Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society

Fighting for Bass and Bass Anglers’ since 1973

A disgusted Welsh angler

[Welsh bass angler, John Morgan, has written Mr Carwyn Jones AM, Minister for Environment, Planning & Countryside, Welsh Assembly Government to express his disgust over the Minister’s recent decision concerning the bass MLS. A copy of Mr Morgan’s letter is reproduced below.]

Mr Jones,

It’s taken a couple of weeks for me to recover from my incredulity at your decision regarding the BASS MLS. A couple of weeks to rack my brains trying to understand the reasoning behind your decision . . . . for it makes no sense whichever way I look at it.

Could you please explain to me how, in the face of all the factual evidence, and the knowledge that of the 230 consultation responses received 180 gave unanimous support to the MLS being raised, you still managed to, effectively, do absolutely nothing to protect the bass fishery.

To my mind it does beg the question – what was the point in carrying out a consultation if you were going to ignore the result. Public opinion, scientific opinion and the views of SFC’s, the EA and the CCW were all ignored in favour of the short term financial needs of a very small industry in Wales, the commercial fishing sector!

The South Wales area (where I live) already had a 37.5 mls so you have increased the mls in only part of Wales. What do you expect that to achieve? Even my local Sea Fisheries Committee supported an increase to 42cm.

Please explain to me how you can justify allowing a species to be targeted at a size below that which it has had a chance to procreate. Do you really believe that that is a sensible course of action? Perhaps we should start to slaughter cattle before they have their calves?

The reasoning behind the increase, apart from the obvious fact that bass should be allowed to breed at least once in their lifetime, was that it would provide a growth area for Recreational Sea Angling and its associated industries.

An outdoor sport that has more room for expansion than any other; this area is at present worth millions of pounds to the economy and could grow further if nurtured.

If you want proof of the value that recreational pursuits have look at the real impact of the Foot and Mouth outbreak; the area of the biggest loss of revenue and the most impact was on tourism. If you want even more proof then look at the Striped bass fishery in the USA.

Let me illustrate my point further.

I used to fish two or three times a week all year round. In the spring I would fish for rays and bass; summer would be bass, mullet, tope and smooth-hound and in the winter cod(ling). About fourteen years ago I stopped fishing in the winter . . . .the expenditure of time, money and effort for the cod fishing was simply not worth the return.

Now I just fish in the summer.

I have a theory.

The theory is that politicians think that the revenue generated from people like me, if my sport declines, will simply be displaced elsewhere – maybe you think I’ll take up football, badminton or rugby.

But I won’t, fishing is a pastime that has no equivalent – for me and probably many other anglers there is no replacement.

I’ll tell you what happened to the money I didn’t spend on my winter fishing.

I started saving it.

And in 1997 it paid for a trip to Lake Nasser in Egypt to fish for Nile Perch (it was so good that I returned in 1999 and spent two weeks there).

Both trips were with two other ‘disillusioned’ British sea anglers (rough average total cost £2,100 each).

In addition, every autumn since 1997, I have spent at least one week fishing in Ireland . . . . because they have had the foresight to put in place measure to protect their bass.

I’ll give you an example of what the fishing in Wales could be like if you had the guts to make the move to a proper mls for bass.

In 2003 I spent a week in Ireland with four friends. During the week we caught 135 bass.

The average weight was 4lb 6oz. The heaviest fish was 11lbs 7oz.

For further emphasis . . . we usually didn’t start fishing until about 10am and stopped at dusk. All the fish were caught on lures.

In comparison I can tell you that in Wales, the same five anglers, using the same methods and tactics (but expending more effort), haven’t caught that many fish in the last three years.

Of the bass we have caught there hasn’t been one over 9lbs 4oz.

Last year I didn’t go to Ireland.

My mortgage having been being paid off I decided that I could afford to go fishing for Striped bass (my wife is quite understanding).

I spent two weeks on the eastern seaboard of the USA at a place called Montauk – and it was a tremendous experience.

So much so that in two day’s time I’m heading back out for another two weeks – along with the same five anglers that I went with last year.

My expenditure on last year’s trip was in the order of £2,700. And before you label me as some high flying, well paid person – I’ll bring you to earth. I’m a postman, though I do work a fair bit of overtime.

There is another side to this, and this comes back to the value of RSA to the Welsh economy, I don’t spend any money on tackle in Wales anymore; why should I, the tackle in the ‘States’ is far cheaper than what I’d pay over here.

I’ll rephrase an earlier statement – don’t make the mistake of pigeonholing anglers as people who will, if their sport withers and dies, simply spend their money on another pastime.

Once an angler always an angler.

Your decision was gut-less, you sold out the right decision – to increase the mls to 45cm – in order to appease the commercial sector.

I think it’ll come back to haunt you because the commercial mindset is extremely short term – catch whatever is there before the other guy gets it; and if they destroy the fishery in the process, well, so be it, there’s always going to be something else to fish for; the trouble with that is that one day there won’t be something else to fish for.

But why should you worry, because by the time that day comes you’ll probably be in some other post somewhere else and it’ll be someone else’s problem.

Believing that commercial fishermen wouldn’t act for short term gain is akin to leaving the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

Personally, I couldn’t sleep at night after selling myself and my soul for short term politics.

Yours ‘disgustedly’ (and now an ex-Labour voter)

John Morgan

30th October 2006

image:photo of John Morgan releasing a 9lb 10oz bass caught in Ireland

[photo – John Morgan releasing a 9lb 10oz bass caught in Ireland]

If you would like to make a comment on this article, please contact BASS and we’ll add your comment below.

5 November 2006 – comment from Anonymous:
Instead of winging like a scolded school child why dont BASS turn their tactics to stopping the pair trawling/pelagic fleet which do the most damage to the mid channel shoal in the western end of the English Channel. Talking to CEFAS during the week they stated the Bass stock is healthy and sustainably fished. Its just ashamed that a few people are trying to compare it to a collasped and recovered fishery over the pond. The Bass fishery has not collasped here.

Some of your members should be ashamed of the way they intimidate various individuals and organisations post the English MLS consultation. One I will mention is Bob Cox who wrote an email to Weymouth & Portland Borough Council (WPBC). I will not say what he said yet but I will say he threatened to write to Total Sea Fishing magazine (TSF). Then in Octobers editorial of TSF we see the very text he wrote to WPBC, but now supposedly written by the editor. Very good Mr Cox, but dont you work for TSF magazine? I would also like to say that the DEFRA landing figures you used are for the over 10 meter fleet only and do not include the under ten meter fleet. Next time try reading para 6 in the explanations section. The figures landed are far higher than you think. So Mr Cox who should be ashamed now? You should be sacked for abusing your position in TSF. Also why we are on this subject. To BASS: please publicaly prove how many anglers you represent. 120,000 I dont think so !! Now in TSF editorial for Nov 06 we see a coupon to cut out and send to the DEFRA minister, it states Bass do not mature until 43 – 45cm when BASS English MLS Consultation letter stated 42cm ????

You may think you are doing the RSA a great favour by carrying out these campaigns,but let me enlighten you to a few facts. By increasing the MLS RSA will not catch bigger fish. If you dont believe me ask CEFAS. Bass are creatures of habit. By this I mean they will always be in the same place each at at the same times and the fish will always be the same size. So at place x in Aug Bass may be 55cm plus. At place x in Nov they will be 38cm ect. Again if you dont believe me ask CEFAS. The MLS increase you have now was only because the minister in DEFRA took your bait about the 2.5 million votes at the last election, and promised you something in return. So what you actually got was a political decision, and not one that would be recomended by any government department.

26 November 2006 – comment from Steve Pitts:
Thanks for that Anonymous

I think that it’s a bit rich suggesting that BASS should concentrate on the pair-trawl fishery, when we made an EU proposal on this very subject some seven years ago. I don’t remember too many of the commercial sector coming to our aid then. Perhaps some are regretting that now?

As far as I know – Bob Cox is not a member of BASS, but I for one fully support his comments in TSF regarding the W&PBC.

If you have evidence to back up your claim, that BASS members are intimidating anyone, please either advise the BASS committee or the police.

I am also grateful to you for imparting the knowledge that you have on bass biology, habits and distribution. I particularly liked your comment about bass always being in the same place, at the same time and the same size. Given that many bass are commercialy caught at between 36 and 40 cms, I can take it that this is the size to which you refer.

We would like to see some of these allowed to grow to 45cm or bigger (yes they can grow bigger than 40cm and to 20 + years of age).

You seem to be very familiar with CEFAS. Perhaps you would care to ask them why a 45cm was recommened as being the optimum size by them?

28 November 2006 – comment from Anonymous:
If the black economy was controlled, the fish stocks could increase by 35% as I believe this was stated in the meeting with the Minister by BASS Society. The rumoour is now circulating that BASS did not make this statement! What is the true position of BASS?

Did you make this this statement or not?

29 November 2006 – comment from Steve Pitts:
Dear Mr or Mrs Anonymous

You have said yourself that the figure of 35% black fish (relating to the landing and selling of bass by unlicenced commercial fishermen) is RUMOURED to have come from BASS.

I am pleased to advise that this is indead a rumour, in fact it might have originated in the announcement by Welsh Minister Carwyn Jones re. the bass mls for Wales being increased by a massive (joke)1.5cm, where the mls of 36cm prevails.

BASS has responded to Mr Jones’ statement thus:-

Whilst writing to you; We also wish to correct a statement, which appears in your press release –

At no time has BASS placed a figure of 35% on sales of bass from unlicenced sellers, yet this society has been used as a source of reference for that figure.
In truth, the percentage of black landings of bass is a complete unknown and we take exception to an inaccurate statement being attributed to BASS.

We would be grateful therefore, if you would instruct your press dept. to release a statement, to the effect that BASS was not the source of this estimate and issue an apology, for the inference that has brought into question the validity of our evidence.

Yours sincerely etc.

I hope that this answers your question to your satisfaction Anonymous and quashes yet another myth that pervaded the bass MLS consultation process e.g.

All bass over 40cm dissapear offshore.

Once there, they will all be caught by foreign boats.

All the inshore bass over 36cm will be caught by French commercials with historic rights.

It will take 4 years for 36cm bass to grow to 40cm and UK fishermen will go bankrupt in the mean time.
(current bass growth is between 3 to 4cm per year, so in reality, as opposed to rumour, it will take between 1 year and 18 months for a 36cm bass to grow to the revised MLS. This, of course also means that any bass already over 40cm, will be available to commercial fishermen and anglers, as they are now, so what is the problem)

That the fish-buying customer only wants to eat whole ‘plate-sized’ juvenile bass, so ‘big’ bass of 45cm will be un-saleable.

That because ICES declared bass stocks as being ‘sustainably fished’ in 2003, we can carry on harvesting them below the size at which they mature with impunity (they also said that there should be a capping of effort, but fishing effort is increasing year on year).

If you have any other questions or rumours that you would like to explore, I would be happy to clarify them for you.

2 December 2006 – comment by Anonymous:
Rumours are you sure? Are you being Honest! Try telling the truth to your 120,000 so called members if these pick 10 crab each week per person then no wonder crab is scarce!!

Names dont mean a thing to most anglers, they are here to fish not to mislead the real RSA or holiday angler! all species are under threat ? remember the byecatch too! Thank god we have a Welsh Federation and South West representation.

3 December 2006 – comment from Steve Pitts:
Hi Anonymous. Yes – I am sure and Yes – I am being honest.

I am very sure that BASS did not state to WAG that 35% of bass landed are ‘black fish’. I know, because I was at the meeting with Carwyn Jones AM.

Unfortunately, you seem to have been fed a series of rumours and mis-truths and no amount of logical, honest and truthful replies will appease your apparent strong dislike for BASS. Each to his (or her) own Anonymous – you are more that welcome to your views and beliefs of course.

I am more than willing to debate anything that BASS has stated or printed, but I fail to see what the collection of crabs has to do with the issues that you first had a gripe about i.e. the consultation on the bass mls.

I also do not understand your comment on byecatch. Could you please explain how BASS and its members are responsible for any form of byecatch.

I am very pleased to agree with you on your last statement though – ‘thank God we have a Welsh Federation and South West representation’.

I would also like to add – thank God we have ALL the other angling clubs and organisations, for without them fighting RSA’s corner, the ‘real RSA and holiday angler’ would have no representation at all.

14 February 2007 – comment from Anonymous:
Would you swear in a court of law about the statement you allegedly did not make? We have contacts that say you did! How about telling us the whole truth as you claim to represent us anglers?

15 February 2007 – comment from Steve Pitts:
Dear Anonymous, In answer to your latest questions –

I reiterate my replies to you of the 30th November and the 3rd December 06. Neither of the BASS representatives at that meeting made the comments that you refer to.

We have received a letter from WAG to the effect that the minutes of the meeting include a comment on black fish landings of 35% and that this comment came from a BASS representative. We have not seen the minutes, AS THEY HAVE NOT BEEN CIRCULATED, but we continue to refute that this comment was made by BASS reps.

The minutes are incorrect, but we have no practical means to have them ammended. We can live with that. We have made our case and won’t loose any sleep over it.

As you continue to level these accusations at us, could I ask that you at least show us the common courtesy of identifying yourself, the group you appear to represent and the source of your mis-information (‘We have contacts that say you did!’).

Thank you

15 February 2007 – comment from Anonymous:

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You are here: Publications and Records > Commons Publications > Select Committees > Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs > Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 122-iii


Minutes of evidence, taken before Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee ( Sub-Committee on the future for fishing)

FUTURE FOR FISHING – Tuesday 14 December 2004

Mr R. Ferré, Mr M Gilbert, Mr L Roskilly, Mr B Cox and Mr J Leballeur

Mr B Bennett and Mr C Venmore

Dr A Palfreyman

Evidence heard in Public Questions 204-274


1. This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

2. Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

3. Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.

4. Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.

Oral Evidence, taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Sub-Committee on the Future for Fishing on Tuesday 14 December 2004

Members present

Mr Austin Mitchell, in the Chair

Ms Candy Atherton

Mr David Drew

Mr Mark Lazarowicz

Diana Organ

Memoranda submitted by National Federation of Sea Anglers, Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network and Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mr Richard Ferré, Chairman, Mr Malcolm Gilbert, Fisheries Representative, National Federation of Sea Anglers, Mr Leon Roskilly, National Co-ordinator, Mr Bob Cox, Executive Member, Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network and Mr John Leballeur, Chairman, Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society, examined.

Q204 Chairman: Welcome, gentlemen. Just let me introduce you for the purposes of the record. We have Mr Richard Ferré, the chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers and Mr Malcolm Gilbert, the fisheries representative of the sea anglers. From the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network we have Mr Leon Roskilly, the national co-ordinator and Mr Bob Cox, the executive member. From the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society we have Mr John Leballeur, the chairman. I gather you want to give us a brief introduction. Since we are running against time, please keep it brief, but we are happy to have such an introduction.

Mr Ferré: With your permission I will keep it brief. We thought it might be useful to explain why three organisations representing recreational sea angling in England and Wales were appearing before you today. We present to you a united front for recreational sea angling. The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society is dedicated to the conservation of bass, which is Britain’s premier sporting sea fish and they are represented by their chairman John Leballeur. The National Federation of Sea Anglers is the governing body for sea angling and represents 338 fishing clubs. With a total membership of more than 40,000 sea anglers it strives to ensure the importance and economic value of sea angling and is recognised at local, national and European level. That is represented by Malcolm and myself. The Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network, through an excellent website and its prudent use of the nation’s marine resources has over 200 individual members and clubs and their membership is represented by Leon Roskilly and Bob Cox. We all believe that the catching and killing of huge numbers of small immature fish, if it is not stopped, will create the decline of the commercial industry and this will continue. It will threaten at the same time to bring down the recreational sea angling industry. The strategy unit report highlighted for the first time the size and commercial importance of our industry. It stated that there are over one million sea anglers in the UK who spend £1 million directly and indirectly on this activity. The diversity of sea angling has recognised these vitally important factors so that until now it has not had a voice in fisheries management. As a nation we may have missed an opportunity for sea angling to make a bigger economic contribution to our coastal communities in the past. However, given the strategy unit report, recreational sea angling clearly ranks alongside the commercial industry as a major stakeholder in the management of UK fisheries and we believe that both can co-exist in harmony. The common ground between us is that we rely for our existence on the same resource, the fish stocks in the sea. We are particularly concerned that the culture of fishery managers should move on from concentrating on the commercial sector to being responsible equally to all stakeholders and sea angling can then expand its contribution to the wellbeing of our coastal communities. Chairman, we hope this short review is useful to you and your Committee and we greatly appreciate your invitation to be here. We hope that we can be helpful in the questions and answers which follow.

Q205 Chairman: Thank you very much; we are very grateful to you for coming. As you said, you do represent considerable numbers, one million was your estimate, of people involved in sea angling and you all broadly welcome the strategy unit’s recommendations to develop the recreational sea angling sector. May I ask you first why you have been so neglected in the past? Why have you carried so little weight in the arguments and discussions over fishing in the past?

Mr Ferré: You could partly lay the blame at our own door; but the nature of the people who do it means it is fairly fragmented. While there are fishing clubs all over the country, it is a combination of clubs and individual participation. We have struggled in the past to get a strong unified voice, although we are trying to change that and today is evidence that we are making progress in that area. On the other side of the coin, the responsibility for our activity is split between two government departments, Defra and DCMS. There is no one dedicated within those organisations to understanding us and who knows what we do. Until the recent statistics on just how many people and how large a commercial activity we were came to light, we were a misunderstood or not well understood activity. Only now are people beginning to think they should listen to us. Individually people have been trying to bang on the door for a long time, but with very limited success. Members here have been trying to make this point for 15 years or more. It is only in the last six months that we feel we have made any progress.

Q206 Chairman: If any of you want to add anything at any time, please feel free to do so. You are recognised now at least as playing a bigger part. I just wonder what impact the problems of the commercial sector and in particular the conservation problem, which is basically what the strategy unit report is concerned with, has had on sea anglers.

Mr Cox: I can probably answer that. I operated a charter boat in the Thames estuary taking anglers fishing from 1975 to 1995. It was a new fishery, very unexploited and over the first four or five years of that operation we developed it to the point where there were some 60 charter boats operating in the Thames estuary from North Kent, from Southend, the Crouch, the Blackwater estuary and the Colne estuary. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, monofilament gill nets, these so-called walls of death, were introduced to catch rays and bass. They decimated not only the ray and bass stock, but also the stock of non-commercial species such as tope and smoothhounds, which anglers prize. Now, in my own port, which once boasted 16 charter boats, there are one and a half full-time boats. In the greater Thames estuary, we are probably down to 15 or 20 boats. Those livelihoods were as equally valid as the livelihoods of commercial fishermen. I raised three children on the proceeds of a charter boat operation. I now have a small tackle business which is also impacted by the lack of fish in the sea and the lack of activity from recreational sea angling.

Q207 Chairman: Is that paralleled over the country?

Mr Cox: Yes; yes.

Q208 Chairman: So you are suffering because of the activities of the commercial boats.

Mr Cox: Yes. A number of jobs have gone out of existence in coastal communities where recreational sea angling has been the target as opposed to commercial exploitation.

Mr Ferré: There is a real frustration that we cannot even get people to accept, though there are signs that they are beginning to accept it, that it is an actual problem. There seems to be a hide-your-head-in-the-sand approach to it. We know, because we are out there every week, what is happening to these fish stocks. In many cases they have just disappeared and in many cases, because they are a by-catch and discarded, they have disappeared for no value. So the people who do thrive on them have lost them and the people who do not particularly want them kill them. It is just a terrible equation.

Mr Roskilly: There was a very similar situation in the United States with a species of fish called the striped bass, which was fished almost to extinction. That was a premier sport fish along the eastern seaboard of the United States. They recognised the problem there, they stopped commercial exploitation of that species and within a few years this species has come back. As the species has come back, the number of anglers fishing for it have also come back and increased as people take their friends fishing. If they are catching good fish almost every time they go out, they will go out more often. Much more importantly, they will invest in their activity. They are now buying boats, they are now buying holidays. Malcolm Gilbert on my left has recently had two trips to the States just to fish for these fish, because you can get the quality of fish there which is not available in this country any longer. The value of that fishery has gone up four or five times. That would be possible with the UK fishery.

Q209 Chairman: I rather have the feeling that the recreational fishing does not do the same damage to the stocks as commercial fishing.

Mr Cox: Catch and release is now very popular, especially for some of the sporting species such as tope, smooth-hound and bass. Typically with bass less than 30 per cent of the fish are actually retained; 70 per cent go back and they do survive, because we tag them and then release so we can track their movements around the country.

Q210 Ms Atherton: You were calling for reform of the sea fishery committees. Could you share with us what your concerns are and how you think the actions and activities of the committees have affected the inshore sector?

Mr Gilbert: First and foremost sea fishery committees are dominated by commercial fishing interests. Most sea fishery committees – there are 12 from memory – comprise in the order of 25 persons, half of whom are local authority councillors, the other half ministerial appointees, normally including one representing the environmental sector and the vast majority of the others are from the commercial fishing sector. I have to say that a number of sea fishery committees, not all of them but most, do now have one ministerial appointee representing angling. I do not think that is a fair representation. We are looking at the area up to six miles out. Clearly angling is very much an inshore activity; shore anglers, the vast majority of participants, by definition are within a couple of hundred of yards of the shoreline. If you look at the economic impact from sea angling in those inshore waters, it is clearly very significant and in many cases superior to the economic impact from commercial fishing. Sea fishery committees which are currently dominated by commercial representation are in fact the wrong way round from what they should be.

Q211 Ms Atherton: Assuming long-term reform within the context of the strategy unit, what short-term to medium-term measures would you like to see with the sea fishery committees?

Mr Gilbert: First and foremost I should like to see their membership substantially re-jigged so that there was a broader stakeholder involvement and I would include a more environmental involvement and certainly more recreational representation. I focus on the public ownership of these resources. They are a publicly owned resource and I think it makes eminent sense that they should be managed and exploited both sustainably and to generate best value to the coastal communities.

Q212 Ms Atherton: You mentioned the environment and I believe that you called for the Environment Agency to take over responsibility. How do you think that will go down with other sectors?

Mr Ferré: That is a hard one. The existing controlling organisation would dislike it, because that is a natural reaction. Outside of the commercial fishing activity, it may well be that the environmentalist would welcome it. The reason for making that pool is that the Environment Agency has demonstrated through their connection with freshwater angling that they understand the needs of angling and can marry the needs of angling and the environment together successfully; they have also been quite good at administering and licensing the scheme, which may be a separate question, but they know how to do it. They have accepted the role of developing these fisheries and making them more popular and growing recreational angling inshore. They also have a very good track record in enforcement. With the best will in the world, with one or two exceptions, the current sea fishery committees have a track record of a fairly low rate of successful prosecutions.

Ms Atherton: I think I might like to discuss that with you, but perhaps we will not go there.

Q213 Mr Drew: May I pick up the point about a voluntary licensing scheme? I believe that you are against this. I should be interested to know exactly what the grounds are against it and whether it is largely because you do not have the invitation to be formally on the licensing authority or for other reasons.

Mr Ferré: Our position is fairly clear. Unlike the freshwater situation nothing is being done today through legislation, control, enforcement, or access or rights to fish which benefits recreational sea angling. There is just nothing. So there is nothing to police and there is nothing which gives us a benefit, so why pay. What we see is that if there is a demonstrable programme of things which would benefit sea angling, access, fish stocks, all of those things, then we, as organisations, will happily support it. We are a bit reluctant to take it on trust; we have seen manifestos written before which promise us all sorts of things and do not get delivered.

Q214 Mr Drew: Whom do you not trust?

Mr Ferré: On current evidence I guess we do not believe that Defra, and although the sea fishery committees are definitely changing they are still of a particular mindset, either of those organisations understands that there is a need to change the management of our fisheries from one which looks to commercial fishing as its primary objective to one which says that there is a resource here which needs protecting and at the same time maximises the benefit to UK PLC. That means a balanced approach and we do not have a balanced approach today. In the middle of that you get the key issues we have.

Mr Gilbert: A lot of people’s perception is that if freshwater anglers are prepared to pay for a licence, as indeed they do, what is wrong with sea anglers paying for a licence. The point needs to be made that the freshwater anglers, be they coarse anglers, trout anglers or migratory salmon and sea trout anglers, have the Environment Agency looking after their affairs and doing so very well. They actually have a remit to promote and develop recreational angling. We have nobody in the marine side with that responsibility. For years we have been from pillar to post: DCMS have pointed us to Defra, Defra have said they sponsor commercial we must go back to DCMS and DCMS have said they have no input into fish stock management. We are like a ping-pong ball, never knowing quite where to go with our issues.

Q215 Chairman: The orphans of the industry.

Mr Gilbert: Yes, we are.

Mr Roskilly: I should like to make the point that what anglers would like to see is more fish along with commercial fishermen of course. We should also like to see bigger fish. To do that means a change to management objectives in the way that fisheries are managed, especially for the larger fish which anglers want. We do not want to go down to the pub and say we caught a massive fish, this big. We want to go down and say that big. If a regime were put in place which actually started to produce the fish in the quantities and the quality which would help to develop recreational angling, I am pretty certain that most anglers would be only too happy to contribute towards those different management objectives by way of a licence. First of all, the majority of my members would want to see extra fish out there, see the bigger fish, see that these new measures aimed at developing recreational angling were working and then they would be quite happy to pay a licence fee. However, if asked to pay a licence fee and maybe there will be an improvement in 20 years’ time, they are just going to make rude noises.

Q216 Mr Drew: Surely if there were a more effective regime, which would include you having a say over the management issues and maybe actually sharing in the data collection, because you have a means of doing that as well as the commercial industry, you would come out from the cold – although you seem to spend a lot of time in the cold – and you would get a recognisable role. Would you not see some value in that, or is there a danger in being on the inside?

Mr Roskilly: I would see that value but the average angler, the one or two million people who go and sit on the beach, whom you are asking to put their hand in their pocket and pay out for a licence would want to see something more tangible in the way of more fish for them to catch. Yes, given the small recognition, hopefully that will lead eventually to that situation where we can start to make our point more and we can bring in the strategies which will produce that. Before people start putting their hands in their pocket, they actually want to see what they are paying for.

Mr Leballeur: One of the immediate actions which could be taking place is that we have cod which is under severe threat at the moment, we have bass which is also under threat along with other species. It would appear that the managers at the moment are totally ignoring the advice of the scientific body. When you have bass which have been legally taken at 36 centimetres and that fish is not sexually mature until 42 centimetres, likewise with cod, it does not make sense: you are culling a species before it has had a chance to reproduce. Both sides of the coin, whether it be commercial or recreational, are suffering and that could be implemented immediately.

Q217 Chairman: Just let me check a couple of things. We are talking primarily about within the six-mile limit here.

Mr Roskilly: Yes.

Q218 Chairman: But the conservation problems occur mainly outside the limit.

Mr Roskilly: For some species, yes. Remember that what we refer to as the golden mile, that first mile of coastline which includes the estuaries, is where a lot of fish fry breed, a lot of fish species spawn and it needs to be left relatively undisturbed. If you run a beam trawler through an area, you wreck it, spawning grounds, feeding grounds, whatever. If we can protect that first mile, that golden mile of the coastline, that will go a long way towards the conservation particularly of the kinds of fish anglers are after.

Mr Ferré: A lot of fish that recreational sea anglers pursue do not go much outside the 12-mile limit. There are obviously some that do, tope and things and some bass; some bass do not, some bass do.

Q219 Chairman: Most of the anglers come from inland, do they not, or are they coastal dwellers? Who goes out sea angling? A lot of these people from the coal mining areas of Yorkshire will go to Scarborough and Bridlington.

Mr Cox: When I ran boats in the Thames estuary I had customers from London, I had customers from the village I lived in, I had them from Corby, I had them from Sheffield, all over. People will travel if the fishing quality is there.

Mr Ferré: Most sizeable towns in England, no matter where they are, have a sea angling club.

Q220 Diana Organ: You said at the beginning that you are representing one million people who are involved in sea angling and I have to say, as a woman who prefers other sports, that I do not understand it, but that is up to you. I want to talk a little bit about species re-designation. You talked a couple of times about bass. You are making the point and the strategy unit has made the point that a growth in your sector could occur if there were species re-designation. You are already one million strong and there is quite a big economic contribution there. To what extent do you think this sector could grow if there were a re-designation of certain species? How is that going to impact and which species would you like to see? What impact does that have on commercial fishing? If we take bass, we might have all sorts of people saying that it is all very well for those million devils but what about the rest of us who would quite like to have commercial bass on our plates and eat it. I am a very keen fish eater, but not a fisher and I want the commercial sector to deliver it to my plate. I do not want you guys taking the best of the species, thank you very much. I am wondering whether you could tell me a little bit about the growth of your sector, about which species you would like to see re-designated and why?

Mr Gilbert: Let us talk about the growth potential first. We have species designated and managed with angling in mind, because the requirements for angling may be significantly different from commercial fishing. Size really does matter for angling. I have some paperwork here. You have heard mention of this striped bass fishing on the eastern seaboard. Those stocks were in desperate trouble in the 1970s and in the late 1970s and early 1980s they took some very robust measures. They had a moratorium for four years on all recreational and commercial fishing; that is how serious it was. Left to her own devices Mother Nature bounced back and the stocks recovered spectacularly. As the stocks recovered, they increasingly opened up the fishery operation again. The number of angling trips for striped bass in the US in 1981 was one million; one million striped bass angling trips, that is anglers going specifically to target the species. By 1996, some decade and a half later, that had risen to seven million. The inflation adjusted expenditure on striped bass trips increased from $85 million in 1981 to $560 million by 1996, which represents a 35 per cent annual growth in revenue. One of the questions that immediately raises is how you can have this enormous increase in fishing effort and simultaneously see the resource go from strength to strength. It is because the culture of catch and release took off. We have significant controls on recreational as well; they can only keep one fish a day. You have a very large minimum landing size, which guarantees at least two years of sexual reproduction before it is allowed to be killed and you can have this win-win situation. The resource is growing, the economic benefits are falling from it and now, in 2002 we have commercial fishermen, for instance in Virginia – I have a wonderful magazine article from the commercial fishing paper – applauding the recreational involvement with the management of striped bass because the stocks are now so abundant and contain such an enormous number of large mature fish for the stock, not only an abundance but the stock structure has been rebuilt, that they are now, although there is a quota, able to catch their quota with about ten per cent of the effort it took them to do so 20 years ago, so that is a lot more profitability. It is really a win-win-win situation.

Q221 Diana Organ: That might be so in the States. Let us talk a bit closer to home about what species re-designation you would like to have in our waters. It is okay if you can afford a trip over to the States to do your fishing and good luck to you, but let us talk about the million who are not doing that.

Mr Cox: In the second part of your question you asked what the effect would be on commercial fishing.

Q222 Diana Organ: I should like to know first of all your species.

Mr Cox: Malcolm, the number of species which anglers target, the values of those compared with the overall commercial figure.

Mr Gilbert: In England and Wales, if you go to the Defra statistics, the total first-hand sale value of all fish, commercial shellfish and pelagics, was £144 million in 2003. If we extract from that all the species which are of no direct interest to anglers – we do not target scallops and a lot of fin fish actually, people would be surprised, we do not target long-fish, which is a nice fish to eat as well, hake, megrim, sole, lemon sole – if you take all those out of the equation you are left with a number of species which total £49 million at first-hand sale value in England and Wales which are jointly targeted by recreationals and commercials. I shall not read them all out. Then you asked which species we might be interested in seeing re-designated. We have talked about bass already, conger eel, the catch to the English and Welsh fishing fleet was £161,000 but that species is worth vastly more than that recreationally. A significant number of charter boats specialises in targeting that fish and it is 95 per cent catch and release. We have another species of fish called a flounder, which is a flatfish not dissimilar to the plaice. The total catch in the Defra statistics for 2002 is £40,000. We have ling, a fish which is very popular for wreck fishing and that was £474,000. We have fish such a rays, which were £3.2 million. Even if we include cod, because obviously both sectors target cod, brill, turbot, all these species which total £49 million, according to the Defra funded Drew report support £538 million of direct expenditure in England and Wales.

Q223 Diana Organ: Can I just be clear? You are saying that you would be looking for a re-designation of bass, conger eel, flounder, ling and the rays.

Mr Gilbert: And mullet and wrasse.

Mr Cox: Tope and smooth-hound.

Q224 Diana Organ: Never heard of them. They do not sound that wonderful. On that basis I can understand why you want to do it: you can see a real growth in your sector. However, with bass, do you not think the commercial fisheries are going to be jumping up and down about this? They are going to be saying “Excuse me”.

Mr Cox: There are other ways of catching bass. You will have heard of monofilament gill nets, the so-called wall of death. Defra do not know how many thousands of kilometres of gill net are strung out around this country at any one time; they have no idea. Some boats in Cornwall and the West Country are currently shooting 30 kilometres of gill net a day. People have no idea; top Defra scientists did not know that until last week. Wherever you go around the coast of Britain, whether you are a boat angler or a beach angler, you are given a mark and there around you are monofilament gill nets. The total value of the catch of bass taking those monofilament gill nets is £3.1 million.

Q225 Diana Organ: But you want it re-designated so that you just pick it up.

Mr Cox: No, no, no, no, no.

Mr Leballeur: No, no, no.

Mr Cox: The recreational value of the bass fishing at the moment is £100 million. What we are saying is do not catch them this size, let them grow to that size, then commercials, as they used to historically catch them on rod and line or on long lines, instead of catching a bass at 36 centimetres, valued at £2.50, they can catch a bass at £4.50, five times the value. You cannot get that interest in the bank.

Q226 Diana Organ: I can understand that and I can understand why you want to do it. Some of these fish you have just mentioned are fish which at present are not seen widely on the fishmonger’s slab. One of the problems we surely have is that when ministers go to look at the fish quotas and we are all saying cod is in desperate straits and so is hake, all the fish which we are exhorted by virtuous government to go out and eat because it is good and healthy for us, one of the problems we also have is that there are lots of other fish, and you have just mentioned a few, which maybe we ought to be directing the consumer to eat to give a bit of a break to the poor old cod. We should say you could have on your plate a nice bit of flounder or a nice bit of ray or a nice bit of ling or a nice bit of conger eel. I have to say that I have eaten all of those.

Mr Cox: Do you know how long it takes those fish to renew?

Q227 Diana Organ: Should we not be doing that? What happens if we have re-designation of species? You guys are picking it all up, your sector is growing, it is making a bit of money here and there, but you are one million and the table for the rest of Britain is going to be lacking these fish which would then help us get out of the mess we have with the over-fishing because we have been eating hake and chips or cod and chips for generations. We should actually be telling the nation to make a bit more commercial effort on the good old flounder.

Mr Ferré: We recognise that the list we propose, because, contrary to popular belief, we think commercial fishermen should be around and should be able to earn a living as well, is likely to fall into two categories. The one where both have access to it and one where they genuinely do not have an interest and they really should be managed primarily for recreational sea angling because any other approach certainly does not make commercial sense. For example, Bob will tell you that he was at a fish market in his area last week where tope and smooth-hound, which you have never heard of, but which employ the few charter boats left for a fair amount of their time because there is nothing else to be caught, were being sold for 50 pence per kilo to be ground up for fishmeal. That is a nonsensical approach to fish management. We are open-eyed about this. What we are saying is that for some species there must be scope for sharing. Both have a role, people deserve to eat it, recreational sea anglers should be able to catch them, but they should be managed for best effect, so let them grow a bit bigger first of all, let us look at some of the harmful catch processes we use and go for the least harmful not the most harmful.

Chairman: The ethos of the sea angler is: eat your own.

Q228 Diana Organ: No, they sell.

Mr Roskilly: A recreational sea angler catches fish for recreation. A commercial fisherman catches them for commerce. If somebody uses a rod and line to take a fish and sells that fish, he is a commercial rod-and-line fisherman, not a recreational angler. If he sells that fish illegally, he is an illegal commercial fisherman. Most anglers are united in condemning the practice of people who represent themselves as anglers selling their catch. They are not recreational anglers, they are commercial fishermen.

Chairman: Given what the government tells us about the health effects of fish, you should all be a remarkably intelligent and physically fit congregation.

Q229 Mr Lazarowicz: May I turn the questioning in a slightly different direction? The strategy unit report, from which this all started, has suggested that there should be an experimental programme of marine protected areas (MPAs). What is the view in your sector about the effects such areas, if introduced, would have on your activities? In particular, would you like to have a role in the inshore fisheries in which you are primarily interested?

Mr Roskilly: Firstly, marine protected areas are often seen as a panacea for all the failed methods. They are not. They do produce some benefits, but they will not solve the problem. Unfortunately it diverts attention from other measures which is one of the problems we might have with them. Where they are established then the objectives for establishing that area must be clearly set down. Whether that be for nature conservation, for development of fish stocks, for providing a recreational source, we must be very clear each time we are establishing the area exactly what that objective is. Once we have established the objective, we then have to look at the restrictions which are necessary to bring that objective about. We should not apply any restrictions which are not aimed at that objective or needed to bring that objective about for any stakeholder. Having said that, some areas are currently under consideration. They are described as recreational only fisheries, but they could also be described as marine protected areas because it is moving from a very destructive form of fishery into a very low impact fishery where the fish stocks will be able to multiply and at the same time a very significant socio-economic value can be taken from that area. Yes, marine protected areas mean lots of different things to lots of different people.

Q230 Mr Lazarowicz: What are the kinds of things that it means to you which are acceptable to you?

Mr Roskilly: If an area is needed to be left alone and there are good scientific reasons that nobody goes into that area, drops anchor there and disturbs whatever is on the seabed or takes anything from that, yes, if there is a need for anglers to be excluded from that area then we would welcome that because it would produce better fish, a better environment for fishing for the future.

Mr Ferré: They can present an opportunity. What we are trying to say is that you cannot use them as a panacea, they are a building block. Used correctly and connected, because most fish move around so protecting one area may protect the shellfish which live in it and may protect a few other things but it will be of limited protection to fish. For example, if you do a spawning area and say these fish spawn here at this time of year therefore you cannot do certain things there, that would be of value. We are half enthusiastic and half cautious and it is not just us. If by doing that we can increase the likelihood of fish spawning, fish growth, prevent damage to the seabed, prevent over-fishing, we should be happy to accept restrictions on what we can do, if we were allowed to fish in marine protected areas, but unless there was a really good reason, we would be unhappy if we were totally banned from them. However, stop us from taking the fish, make us put them back in a sensible manner, stop us doing things which would be harmful for the environment, absolutely fine with that. We recognise they have a role to play which may be beneficial, but where we have looked at case histories in other places, they sometimes generate problems as well as fix them, so you just have to be honest about what outcome you are looking for.

Mr Roskilly: We do have a system of protected areas around the country in bass nursery areas where anglers and commercial fishermen are not allowed to take any bass from those areas at certain times of the year for some of them, if they are fishing from a boat, or to use sand eels as bait. They are very popular with anglers because they can see a benefit in generating the best stocks locally which can be caught all over the area. They would often be policed by anglers; if they see somebody actually fishing in that area, whether anglers or commercial fishermen netting illegally in those areas, they will be quick to report them.

Mr Gilbert: We need to be very clear what marine protected areas are. There has been a lot of debate about them, but people are perceiving them as different things. One example of a particularly good MPA would be the mackerel box, which allows the least destructive hand-line fishing to continue, but stops some of the very large pelagic boats coming in and taking vast quantities. That is an absolutely first class example which anglers would applaud and there are lots of other examples where I think the most destructive methods can be prohibited, but where there are sustainable methods, they should be allowed.

Q231 Chairman: One final question on the sustainable fisheries programme. Are you involved in this? What influence do you have there? Are your inputs listened to or do you feel neglected?

Mr Ferré: We are certainly being listened to now. I am a member of the overarching stakeholder group, which is currently consulting on the recommendations with a view to producing a final report for ministers, as I understand it March/April time. Two of us here are on sub-groups; of the four sub-groups, we are on the three of those which we felt it appropriate to be on. We are the sole recreational sea angling voice on it. The stakeholder group has 28 non-government people on it and just as many government people on it and I am the only recreational sea angler, so we are not exactly over-weight, but we are represented. At the moment there is evidence that what we are saying is being listened to and we await the outcome with interest.

Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen. That has been a particularly interesting session and it has been educational for me. We are very grateful to you for coming to give us this evidence this afternoon. Thank you very much indeed.

Memorandum submitted by South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mr Bruce Bennett, Chairman and Mr Chris Venmore, Honorary Secretary, South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen, examined.

Chairman: Welcome to you. Let us try to make fast progress. For the record, we have Mr Bruce Bennett, who is the chairman of the South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen and Mr Chris Venmore, the honorary secretary.

Q232 Ms Atherton: The strategy unit say that there could be an increase in inshore fisheries and you are saying this is not sustainable. Could you talk us through that?

Mr Bennett: Have you seen our reaction?

Q233 Ms Atherton: Yes, but for the record we should like you to engage with us on this.

Mr Bennett: We should love to.

Q234 Ms Atherton: What is the state of the fisheries currently?

Mr Venmore: The state at the moment is that the inshore sector has expanded quite considerably. As I am sure everybody is aware, there has been an enormous reduction in whitefish boats and many of those boats have either been decommissioned, or people have downsized and have moved into the inshore sector which has expanded, certainly in the last five or six years, almost beyond recognition. It is our view that it cannot take any further expansion on the present stocks which are exploited. There are indeed a few other stocks which might be able to be exploited and they are doing that in your part of the world and calling them Cornish sardines. There are openings along those lines, but as far as the current fisheries are concerned, it is our view, in particular where shellfish are concerned, that we cannot take any more effort. If we take more effort, we are going to end up like the offshore fleet, in trouble.

Q235 Ms Atherton: You mentioned Cornish sardines, but are there other areas where there could be development inshore?

Mr Venmore: Inshore there is the whelk, there is the surf clam, there is the velvet swimming crab, there is a green crab, all these things have potential to be developed. First and foremost you have to find a market before you can actually develop it. It is no good catching it and wasting it; anything we kill must be eaten.

Q236 Ms Atherton: You lead me beautifully into where I was hoping to lead you. What do you think needs to happen to take this forward? What would the economic impact be and specifically what sort of marketing would you like to see to encourage greater use of these fisheries you have just been going through?

Mr Venmore: There is huge potential for value added at the moment. One of the other hats I wear is as a member of the board of the Seafish Industry Authority. We recently commissioned research into brown crab marketing on the continent. An excellent report was produced last month and that shows huge potential for the exporting of processed brown crab to France in particular.

Q237 Ms Atherton: Of course Rick Stein says he does not understand why nobody is eating the brown crabs in this country. Should we not just be marketing abroad but actually creating the new markets in this country?

Mr Venmore: We are doing both. Because of the big expansion that we have seen in the shellfish fleet, we have to look outside the UK. Our market has traditionally been the market which was developed by the South Devon fleet in the late 1970s and 1980s, which was Spain and France. It is now oversupplied, mainly because of the southern Irish boats, which have come on stream. We therefore have to look not only in this country, with the help of Rick Stein, but also to the continent.

Q238 Ms Atherton: The strategy unit have called for improvement of the data collection in the inshore shellfish sector. They are calling for a range of survey methods and web-based self-reporting. What do you think about that?

Mr Venmore: I think it is vital. Our association, and my chairman was one of them at the time, came up to London 20 years ago to ask for a shellfish licence and greater data. If you do not have the data, how can anybody manage an industry, quite honestly? We support it fully.

Q239 Ms Atherton: I quite appreciate that. Would you like to take it further or do you think the strategy unit has just about got it right?

Mr Venmore: I am not sure that it has got it exactly right. At the moment the Fisheries 1 of Defra are looking at introducing a type of logbook for the under-ten-metre vessels. We only responded to it last week. That is going to help. We do need more information; we really do.

Q240 Diana Organ: Could you talk about the sea fishery committees? I should like to hear your view on how they could be modernised. How do you react to the view that the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network had, that the Environment Agency is the “best placed organisation” for inshore management?

Mr Venmore: Oh, dear, it seems to be me again. I shall put on another hat, if I may. I am chairman of Devon Sea Fishery Committee, so you would expect that you will get a, I hope not too, biased view, but there would be a certain bias in my opinion. They are very, very mistaken. In my view they were looking at things wrongly when they said that they wanted greater representation on the sea fishery committees. They have got it wrong. They seem to be lumping themselves alongside a commercial fishery, but what they have to remember is that the commercial fishery has many sectors: we have trawling; we have beam trawling; we have scalloping; we have netting; we have lining; we have potting. We have always maintained that each sector needs to be represented in exactly the same way as the anglers must be represented. They are only one sector, therefore they only need one seat. In the committee which I chair we actually have an angler; he happens to be the chief executive of the people who are sitting here, an excellent man. In addition to that I happen to be an angler; I am also a crab fisherman but I happen to be an angler and I have pioneered through a lot of measures which they will not recognise which have benefited angling. That is vitally important. They are just as entitled as I am to go to catch a fish, of course they are.

Q241 Diana Organ: Will you want to see the sea fishery committees’ powers extended?

Mr Venmore: Yes.

Q242 Diana Organ: How? In what particular area?

Mr Venmore: We start unfortunately getting into politics, which probably may interest you more than it does people like my chairman and me. Once we start extending beyond the present six miles, we come into conflict with Regulation 2371 of 2002, which is now the basic regulation from Brussels for all fisheries matters. I am sure your Chairman knows that once you go beyond those six miles, you can only enforce your legislation on your own vessels; you cannot enforce it on foreign vessels. Off Devon, for instance, the Belgians and French can come in and fish right up to our six-mile limit, as they can in Ms Atherton’s area as well. Unfortunately we are, for instance, throwing back crabs of 150 to 155 millimetres; the French can come and catch those crabs of 140 millimetres upwards, take them home and land them. We are losing out. The first thing we have to do is to extend our limits out to 12 miles and make certain that those limits are managed by, we should like to say, sea fishery committees and that all those people fishing in those waters have to abide by the same rules, the same regulations, the same conservation policy, the same enforcement regime.

Q243 Diana Organ: Do you want that work to be done by the proposed creation of an inshore shellfish manager?

Mr Venmore: We deem the shellfish manager to be part of the sea fishery committee.

Q244 Diana Organ: You would not want to see that position created that is encompassed in that manager.

Mr Venmore: No, because immediately you do that, you are splitting an organisation, are you not? You are going to get one person turning round and saying “We want to manage the shellfish side of it” and that is going to conflict with the trawlers or the netters. You are immediately going to get conflict, which is not what we are looking for. We are looking for a body which is representative of all sections of the fishing community, anglers included, which can effectively manage those waters.

Q245 Diana Organ: There are some problems there, are there not?

Mr Venmore: Yes.

Q246 Diana Organ: You have already acknowledged that it is a very diverse group and that there are different interests. Do you not see that there are obstacles? You say the sea fishery committee would effectively be the inshore shellfish manager, but there are obstacles to individuals fulfilling that role with the different groups and interests in those fisheries?

Mr Venmore: Yes, but it works inside six miles at the moment. Why should it not work inside 12? The only problem of doing it as 2371 now forces upon is that we cannot enforce our legislation on foreign vessels. Other than that there is no problem at all and it is our belief that the 12-mile limit of Great Britain, the 12-mile limit of France, the 12-mile limit of Spain, should be for the exclusive use of that nation state. If we do not, we are going to ruin our communities and the inshore fleet is where the community is.

Q247 Diana Organ: That is obviously a much wider political issue about the EU fisheries policy.

Mr Venmore: May I just go a little bit further with the conflict which Diana Organ suggested.

Q248 Chairman: If you are critical of the common fishery policy, you can go as far as you want.

Mr Venmore: You mentioned that there may be problems with the different conflicts. You are well aware of my views, Chairman, and my own chairman stated those in 1971 when he came up here to try to persuade Edward Heath not to sign up. It was when you started Save Britain’s Fishing in 1990 that we got well and truly involved. Might I pass these to you, which is something members might like to look at? There has been a huge conflict in South Devon between mobile gear and static gear. With the help of MAFF, as it then was, and the sea fishery committee, we devised this management regime, whereby certain areas are for crab pots all year round and certain areas are for crabbing some times of the year and potting other times of the year. Then there are areas where it is trawling all the time; outside the yellow there and outside six miles is trawling all the time. That is now used by various lecturers around the world as an example of good inshore management. It does work, it really does.

Mr Bennett: If we did not have that agreement, we would not have a fishery there at all. That is the top and bottom of that one. I pass that other one on there. That is another agreement we have with the French and the Belgians, the Channel Islanders and the beam trawlers. That is what we call the offshore agreement. That has not worked quite so well, because we do not have the authority; that one is all by gentlemen’s agreement.

Q249 Chairman: Does the gentlemen’s agreement work?

Mr Bennett: It has worked. We would not be able to work there at all if we did not have some sort of agreement, but there are always problems.

Q250 Chairman: Perhaps you could leave us a set of these?

Mr Venmore: Please; I brought those to leave. That offshore one is the forerunner to the RACs, the regional advisory councils.

Q251 Mr Lazarowicz: I wanted to ask a number of questions about the proposals to try to deal with some of the issues about the future of fisheries in general and perhaps it might be worthwhile rolling them up together. One of the proposals is to move to the individual transferable quotas (ITQs) from the fixed quota allocation. I should be interested in your views on that.

Mr Bennett: Individual quotas? No.

Q252 Mr Lazarowicz: Why?

Mr Bennett: We must try to learn from history. It is happening in other places and it has been a complete failure.

Q253 Mr Lazarowicz: Could you give us some examples of why you say that?

Mr Bennett: My secretary here has a son in New Zealand whom he goes to see once a year and he has learned a fair bit about this individual transferable quota. What is happening is that it has brought out that the small people do not have a chance. There is one big section which has been taken over by the Japanese in New Zealand. We do not think that is the way forward.

Mr Venmore: May I just enlarge on that? When I first visited the country in 1978, there were lots of small boats fishing from relatively small ports. They were delighted when ITQs came in, because it gave them ownership of their particular quota. They viewed this as a means of getting a pension when they finally retired. As they have retired, those quotas have been bought up by about ten large companies. If a youngster wants to come into the industry now, he cannot, because there are no quotas. If he can get himself a boat, he has to go along to one of these big companies and ask to fish for them. They say yes, he can, this week he can catch three tonnes of snapper for them, but they want them between five and six pounds. What happens to the rest? They get discarded. If that happened in this country, it is our view that we would lose our fishing communities, particularly in places like Scotland and in the South West. They would go. Because of the single market, we could not stop any other country buying that quota. In the same way as we cannot stop a Spanish vessel registering as a British vessel and fishing against the quota which has been allocated to this country, you cannot stop a fisherman selling his quota to a Spaniard. That is actually recognised in the report and that is a very, very serious problem. The problem is that whatever method of control you have, be it quotas or days at sea, if it is transferable, we will lose out to those people with money or those people who view fishing as more important than the country does.

Q254 Mr Lazarowicz: Taking that last point a bit further, there are obviously several things we could pursue if more time were available, but what is your view on the proposals to introduce the effort-based system in mixed fisheries?

Mr Venmore: Do you mean days at sea?

Q255 Mr Lazarowicz: Yes.

Mr Venmore: Provided it is equitable and non-transferable, it will work in most methods of fishing. It would not work particularly well in potting, because our gear stays in the water for 365 days a year. Whilst we would be able to work within a certain limit, as my chairman mentioned earlier, we do get a bit of trouble mid-channel with gear being towed away. The French, and the Belgians last week unfortunately, went into the crabbing boxes when they should not and towed away the gear. It means, at £50 a pot, that you have to stop and look for it. If you are restricted on days at sea, you cannot go looking for your gear. It would not work all that well, but we could probably get over it, provided they are not transferable.

Q256 Mr Lazarowicz: What about the concept of a marine protected area being extended much more?

Mr Venmore: We should like to see our inshore chart extended extensively throughout the country. We have video proof, because CEFAS, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, did a check on it, that it works. The ground where we have out crab pots is still pristine; the stocks of scallop in particular there are abundant. When the fish which are not prosecuted in that particular area spawn, the spat drifts down the tide. Our particular area is actually restocking a lot of the South West’s southern coast. That is the way forward, although in Devon we have the first no-take zone in the country in Lundy Island, which Devon Sea Fisheries put through, working with English Nature.

Q257 Ms Atherton: Let us talk a little about compliance. Do you think there is a problem of non-compliance in the shellfish and inshore fisheries?

Mr Venmore: No.

Q258 Ms Atherton: You do not think that is a problem. Do you think it is the regulations?

Mr Venmore: We are lucky. We have only one law to abide by and that is the size limit. Everything we catch is alive, therefore everything we put back in the water is alive. There is no excuse whatsoever for a boat to land under-sized fish or poor quality fish. It is the most environmentally friendly form of fishing there is. We have no problem with enforcement.

Q259 Ms Atherton: The strategy unit called for greater compliance.

Mr Venmore: Not with shellfish, unless I am mistaken.

Q260 Ms Atherton: We will go and have a second look at that.

Mr Venmore: There is non-compliance, but quite honestly, if you have so many regulations, it becomes almost impossible for the wet fish fleet to comply. There is a phenomenal amount of regulation. That is a problem. It is not non-compliance, it is over-regulation which is causing our trouble in the industry. I think you will find that even some of the hierarchy in the civil service would accept that, but of course you have to comply. There is no excuse.

Mr Bennett: I think you will find very few prosecutions of landing under-sized crab and lobster now; very, very few indeed. I should like to see the sizes go up and I think that is the way ahead; honestly. I do not know whether you know anything about the V notch in lobsters, but in the last few years since it started there has been a vast improvement in the stock. It is one of the best things we have ever done. If we can go along those lines, I do not think we will have any real problems in the long run, unless these conclusions in this paper are really taken account of and worked on.

Q261 Ms Atherton: Which paper?

Mr Bennett: You know the one the Committee wrote on the future of the UK fishing.

Mr Venmore: The one we submitted.

Mr Bennett: If we do not really look at that and really take account of it and try to get in as much as we possibly can, I am afraid it all comes back to having control of our own waters. If we do not, we are on a long, slippery slope – or maybe a short one.

Q262 Chairman: What is your reaction to the points and penalties system to enforce the compliance that the strategy unit wants?

Mr Bennett: That is a difficult one, is it not? It seems a bit strange to us, to be honest. We were talking about it coming up on the train this morning and it could be a bit dodgy, this business of a fishery officer being able to give a fine. We are open minded, we will go on looking at it, but we are not that struck on it, are we, nor are our members.

Mr Venmore: No. We have no problem with the punishment being an administrative punishment, in other words penalty points or stopping of the licence for a set period of time. We will support that. It is against British justice quite honestly to have a fisheries officer who may be on the quayside with you every day being in a position to impose a fine. That is wrong. We would rather, if administrative penalties are coming in, that it go through the normal procedure. All right, get rid of the criminal aspect if you wish, but it should not be judged by one person; it needs to be judged by our peers, quite frankly.

Chairman: Can we finish on strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) and environmental impact assessments?

Q263 Mr Lazarowicz: It has been suggested that strategic environmental assessments be introduced for both inshore and for offshore fisheries and also that environmental impact assessments are carried out prior to the introduction of new gear to a fishery or indeed to the start of a new fishery. What is your reaction to those proposals? What impact do you think such procedures would have on your sector?

Mr Venmore: It obviously depends on the type of gear we are actually talking about. We are very strongly opposed to certain methods of fishing at the moment because of the damage it has done to the seabed and to the stock. If you just take the modern scallop dredge, for example, you have between five and seven tonnes of ironmongery being dragged along the seabed.

Q264 Chairman: Is this beam trawling?

Mr Venmore: Scallop dredge on a beam; yes, it is a form of beam trawling, but it is where the beam is not all metal, only the chain matrix underneath it is metal and the beam itself. The scallop dredge has seven, eight, up to 20 dredges hanging off this beam and can weigh seven tonnes or more. That destroys the seabed. We have an area near us called the Exeters, which at one time was a prime crab ground. The rough ground stood up on the echo-sounder somewhere around six or seven feet high.

Q265 Mr Lazarowicz: If there had been an environmental impact assessment on that, it would not have translated to the position being different.

Mr Venmore: It might have stopped it; now there is nothing, it is gone, it does not show up. That is why our inshore chart is so important. We have protected areas there. Some of those areas have never seen any metal and that is why it works.

Q266 Mr Lazarowicz: So do you have a view on SEAs or on the impact assessments? Do you have a view as an organisation?

Mr Venmore: We have not actually discussed it. I can only speak on a personal level. If there is going to be any form of fishery which damages the marine environment or other species, then it does need to be very, very carefully looked at and that can be done with the Seafish Industry Authority. It is absolutely vital and we would come along with the angler who said – one of them seemed to be slightly different from the others – that he was all for controlling the method of fishing to help the stock as opposed to making that stock solely for anglers. We would go along with that. We need to control the method; we have had our minister trying very hard, for instance, to control the bass pair-trawl fishery. Unfortunately so far he has failed. It will get there; the NGOs and the green parties will force that through. That sort of thing is what is needed. We have to come down to environmentally friendly forms of fishing and that is by far and away the best way forward.

Mr Bennett: We understand that it is very difficult just to say ban beam trawling, because it is no good, it is damaging the bottom, but you just cannot do it overnight. This is where the government have to look at that and put it in a timetable. I honestly think that if all this damage had not been done over the last 20 or 30 years we would be in a far better position now. I honestly think that.

Mr Venmore: We did a paper a few years back suggesting that in the same way as farmers have been encouraged to go organic and have been given grants to do so, we felt that MAFF, as it then was, Defra now should be giving grants to certain forms of fishing to convert to a more environmentally friendly form of fishing, just to see them over that hump of two or three years when they are actually going to suffer. I do not think it would be that expensive. In five years’ time we would have a fishery we could be proud of again, we really would. We have to do it.

Q267 Chairman: I am afraid it has been a plea which has fallen on deaf ears for a long time. Thank you very much, gentlemen. It is important for us to have the views of the shellfishermen in the light of the enhanced importance that the strategy unit gives shellfisheries. We are very grateful to you for coming and giving evidence this afternoon.

Mr Bennett: I am also the chairman of the shellfish committee of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation (NFFO). They are singing along the same lines. It is not just our little association.

Q268 Chairman: No, I accept that. They gave their evidence earlier on and it is what we are hearing from other organisations as well. We are grateful to you specifically for today. Thank you.

Mr Venmore: Thank you all for your time. Keep fighting for us, we need it.

Chairman: Thank you.

Memorandum submitted by Dr Andrew Palfreman

Examination of Witness

Witness: Dr Andrew Palfreman, independent consultant, examined.

Q269 Chairman: Andrew, let me welcome you as an independent consultant and former senior lecturer in fisheries and also, of course, as adviser on the earlier fishing inquiry which we did in the 1990s. A lot of people commented very generously on the superb photographs involved in that report as well as the evidence. Let me welcome you now, because your evidence is particularly interesting and gives us another angle on the strategy unit report, because you have been more critical than most. Let me just start with the issue of individual transferable quotas. You feel that they will hit the English regions particularly. Why is that?

Dr Palfreman: The evidence came out from the previous respondents about the way that individual transferable quotas in other countries and a market-drive system of fishing rights tends to favour those people who have the financial resources. That is why I have recommended for the Yorkshire and Humber region that they should set up some kind of community quota, financially well backed, so that they can resist that pressure from the more financially well heeled sections of the UK industry in order to prevent that drift. I fear that would be enhanced if there were a free-for-all on ITQs in the UK. The academic literature more or less supports that position as well, that once it is gone, it is gone for ever and the ITQ system would encourage that to happen more.

Q270 Chairman: That would mean financial resources going behind the producer organisations, would it not, to help them to keep quota when other better financed fishermen, particularly in Scotland, or indeed abroad, could put in higher bids?

Dr Palfreman: Yes, it would. The issue for Yorkshire and Humber is in a sense a long shot. It is: what is the best mechanism for generating the financial resources which can enable the sector in that particular region at least to retain some of the white fisheries which have drifted away? That is going away a bit from the issues of ITQs, but I would see ITQs as a kind of development or enhancement of that trend.

Q271 Chairman: How do you think it can be done then?

Dr Palfreman: How is that to be done? In my view the concept of community quotas needs to be advanced and developed much more than we have seen in the strategy unit report, so that it provides some protection for regions. The argument is that for any English region the benefits from having a vibrant catching sector are very substantial because there is purchase of inputs, engineering and all the rest of it and then there is the development of small-scale business as a result of landings by regional fisheries. It would be right for Yorkshire and Humber, say, but also the South West, maybe the East of England as well, to continue to fight for a significant catching sector. I do not see that requirement being met by vessels of ten metres and under.

Q272 Chairman: Is it your view that the community quota would be handled by the producer organisations (POs)?

Dr Palfreman: The PO is the obvious entity to do this, because the POs have the legal rights at the moment to discipline fishermen, the fishermen who are members of the organisation, which is why there is a whole structure of regulation from the European Community about producer organisations. It is extraordinary that in the strategy unit report it is fairly analysed, but there is a structure of regulation which hands power to producer organisations to do all sorts of things, which it is extremely difficult for any other entity to do. Listening to the weaknesses of gentlemen’s agreements, it is very difficult, unless you have some kind of legal structure, to enforce regulations.

Q273 Chairman: Does that suggest financial support from the regional development agencies (RDAs) to help finance this retention of quota?

Dr Palfreman: It is very difficult for the RDAs to do that. It would be great in the case of Yorkshire and Humber if they could, but the advice which has been received is that this would be discriminatory. Although in the case of Shetland it has happened that there has been financial support from the oil industry to the sector, in the English regions they have been advised that this would amount to discrimination and therefore would not be acceptable. It has in a way to be generated from the private sector. Perhaps the RDAs could facilitate it.

Q274 Chairman: Where is that advice from?

Dr Palfreman: The advice was from Defra.

The Committee suspended at 5.30pm for divisions in the House and subsequently adjourned.

2 March 2007 – comment from Anonymous:
Who elected the names above to represent the Welsh Economy?

5 March 2007 – comment from Steve Pitts:
Dear Mr Edwards, thank you for your latest (if lengthy) ‘copy and paste’ post. You also pose the question, “Who elected the names above to represent the Welsh Economy?” I’m not really sure what your point is, but I will try my best to answer it. The names given in the Hansard report clearly identify whom each ‘name’ represents:-

Mr Austin Mitchell, in the Chair –
Ms Candy Atherton
Mr David Drew
Mr Mark Lazarowicz
Ms Diana Organ

The above were members of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on the Future of Fishing and were Members of Parliament at the time of the hearing, so presumably they represented the Commons. The witnesses were:-

Mr Richard Ferré, Chairman, National Federation of Sea Anglers
Mr Malcolm Gilbert, Fisheries Representative, National Federation of Sea Anglers
Mr Leon Roskilly, National Co-ordinator Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network
Mr Bob Cox, Executive Member
Mr John Leballeur, Chairman, Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society.

Also mentioned are:-

Mr Bruce Bennett, Chairman and Mr Chris Venmore, Honorary Secretary, South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen and Dr Andrew Palfreman, independent consultant.

So, in answer to your question, if I understand its tenuous thread correctly. It would appear that NONE of the above names was representing the Welsh Economy as,

1.) At no point in the transcript does it indicate that either Sub-Committee members or witnesses were representing the Welsh Economy.

2.) The examination and memoranda were conducted and presented at the HOUSE OF COMMONS, not before the Welsh Assembly Government.

I sincerely trust that this answers your question to your satisfaction. You will note that I have included web addresses for each member of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for your information. Perhaps you would care to pose your question to them?

6 March 2007 – comment from Anonymous:
As you have asked and clearly mistaken me for someone else my name is Alfie Marsh and I used to be a member of BASS until a number of years ago, however I can see you have not and will never change your stance or tactics, no wonder I and many others left you all. I have joined the Welsh Fed’ as they do work for Welsh Anglers and not rip them off.

6 March 2007 – comment from Anonymous:
I have just been informed of this post by a member of our association and I wish to speak to someone of authority before I take this matter up legally and professionally, as I and others believe you are directing the above anonymous posts towards me.

John Edwards
General Secretary

6 March 2007 – comment by Steve Pitts:
Dear Mr Marsh
Thank you for at last confirming who you are and thank you for your personal observations regarding the stance of the society. Please feel free to continue posting your thoughts here, but I will not be responding to them, because you do not appear to accept any reply that I offer.

6 March 2007 – comment by Steve Pitts:
Dear Mr Edwards
May I offer you my unreserved apologies for mistakenly assuming that you were ‘anonymous?.
Yours sincerely
Steve Pitts