Strange Events in Cornwall

Taken from the August 2011 Newsletter of the National Mullet Club.

Last month news broke of a potentially dire situation concerning protection of Cornish estuaries from setting of fixed nets. Briefly, prior to 1st January 2011, Section 6 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 prohibited setting of fixed nets in estuaries as a means of protecting salmon and other migratory fish. In some areas, derogations allowed setting of fixed nets subject to certain conditions, but not in Cornwall. The Marine Act 2009 however repealed Section 6 of SAFF with effect from 1st January2011. The intention was that bylaws would have been put in place prior to that to maintain the existing level of protection which would then transfer to the new IFCA on 1st April 2011. Then news broke that somehow this had never happened … and setting of fixed nets in the Cornish estuaries for sea fish would now be allowed as long as they conformed to minimum mesh sizes and were not set in a way likely to take migratory fish … a far harder regime to enforce than a simple prohibition, and anyway bad for mullet and other sea fish.

It’s nice to be able to call on a network of friends for support in such circumstances, and my thanks to David Mitchell of Angling Trust and Malcolm Gilbert of CFSA & BASS for getting on the case with the relevant authorities so promptly.

Then, a week or so ago, some happier news. Documentary evidence emerged that the EA (nationally) had made the appropriate bylaw in October 2010 but had somehow failed to communicate this to the EA (locally). As a result of this omission of communication, or otherwise, the bylaw had also been missed out from the portfolio to transfer to the IFCA . I think it’s fair to say it’s still a little hazy as to who said what and to whom and when, but the upshot is that the bylaw is now posted on the IFCA website and no fixed nets may be set in Cornish estuaries. Enforcement at the moment lies with the IFCA but we are hopeful that cross-warranting will soon re-enable EA staff to enforce sea fish regulations in the estuaries, and this will benefit all parties, except obviously illegal netters.

There are a number of other areas, including Christchurch, where EA bylaws should have transferred to the relevant IFCA.