Cornwall Fishery Managers: Asleep at the Wheel say Cornish Sea Anglers

Last week, we reported shocking new landing data from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which showed landings of sea bass by Cornish netting vessels have increased by a whopping 43%, despite fishing restrictions intended to reduce landings and allow the threatened bass stock to recover  At the same time, net-caught bass landings in the rest of England have decreased by 78%.

Our suspicions that Cornwall IFCA is not monitoring fish landings in its own district appear to have been confirmed as Sam Davis, chief officer of Cornwall IFCA, told the Western Morning News “She was unclear how the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers had arrived at their figures, so couldn’t comment on those”.[1]

Cornwall IFCA seems to have been struggling to find the data, even though it shares the same building as the MMO officers who collect the data.  And it has so far failed to make any meaningful response to our findings.  So we decided to take a closer look at the landing data.

We have been astonished to discover that between 2013 and 2019, landings of net-caught bass into the picturesque fishing port of Mevagissey almost tripled from 3.2 tonnes to 9.2 tonnes.  That’s a 185% increase for Mevagissey, while landings of net-caught bass into the rest of England decreased by 75%.

But it gets worse: in 2016, when it was still possible for netters to legally target bass, net-caught bass landings in Mevagissey were 1.2 tonnes.  Since 2017 it has been illegal for netters to target bass, but that has apparently been no constraint to netters in Mevagissey, since their bass landings shot up to 9.2 tonnes in 2019, a staggering seven-fold increase since 2016.

And since 2016, Mevagissey has leapt up the table of ports landing net-caught bass: from 34th place in 2016 to 1st place in 2018 and 2019!

Cornwall IFCA urgently needs to start doing its job and find out why net-caught bass landings have gone up so dramatically in Mevagissey.

Malcolm Gilbert, former Conservation Officer of the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers, said “Cornish sea anglers and commercial handliners are already angry at Cornwall IFCA’s repeated failures to manage Cornish bass netting.  I expect they will be incandescent with rage when they hear that Cornwall IFCA has allowed Mevagissey landings of net-caught bass to spiral out of control.

Sea anglers and other commercial fishermen in Cornwall are paying the price for Cornwall IFCA’s ineptitude.”

David Curtis, Director of Save Our Sea Bass, commented “Monitoring catches is fishery management 101.  But it seems Cornwall IFCA is clueless about landings in its own district.  This is yet another item to add to the long list of Cornwall IFCA’s failures.

Bass anglers and handliners deliver vital cash and jobs to Cornwall and Cornwall’s bass fishery should be a jewel in Cornwall’s crown.  But instead the Cornish bass fishery is being hammered by netters while at every turn Cornwall IFCA blocks protective measures and tries to pass the buck to someone else.  Cornwall IFCA has a statutory duty to manage the bass fishery – when is it going to start living up to that responsibility?”

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[1] Our press release last week incorrectly attributed a quote to the CFSA, instead of to Malcolm Gilbert, former Conservation Officer of the CFSA.  Our apologies to the CFSA for this error.