Monday, February 02, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: EA sets out fisheries reforms

Fines for illegal fish movements will increase to up to £50,000, close seasons will be set for eel, smelt and lamprey fisheries, while so called fish-thieves will see the maximum penalty for removing fish from Britain's rivers increased from £100 to £5,000.

The PAC was today passed a copy of the Environment Agency's take on the Marine and Coastal Access Bill currently before Parliament.

Entitled Reforming fisheries law for the 21st Century, the document spells out for the first time how the EA plans to "modernise fisheries regulation in England and Wales", and address recommendations made in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries review.

"There will soon be major changes to the rules governing freshwater and migratory fisheries," the document says.

"These changes will help to conserve fish stocks, allowing people to continue to enjoy and make a living from fishing.

"Legislation to make these changes will go through Parliament over the next year or two.

"At the Environment Agency, we are working with Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure new regulations will meet current and future challenges.

"And to make the regulations as effective as possible, we will also work closely with other organisations, including angling governing bodies and conservation agencies."

At present, the EA is responsible for regulating salmon, trout, coarse and eel fisheries.

"This leaves fisheries for other migratory species unregulated, including rare and threatened species," the report adds.

"The Marine Bill will extend our regulatory responsibilities to river and sea lamprey, and smelt."

The bill will give the EA powers to make and enforce byelaws to meet European targets for protecting all three species. It is also seeking to regulate fishing for twaite and allis shad, which it says are also threatened.

New licence and authorisation schemes for smelt and lamprey will come into force in January 2010. Both species are a staple of the frozen deadbait trade.

New measure to protect the eel, whose population is believed to have declined by up to 70 per cent in recent decades, are included. The EA intends to regulate fishing, improve habitats and relocate elvers into "suitable upstream areas".

A faster mechanism for setting byelaws is included in the Marine Bill, along with powers to set close seasons for smelt, eel and lamprey.

The maximum penalty for byelaw breaches will be increased from £2,500 to £50,000.

"The marine Bill will reform how we regulate fish removal," the EA document says. "As well as giving us greater byelaw-making powers to control fish removal, the bill will change the Theft Act by removing the disticntion between day and night fishing, and increasing the maximum penalty for fish theft from £100 to £5,000.

A new scheme governing fish introductions and removals is also proposed. This is likely to impact on pike culls, by requiring nyone wishing to remove fish to obtain a long-term poermit lasting for between three and 10 years.

"Thanks to these measures, it will be much more difficult to move fish illegally without being detected, as only authorised suppliers will be allowed to move fish, and only to or from waters which have a long-term permit," the EA adds.

"The maximum penalty for illegal fish movements will also increase from £2,500 to £50,000, creating a much greater deterrent to breaking the law."

Anyone who wishes to comment on the proposals can e-mail