Britain’s anglers are being given the chance to help make one of the biggest decisions facing fishing for decades.
The new Marine Bill will allow the Environment Agency to change current rules governing the removal of coarse fish… and EA chiefs want you to tell them what bag limits you’d like to see.
The news comes after years of campaigning by Angling Times where we repeatedly highlighted the weakness of regional bag limits (or complete lack of them) that were allowing stocks to be damaged by an influx of non-national anglers culturally accustomed to eating what they catch.
Now, in a surprise and welcome piece of forward thinking, Agency chiefs have decided to start talking with anglers, fishery owners and clubs straight away to come up with new byelaws instead of waiting until the new bill is passed.
“Coarse fish removal is a very important issue and we pleased that we will get the powers that we need to control this,” said EA fisheries policy advisor Adrian Taylor.
“We want to get ahead of the game by gathering views now so that we can move straight to the formal byelaw consultation as soon as the Marine Bill is in place. The views of anglers, fishery owners and clubs are crucial and we are keen to see the results of Angling Times’ questionnaire,” he added.
That means you can have your say on whether there should be a zero bag limit – meaning no coarse fish may be killed – or whether provisions should be included to allow predator anglers to catch bait and enable anglers to take a limited number of fish for the table each season.
“I think former EA head of fisheries Dafydd Evans was keen to adopt something as close to a zero bag limit as possible,” said AT columnist Keith Arthur, who initially threatened to boycott the rod licence in protest at the current archaic system.
“We need to stop anglers from being able to kill rod caught fish in large numbers. And I think that it’s good the EA won’t have to look after stillwater fish and can instead focus all their attention on river fish,” added Keith, alluding to the fact that the new byelaws will only apply to river fish (public property) and not to stillwater fish (mostly owned by private interests).
But the area most likely to cause heated debate is whether anglers should have the right to remove rod-caught fish for the table.
Many in angling are arguing that being able to fish for food provides moral justification for our sport and that removing that right would leave angling vulnerable to attack by antis and conservationists.
One of those highlighting the issue is well known predator angler and tackleshop owner Nev Fickling.
“This is great news providing it doesn’t become a blanket ban on taking fish. Predator anglers need to be able to catch baits and people should be able to take a limited number of adult fish for the table each season,” said Nev.
Don’t miss out on your chance to influence the most important decision for decades – have your say by posting your comments using the link below this story.
What’s the Marine Bill?
The Marine Bill is a piece of fisheries legislation currently going through Parliament.
The result of years’ of effort by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review, the bill will make sweeping changes to the rules governing marine and freshwater fisheries.
It will provide: better protection for all fish species, better management and control of fisheries, a new system to control fish movements, and the opportunity to create Marine Conservation Zones to protect endangered sea fish stocks.
Present bag limits
The current archaic system is a confusing mess of different regional rules that fail to protect vulnerable local fish stocks.
For example, in Thames region no angler may remove more than two rod-caught fish each day, of which not more than one may be a tench, carp, barbel bream or pike.
The byelaws for some regions are impossible to source, while others have no coarse fish bag limits whatsoever.
How these new byelaws will improve your fishing...
Protect vulnerable coarse fisheries
Improve stocks and encourage an increase in numbers of specimen fish
Introduce a comprehensive national system that removes current confusion
Reduce the risk of conflict between anglers on the bank
Timeline for change
The Marine Bill is currently in Parliament
Informal consultation on new byelaws over the next two months
EA draws up planned new byelaws this summer
The new marine Bill should be in place by July
EA to start formal consultation once the new bill is in place
New byelaws will be introduced sometime next year
Rivers versus stillwaters
Any new byelaws will only apply to fish in rivers because these stocks are public property. Stillwater are usually owned by private individuals, companies or councils and so are the stocks they contain, meaning such fish are protected by the Theft Act.
This creates potential confusion in that fisheries officers will be responsible for investigating the illegal removal of rod-caught river fish, while the theft of rod-caught stillwater fish comes under the remit of the local police force who may need convincing about the seriousness of such offenses.
(NB - Any use of illegal fishing methods to take fish, such as netting or long-lining, always comes under the remit of the EA irrespective of what type of water they occur on.)
Have your say
Do you ever eat coarse fish and should you be allowed to remove rod-caught fish for the pot?
If yes, how many should you be allowed to take over a season, of what species and should their be size limits?
Should you be able to use small coarse fish as bait and, if so, how many should you be allowed to take in a day and should there be limits on their size?
Should these rules apply to just rivers, or to stillwaters as well?
Do you think the illegal removal of coarse fish should be a matter for EA fisheries enforcement officers or the Police?
If you are a fishery owner/manager what rules would you like to see introduced?
To air your views on any of those questions above, simply log-in and click the Add Comment button below to post your comments. Many thanks.