or otherwise; but the suggestion, whatever be its value, is original, and I should be very gratified if it commended itself to those in authority.

[4] "On the Same" (1645 - 6) John Milton (1608 - 1674). Click "On the Same" to read the full poem.

"Sea-Fishing on the English Coast" (1891) Frederick George Aflalo at page iv


A somewhat careful study of the German fisheries in the Baltic for nearly a year has shown me some of the weak points in our own trawling system. Our own sea-fisheries are in sad need of reform, and if the Sea-Fishing Club could, with the help of Parliament, bring about such reform, it would earn the gratitude of future generations.

The South Eastern Gazette, Saturday 11 August 1888 at page 3

Illegal Sea Fishing

Two French fishing vessels were captured yesterday by the gunboat Argus while illegally fishing off the Kentish coast.

Deeds of "derring-do" by our North Sea fishermen (by the "Skipper" - C.J. Staniland)
The Graphic (1888)

Sea fishing as a sport: No 12 trawling, trammelling and dragging
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (September 1886)

Our fishing industries - prawn fishing at Hastings (C.J. Staniland)
The Illustrated London News (27th October 1883)

Toilers of the Sea: Trawling on the Dogger Bank
The Illustrated London Evening News (1883)

Our fishing industries - whitebait fishing
The Illustrated London News (11th August 1883)

"Angling in Salt Water" (1887) John Bickerdyke in the Preface to the First Edition at pages iii & iv

When angling in fresh water became popular, it was the anglers who took the lead in promoting those valuable measures respecting river pollution and fish preservation which have saved many of our inland fisheries from destruction. It is generally believed that certain fisheries on the British coasts run the risk of extinction owing to the reckless way in which they are worked. The poorer classes of fishermen, who most feel the decrease in the numbers of fish, have no influence, and the more wealthy netsman and owners of steam trawlers - men of limited vision, do not seem inclined to assist in clipping their own wings. I venture to say that if sea angling comes into general favour, the followers of the contemplative man's recreation will again be foremost with sound reasons in urging upon the Government the necessity of properly protecting our sea fisheries.

"When the flowing tide comes in" from the picture by F. Verrall
The Illustrated London News (25th July 1885)
"Out of his Depth"
The Illustrated London News (13th June 1885)
"Fishing up Lost Anchors"
The Illustrated London News (June 1885)

"The Sea-Fisherman" (1865 & 1884 - 4th edition) James Carrall Wilcocks at pages 159, 160, 162, 164, 170 & 171

The Cod (Morrhua vulgaris)

Newfoundland Cod-Fishery

"The Great Bank of Newfoundland is an extensive shoal lying to the south-east of the island, measuring upwards of three hundred and thirty miles in length, and about seventy-five in width, the water varying in depth from sixteen to sixty fathoms. Cod formerly here abounded in such countless numbers that it seemed impossible any diminution in the supply should ever arise; frequent complaints have, however, of late years been heard of the deterioration of this important fishery …

… The whole coasts of Labrador and Nova Scotia, as well as Newfoundland, are the scene of these fisheries. Twenty thousand British subjects are annually employed, with from two to three hundred schooners, on the Labrador stations. About four-fifths of what we prepare is afterwards exported to the Catholic countries of Europe. A great quantity of cod is imported green, that is, it is split and salted, but has not been dried at the stations. Cod are also taken with large nets, called Cod-seines, from 80 to 100 feet deep.

This notice of the Newfoundland fishery was extracted from the Saturday Magazine, and has been revised with the assistance of Newfoundland fishermen residing in Guernsey and Teignmouth. A good cod is thick down to the tail, has its sides ribbed, and a deep sulcus or furrow in the nape of the neck. Channel cod-fish are often indifferent in quality."

The Sole (Solea vulgaris)

… Soles are also often taken in a trammel-net.

The Sole, in common with other flat-fish, frequents the sandy and oazy bottoms of our coasts, and is taken also in the various tidal rivers whilst of a very small size, especially in the lower part of the river Exe, by seine-nets. I have seen Soles thus caught not more than 6 inches in length, which from their small size are locally called tongues and are sold in quantities at times by the fish-hawkers. At night in the open sea, the fish frequent the shore, and, when the wind is strong enough off the land for their purpose, trawling-vessels scrape the coast-line, to the prejudice of the fishery in general; the laws being a dead letter, because no one is charged to enforce the same. It has always been considered that the bays and shores are the nurseries of the smaller fish, which therefore should remain undisturbed by trawl-nets, whose proper sphere of operations is the offing, but who continually work the shores, whenever favourable circumstances render it worth their while so to do. The greater part of the fish supply of Plymouth having been caught in sight of my residence on the confines of Devon and Cornwall, I have had constant opportunities of seeing, from the cliffs, as well as from the sea, these operations in progress amongst the passing vessels. It is a great pity that our legislators are not more qualified by their own experience to deal with our fisheries, as important evidence respecting them is frequently suppressed, and that given before commissions so cooked as not to afford any means of arriving at the truth. That the shallows of the shore are the nurseries of the small fish is constantly proved by the quantity of small Plaice, Soles, Turbot, &c., caught when shrimping in the sand-pools on every strand. I have taken numbers myself in these situations, allowing them to escape by inverting the net. In a trawl this is impossible, as it is dragged long distances, and the fish are killed, the whole mass not infrequently being churned up, so to speak, into a kind of paste. The destruction permitted in this way is something frightful to contemplate, and much is caught, and sold as manure, which, if allowed to live and grow, would tend to make up for the destruction of fish-life always in progress.

The destruction in river-seining has also been great, as it is the habit to capsize the bunt of the net, and leave quantities of young fish to die in the sun.

Sale of the boat
The Illustrated London Evening News (1882)

English cruisers with the North Sea trawl fishing fleet
The Illustrated London Evening News (1881)

On board a steam trawler in the Firth of Forth - the catch
The Illustrated London Evening News (1881)

Yarmouth fishing smacks in the North Sea (L.R. Wells)
The Illustrated London News (1877)

A visit to the fishing fleet in the North Sea
The Illustrated London Evening News (1876)

Sunday evening at sea - a sketch on board a British fishing boat
The Graphic (1874)

The Mackerel Fishery - Sketches in a Devonshire Village
The Graphic 9th May 1874

Fishing for pilchards with a steam launch (Dover)
The Graphic (1871)

Sketches at Sea - Mending the Jib
The Graphic (1871)

Sketches at Scarborough - The Fish Auction
The Graphic, 14th October 1871

Toilers of the Sea (1870)
Sir William Quiller Orchardson R.A.

Blessing the Sea before the opening of the sardine fishery season
The Illustrated Times (July 1870)

On the Cold North Sea (E. Duncan)
The Illustrated London News (19 December, 1868)

The Harvest of the North Sea (by G. H. Andrews)
The Illustrated London News (11 January, 1867)

"Sea-fishing as a sport" (1865) Lambton J. H. Young at pages 108 & 109


On the 10th of June, 1862, a letter appeared in the "Times" from F. R. Dawson, Esq., of Westray, in which he speaks of the vast amount of cod and other fish caught on the wonderful new fishing in 140 fathoms of water. The fish caught were twice as large and more numerous than the Iceland cod-fish, and so numerous that the line was no sooner overboard than a fish was hooked … One great, and certainly just cause of complaint is, that the fishermen throw overboard the heads, bones, and intestines of the cod which are taken; and as the garbage in all cases causes the fish to leave the spot, some idea of the injury done may be formed from the fact that every twenty fishermen throw over ten tons a week; if in place of suffering this, the Government stationed a cruiser there to compel the removal to land of the offal, they would be doing good in two directions, as they would preserve the fishing ground of Rockall untainted, and at the same time cause a supply (including the bodies of sharks) of 20,000 tons of manure, which could be collected and manufactured annually at a trifle of cost. The revenue to be derived therefrom would be £120,000; the price per ton of this guano £6 10s. 0d.; it is a much stronger manure than the original guano, and its beneficial effects are visible in the crops for three years after it has been laid on.

"The Book of Household Management" (1861) Isabella Beeton at page 123

The Fecundity of the Cod.

… So extensive has been the consumption of this fish, that it is surprising that it has not long ago become extinct; which would certainly have been the case, had it not been for its wonderful powers of reproduction.

"So early as 1368," says Dr Cloquet, "the inhabitants of Amsterdam had dispatched fishermen to the coast of Sweden; and in the first quarter of 1792, from the ports of France only, 210 vessels went out to the cod-fisheries. Every year, however, upwards of 10,000 vessels, of all nations, are employed in this trade, and bring into the commercial world more than 40,000,000 of salted and dried cod. If we add to this immense number, the havoc made among the legions of cod by the larger scaly tribes of the great deep, and take into account the destruction to which the young are exposed by sea-fowls and other inhabitants of the seas, besides the myriads of their eggs destroyed by accident, it becomes a miracle to find that such mighty multitudes of them are still in existence, and ready to continue the exhaustless supply. Yet it ceases to excite our wonder when we remember that the female can every year give birth to more than 9,000,000 at a time."

Fish Market by Sea (Bethlem Hospital, 1860)
Richard Dadd (1817-1886)

Cod Fishing in the North Sea (from a drawing by G. H. Andrews)
The Illustrated Times (6 November, 1858)

Mackerel Boats Getting Under Way (from a drawing by G. H. Andrews)
The Illustrated Times (28 July, 1858)

Cod Fishing off the Dogger Bank
The Illustrated London Evening News (1847)

Fishermen at Sea (1796)
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)
(the first oil painting exhibited by Turner at the Royal Academy)
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