Marine Conservation Zones – Bait Digging And Other Issues, A Few Answers To A Few Questions

Courtesy of Alan Charlton Secratary Of The Northern Federation Of Sea Angling Societies (NFSAS)

Hi Glen

well after a long slog banging head against brick walls the NFSAS have finally got answers to the Q’s submitted many moons ago. DEFRA have assured the NFSAS there will be no questions in any survey regarding bait collecting. Will keep these answers safe just in case.

Alan

Questions Submitted to Alan Charlton (Press Secretary Northern Federation of Sea Anglers) by Anglers Regarding Natural England, Marine Conservation Zones & the Net Gain Project

1.      Angler’s Question – Why is it NE are selecting MCZ’s were you asked or did you offer?

NE Response – We are not designating sites, all the stakeholders involved in the Net Gain project are selecting sites to go forward to the Secretary of State for designation. Natural England played a key role in setting up the four regional MCZ projects including Net Gain, but the projects are very much run by the Project Teams with Natural England acting as a key stakeholder in this process and providing some scientific advice to ensure the sites are ecologically viable.

2.      Angler’s Question – Will the MCZ’s negate the right of fisheries enshrined in the Magna Carta/what legal power comes with MCZ designation?

NE Response – The MCZ process and the Marine & Coastal Access Act do not negate the common law right to fish from the foreshore. The Act and subsequent MCZs may require management of that right, where there is considered to be a significant impact. Where there is no/little impact then no management will be required.  The right to fish can justifiably be managed through MCZs, bye laws and other statutory instruments, but cannot be extinguished.

3.      Angler’s Question – Could you please tell me exactly what the information collected from the survey will be used for?

NE Response – It depends upon which survey this question refers. The previous CEFAS survey is of little concern to this discussion as the number of responses were so few. The information collected by Net Gain is for the purpose of  recommending MCZs and setting appropriate conservation objectives for those sites. Each person interviewed by Net Gain was issued with a consent form, if consent was given then information may be used for future projects, if consent was refused, the information can only be used by Net Gain. The purpose of any future surveys of the Angling Sector by government agencies should be made clear at the point of survey. Anglers’ comments regarding previous lack of context and clarity regarding the purpose of surveys other than Net Gain have been noted and accepted.

4.      Angler’s Question – Why have the implications not been publicized in angling mags, local newspapers?

NE Response – It should be made clear that Net Gain has achieved good media coverage, however, the MCZ process represents a significant undertaking with the need to communicate with a vast range of sectors including anglers. The number of membership bodies and associated publications (papers, newsletters and magazine etc.) within each sector can be enormous. The task of effectively reaching each and every one is impossible because of the scale. The Net Gain Team have attended many angling meetings, matches, exhibitions and events in order to encourage people to get involved in this process. Representatives for the angling sector were sought and have been included in the planning process at hub meetings. There is a responsibility on the representatives of each sector to get involved and keep their colleagues informed and to solicit their views in order to feed them back into hub meetings. This process belongs to the stakeholders and in order to get what they want out of it, they will need to contribute and communicate effectively into the process.

5.      Angler’s Question – Will it be used by NE to secure bait digging or sea angling bans within MCZ’s?

NE response – The use of the word “ban” is not helpful in this respect. Rather than an assumption regarding any bans, there is a baseline assumption that any activity can continue unless there is evidence that it represents a significant impact upon the site features and compromises the conservation objectives. Activities may be managed or voluntary agreements reached where it is deemed necessary. It is anticipated that this management will occur with stakeholder involvement. In addition to normal MCZs, there will need to be a representative number of Reference Sites against which we can measure improvements and recovery in the rest of the network.  All extractive activities will be excluded from these areas. Anyone involved in the projects will already be familiar with this concept and the needs for these sites.

6.      Angler’s Question – Will it be used to limit the numbers bait digging/sea angling within MCZ’s

NE Response – See answer to Question 6 above.

7.      Angler’s Question – Will it be used to limit the number and size of species of fish caught?

NE Response – MCZs are not a tool for fisheries management they are a tool for marine conservation and recovery. There are other processes in place and organisations with fisheries responsibilities. There are three species of fish (eel, smelt and undulate ray) listed in  the Ecological Network Guidance as designated features, a tool used by stakeholders to guide their selection of sites.

8.      Angler’s Question – Will it be used to ban the catching of certain species within the MCZ’s?

NE Response – See response to Question 7 above.

9.      Angler’s Question – Would it be used to try to introduce a licence through the back door?

NE Response – The primary reason for the collection of information by the MCZ projects is to identify relevant sites and to minimise/avoid any impact of those sites on existing activities.  Management measures will be based on preventing damage to designated features, of which there are only three fish (eel, smelt and undulate ray). Licensing is not a method to manage these species. The information collected for MCZ designation will be used for that purpose and not for the introduction of angling licences. The debate regarding angling licences and the designation of MCZs are completely unconnected. There is also no “back door”.

10. Angler’s Question – What if any restrictions will this information be used for?

NE Response – The primary reason for the collection of information by the MCZ projects is to identify relevant sites and to minimise/avoid any impact of those sites on existing activities. Until the stakeholder part of the process is complete it is impossible to say what, if any restrictions will be required in order to maintain the new sites in favourable condition. The key thing is to stay involved and feed your information into the project via your representatives.

11. Angler’s Question – Will there be any restrictions on boat fishing in MCZ’s?

NE Response – See answer to Question 10 above

12. Angler’s Question – What about little bait beds, that only a few anglers know about and want to keep secret, will not be happy disclosing their location?

NE Response – The information collection part of the projects is drawing to a close. If these areas have not been discussed by now, then they will remain unknown. If the level of activity is so localised and low key, it might be assumed that it will not require management.

13. Angler’s Question – If none of these why do you want the information?

NE Response – Please see above answers

14. Angler’s Question – THIS ONE IS MINE (Alan Charlton) “displaced anglers/problems elsewhere.

NE Response – The issue of angler displacement will only be an issue if there are restrictions upon angling activity in a given area. It is impossible to say at this point in time if this will be the case. This has been an historic issue, for example with the closure of Budle Bay for bait digging many years ago. However the closure of one area where activity is problematic may indeed lead to increased numbers of people going elsewhere, but the level of activity is often less intense and therefore more manageable. Again it must be emphasised that the purpose of MCZs is to conserve the marine environment and not the management of individual activities for reasons other than this.



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