Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ban was always on the cards, says MSP

Green MSP Chris Balance has given an insight into his party's perspective on fishing and the Scottish Parliament's view on livebaiting, in this e-mail to a PAC member:

As you know the proposal to which you refer is contained in the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill which is currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill was introduced by ministers and includes measures to improve regulation of aquaculture, measures to deal with an outbreak of Gyrodactylus Salaris should this parasite ever reach Scottish waters, and various provisions related to salmon and freshwater fisheries.

The Bill has broad cross party support. It should be noted that one policy intention of the section on freshwater fisheries is to increase access to angling opportunities.

The Bill as originally introduced does not contain the provision to ban the use of live vertebrates as bait, but the Minister made it clear that the intention was always to introduce such a ban, through regulations which would follow from the passage of the Bill.

In a letter to the Committee the Ministers noted that they had an open mind as to whether this issue should be explicitly in the Bill or should follow in regulations, and that if the committee felt that this should be on the face of the Bill the Minister would bring forward an amendment to that effect at Stage 2 (which we expect to start on 24th January).

The committee in its Stage 1 report made a recommendation that this should be explicitly included in the Bill, so we expect the Minister to introduce such an amendment.

In considering this issue the committee heard evidence on the two aspects of this issue namely the possible introduction of alien species used as bait into a body of water, and the fish welfare issue of using live fish as bait. Both were felt to be valid concerns.

While I accept that the use of only fish caught on the same day from the same body of water would avoid the first problem, the welfare issue remains.

I realise that this would stop a practice that has been the norm among pike fishermen.

I do however note that on the Pike Anglers' Club of Great Britain website there is advice about pike angling with dead bait so I hope that the effect of a ban would not be as great as you suggest.

Please be assured that Green MSPs recognise the value of angling and that there is no "hidden agenda" to stop it, quite the reverse as I indicated in my first paragraph.

Chris Balance, MSP