Sussex Netting Byelaw

Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority was told that it should consult on radical changes it made to its proposed netting byelaw (scrapping the proposed “netting exclusion zones” and allowing netting very close to the shore).

Bass Angling Conservation has now replied to the consultation. You can read our full response below, but the key points are:

  • SxIFCA needs to consider the needs of recreational fishers, not just commercial fishers. Nearshore nets damage the sea angling experience and reduce socio-economic benefits: nearshore nets can stop sea anglers casting, and strip fish out of a local area, both short term and long term.
  • more protection is needed for sea trout. The Environment Agency has said protecting just the top 1.5 metres of the water column from nets is not sufficient. We need nearshore spatial restrictions.
  • drift nets should be subject to the same rules as fixed nets, following Environment Agency advice.
  • in 2023, no one landed fish into Sussex caught using ring nets or seine nets. So let’s stop them being used Sussex.

Fishing Opportunities for 2024

On 6 December, Defra said the UK and EU have signed an agreement for 2024 fishing opportunities, but the agreement has not yet been published. What does this agreement mean for sea anglers?

Pollack: no restrictions on recreational fishing in 2024. Although the scientists says recreational fishers have a substantial impact on the pollack stock, Defra says the evidence base is very limited. The UK and EU will explore the potential for managing recreational pollack fishing via the Specialised Committee on Fisheries. A “bycatch TAC” (Total Allowable Catch) has been agreed for commercial fishers, rather than the zero TAC recommended by ICES.

Bass: no change to bass catch limits, however Defra noted poor recruitment is a challenging situation. Defra say they are following the ICES advice, which is recommending a 7.7% reduction in the bass stock, as being the best available science.

But shouldn’t fishery managers be asking the scientists “how can it be ok to reverse, in one year, the biomass gains of the last 3 years, when there is declining recruitment and we are supposed to be recovering the stock back up to a safe level?” World-class fisheries management involves questioning counter-intuitive advice, not simply accepting it at face value.