• In 2019, nearly 70% of all net-caught bass landed into Mevagissey were from trips where bass made up 90% to 100% of the catch; and
  • 51% of all net-caught bass landed into Cornwall were from trips where bass made up 90% to 100% of the catch.

Following our recent disturbing findings that net-caught sea bass landings in Cornwall and Mevagissey having gone up dramatically, whilst they have plummeted in the rest of England, we decided to look even more closely at the MMO landing data[1] for Cornwall and Mevagissey.

Since 2017, it has been illegal for fixed netters to target bass – they are only allowed to land bass if it is “unavoidable bycatch” – i.e. where they have been fishing for other species but despite their best efforts to avoid bass, they have inadvertently caught some.  It is Cornwall IFCA’s statutory duty to enforce this law in Cornish inshore waters, where the fixed netters landing bass do their fishing and land their catch.

The commercial fishing sector tells us that gill nets are species specific[2], so we were expecting the landing data to show us that where bass was caught in nets, it only represented a small proportion of the total catch, say 10% or perhaps 20% at most.

But here is what we actually found: nearly 70% of all net-caught bass landed into Mevagissey were from trips where bass made up 90% to 100% of the catch.  So much for “unavoidable  bycatch”!

And 51% of all net-caught bass landed into Cornwall were from trips where bass made up 90% to 100% of the catch.

These findings tally with what we have been hearing from Cornish sea anglers and commercial fishermen: that some fixed netters are brazenly ignoring the ban on them targeting bass and Cornwall IFCA is letting them get away with it.  We are told that illegally-caught bass are being landed without being recorded, or if they are recorded, they are reported as being caught by vessels that didn’t even leave port.  Law-abiding fishermen are appalled at what is happening and can’t understand why nothing is being done to stop it.

Cornwall IFCA has access to the detailed landing data on a vessel by vessel basis.  So it could easily have seen exactly which vessels were involved in these suspect landings and taken enforcement action – had it been monitoring the landing data, which astonishingly it has not.   Cornwall IFCA has refused to make emergency byelaws to protect juvenile bass or to accelerate their proposed coastal netting byelaw to protect bass.  And now it is clear that Cornwall IFCA has been allowing illegal bass targeting to take place right under its nose.

Many of you have written to Cornwall asking them:

Will we receive a proper answer or will Cornwall IFCA take its usual approach of fudging the issue, misdirection and blaming others?

Cornwall IFCA’s Committee meeting takes place next week at 10.00am on Friday 18 September and net-caught bass landings will be on the agenda.  You can follow the meeting online using this link and selecting the Cornwall IFCA meeting:

https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-democracy/webcasts/

Then select:

[1] Marine Management Organisation

[2] SeaFish: “Gill nets are also species selective due to the area that they are shot in, the skipper will use his experience to place his gear where he expects there to be an abundance of the target species thereby reducing the chances of by-catch”

 


You can support the work of Save Our Sea Bass (SOSB) by becoming a member of The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS)

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