Objection To Cornwall IFCA Proposed Salmonid Byelaw

Introduction

Save Our Sea Bass objects to the proposed Salmonid byelaw. Our objections divide into two categories: 1) insufficient protection for Salmonids; and 2) procedural failures by Cornwall IFCA in developing the proposed byelaw. These are discussed in more detail below.

We firmly believe Cornwall IFCA needs to place more weight on protection for salmonids, benefits for recreational salmonid/sea anglers, benefits for commercial hook and liners and less on reducing the impact on commercial netters (which we believe is currently very low).

Since 2016, Cornwall IFCA has not enforced the current 2010 fixed engines byelaw that was intended to protect salmonids. Given this context and the insufficient level of protection offered by the proposed byelaw, we believe the long-term interests of salmonids and salmonid anglers are best served by Cornwall IFCA reworking the byelaw, even though this will take some time.

Insufficient Protection for Salmonids

  1. Salmonids move between coastal waters and rivers, streams and estuaries at various stages of their life cycles, so complete protection from all forms of netting is needed in coastal waters adjacent to places where rivers, streams and estuaries meet open coastal waters. This complete protection should:
    • cover all salmonid rivers entering coastal waters.
    • Designate protected areas large enough so that nets set on the edge of protected areas have a low probability of catching salmonids (since the Salmonids will have had room to spread out in different directions).
    • apply to all types of netting: fixed, drift and ring nets.
    • Be effective the whole time, including at high tides when Salmonids are mostly likely to be entering or exiting rivers.

The proposed byelaw fails to provide this protection

    • Drift nets:
      • drift nets are not restricted by the Restricted areas and so could be set anywhere in Restricted areas, including close to river mouths.
      • drift nets are capable of catching salmonids near to the surface. Except in the three Highly Restricted areas, drift nets could be set anywhere in Cornish coastal waters.
      • Cornwall IFCA has not taken the advice of the Environment Agency that “Nets hung more loosely may offer less opportunity for escape, unharmed release and capture a greater range of sizes of fish (Potter & Pawson, 1991). The recommendations in the above sections are therefore equally relevant to drift nets and they should be subject to the same restrictions.” [i]
    • Fixed nets:
      • There are only three Highly Restricted netting areas (where fixed nets cannot be used). The remaining protected areas are Restricted areas, where fixed nets can be deployed provided they have 3 metres of water over the net headrope when they are fishing.
      • Because fixed nets can be used in Restricted areas, it would be possible at high tide to take advantage of the additional water depth to set fixed nets close to river mouths, just at the time salmonids are most likely to be entering or exiting the rivers.
    • Only 3 salmonid river mouths are designated as Highly Restricted areas, leaving many river mouths vulnerable to netting. Vulnerable river mouths include: River Neet, River Seaton, Rover Looe, River Par, St Austell River, Helford River, River Hayle, River Gannel, and the River Menalhyl.
    • ring nets – these are not mentioned in the byelaw. We are concerned they may be able to operate in supposedly protected areas.
  1. Sea trout migrate along UK coasts and so nearshore protection from nets is needed along the entire Cornish coast. The Environment Agency paper referred to above states: “The more variable life-history of sea trout and increased inshore residence time means that they are more likely to be vulnerable to capture by inshore fisheries targeting other species”.

Preliminary findings from SAMARCH are that sea trout spend more time throughout the water column, which means the entire water column in nearshore waters needs to be protected.

The proposed byelaw fails to provide these protections:

    • Only 26% of the coastline would be protected.
    • The protection only extends out to 0.5NM, in contrast to the current byelaw which extends out to 1NM. We believe the proposed byelaw reduces the sea area protected by the current byelaw, despite the claim by CIFCA that the proposed byelaw will “provide enhanced protection for salmon and sea trout”.
    • 6 areas were designated as Highly Restricted areas in proposals issued in April 2019, but 5 of these are no longer Highly Restricted areas in the proposed byelaw and one has been greatly reduced in size. No explanation has been provided for these reductions in protection.
    • Only the top 3 metres of the water column is protected (not even the 5m advised by the Environment Agency).
    • By changing the test for 3 metres of water over the net headrope from “at any state of the tide” in the current 2010 fixed engines byelaw to “at any time”, the proposed byelaw allows nets to be set very close to the shore at high tide. Simon Toms of the Environment Agency has advised [ii] :

“The 3 m headline depth requirement at any state of tide is a general rule of thumb that is far more protective if applied with the at any state of tide condition. Otherwise, commercial netsmen would still be able to net in what is meant to be a protected area on high tide and the net would still be legal. However, If the net is not lifted on high tide, the net would become illegal on low water and this would clearly make enforcement much more onerous. The “at any state of tide condition” would mean that if you know the depth of water from a sounder and the tidal range, the net could be determined to be illegal immediately and therefore removed without risk of killing more fish.”

Devon and Severn IFCA have used the “at any state of tide” condition in their most recent byelaws and so it is clearly considered enforceable by IFCAs. It will certainly be expected in CIFCA byelaws.”

Procedural Failures in Developing the Proposed Byelaw

  1. The Impact Assessment grossly overstates the impact on commercial fishers.
    1. The Impact Assessment uses a figure of £9.8m as a net cost to businesses, yet in the Full Economic Assessment it is stated that “Reductions in revenue from first sale of six relevant species caused by restrictions in the proposed areas has been estimated, using MMO landings data, to be c. £106,405 annually”. There is no attempt to reconcile these wildly different figures.
    2. The basis for the £9.8m figure is not provided. It is however very close to the figure estimated by Mevagissey Harbour Trust (“MHT”) of £10,000,000 per year to the local economy. If CIFCA did use the MHT figure as the basis for the £9.8m figure, this would be astonishing because the Full Economic Assessment states: “Consultation responses indicated the intervention will result in losses of c. £1.0m annually for the port of Mevagissey alone. This figure included direct losses as well as loss of added supply chain value and losses to ancillary businesses. However, the figure was not been substantiated by any evidence of how the figure was calculated” (our bold emphasis).
    3. Assuming CIFCA did use the MHT figure as the basis for the £9.8m figure (since no other basis has been provided), we feel it necessary to point out the many obvious flaws in the MHT reasoning:
      1. It is not a marginal analysis. It ignores the fact that netting is currently restricted in many areas by the 2010 Fixed Engines Byelaw. Only additional restrictions imposed by the proposed byelaw should be taken into account.
      2. It assumes that all netting within 0.5NM will cease. However:
        1. Only 26% of the coastline is covered by Highly Restricted or Restricted areas.
        2. it will still be possible to net in Restricted areas where there is 3 metres of water above the net headrope. At low tide this would represent a very large proportion of Restricted areas. At high tide this would mean netting is possible in almost all parts of Restricted areas.
      3. It ignores the possibility that netters could shift their effort to outside Restricted areas and increase their catches in those areas.
      4. It ignores the benefits to commercial hook and liners who will be able to fish unimpeded in the areas where nets will no longer be able to fish.
      5. It ignores the possibility of polyvalent vessels switching from nets to hook and line in order to fish in Restricted areas.
      6. MHT assumes each fishing job supports 5 jobs ashore. However, the 2002 Common Fisheries Policy Green Paper stated “it has been estimated ( n ) that for every job at sea, there are a further 0.8 related jobs on land.”
  2. The Impact Assessment fails to address the benefits to other stocks, recreational fishing, commercial hook and line fishing and other stakeholders.
    1. The positive benefits for recreational salmonid fishing have not been properly considered. The value of each salmonid in the recreational fishery is extremely high but the Impact Assessment has not attempted to estimate the benefit of more salmonids entering Cornish rivers as a result of the proposed byelaw. No attempt has been made to calculate the benefit to Salmonid angling clubs or syndicates or businesses related to them (hotels, guest houses, campsites, guides).
    2. The positive impacts on recreational fishers and commercial hook and liners fishing for other fish species have not been properly taken into account, despite Defra guidance that IFCAs should “take into account the potential positive and negative impacts of any proposals or interventions (which may be economic, environmental and/or social), including the multiple and cumulative impacts of proposals when viewed with other projects and activities.”

In reply to a public question asked at a recent CIFCA Committee meeting, CIFCA said:

“The purpose of this byelaw is to minimise the incidental capture of salmonids in nets set for seafish. As a result, the impact assessment has to present information on the cumulative economic impact to those businesses whose activities would be restricted by measures in the proposed byelaw. The positive benefits of the byelaw should be accrued by the salmonid stocks and by those who target them. Those economic benefits have been included where they have been provided to us. Whilst there are incidental benefits to seafish, they are not material to the central purpose of the byelaw.”

We would like to highlight the unfairness of CIFCA taking into account the impact for catches of other species when considering the negative financial impacts for fixed netting, whilst ignoring the impact for catches of other species when considering the positive financial impacts for recreational fishing and commercial hook and line fishing.

We note that a 2004 [iii] a study estimated sea angling expenditure in the South West to be £165 million (worth approximately £240m today). So even small improvements in the quality of recreational fisheries can have a large monetary value.

    1. The MACAA2009 requires IFCAs to “seek to balance the different needs of persons engaged in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources in the district.” However, in developing the proposed byelaw, Cornwall IFCA has refused to consider the impact of the proposed byelaw on recreational fishermen and commercial hook and line fishermen fishing for other species, in particular bass, and so has not fulfilled its duty under MACAA2009.
    2. Fixed nets kill sea birds, seals and cetaceans, yet the positive impact for these creatures of restricting netting has not been recognised.
  1. Failure to allow the public the information needed to engage properly

The public have not been able to understand or evaluate the development of the byelaw or make any meaningful comment regarding the factors considered by the Byelaw Working Group and the decisions made by the Byelaw Working Group. This is because:

    1. Byelaw Working Group meetings are not open to the public.
    2. CIFCA refuses to provide papers prepared for the Byelaw Working Group.
    3. CIFCA refuses to provide data and evidence considered by the Byelaw Working Group.
    4. The reports from the Byelaw Working Group to the CIFCA Committee do not provide sufficient information to assess the evidence base for decision-making or the way in which the evidence has been used to arrive at proposed measures.

Importantly, the public cannot find out why certain Highly Restricted areas were proposed in April 2019 and why most of these were subsequently dropped (Mother Ive’s/Polventon Bay, Harlyn Bay, St Austell Bay, Ligger/Perran Bay, St Ives Bay, Mounts Bay). For ease of reference, we have provided maps showing these changes in a separate document.

  1. A bias towards consultation with commercial fishermen rather than recreational salmonid fishermen and businesses.

Extract from report to Cornwall IFCA Committee dated 24 September 2021 and titled “Fixed and Drift Nets (Salmonid Protection) Byelaw 2021”:

“These proposals were used as the basis for a second round of informal consultation, with well attended meetings for commercial fishermen at Mevagissey, Cadgwith and Newlyn, where EA officers were also present to answer questions. A separate drop in session was held for recreational fishermen at Chacewater and drop in sessions were also held in the IFCA office in Hayle.

It seems Cornwall IFCA did not reach out to salmonid fishing-related businesses in the same way as it reached out to commercial fishermen.

  1. Improper attention paid to the negative reactions of commercial fishers, rather than to the evidence.

Extract from report to Cornwall IFCA Committee dated 24 September 2021 and titled “Fixed and Drift Nets (Salmonid Protection) Byelaw 2021”:

“In light of the negative comments that were expressed by the majority of stakeholders at the open forum meetings and also submitted in responses to the questionnaire, a technical discussion was held between Cornwall IFCA officers and the EA to look at whether some amendments could reasonably be made to the initial byelaw proposals. This was with a view to looking again at an appropriate balance between the aim of protecting salmonids from inshore nets and the requirement to maintain a viable inshore fishing industry. This resulted in ideas about adjusting the restricted netting area boundaries and reducing or removing restrictions on certain types of nets, which were then discussed further by BWG members and agreed by the full Authority membership as the basis for further consultation.”

We understand that some of the meetings with commercial fishermen were extremely challenging and we believe CIFCA has watered-down its proposals in an attempt to reduce opposition from commercial fishermen rather than on the basis of additional evidence.

 

[i] Environment Agency “Review of protection measures for Atlantic salmon and sea trout in inshore waters” Dr. Katie Sumner Senior Research Scientist Evidence Directorate October 2015

[ii] Correspondence with David Curtis 16 June 2020

[iii] Invest in Fish South West Report – The Motivation, Demographics and Views of South West Recreational Sea Anglers and their Socio-economic Impact on the Region