The collection of bait for recreational sea angling is a traditional activity that has been passed down through generations and was, until now, largely unregulated. Lugworm (Arenicola spp.), ragworm (Nereis spp.) and crabs (particularly ‘peeler’) represent the vast majority of bait used by most British sea anglers targeting a wide variety of fishes, and most are collected from complex intertidal mudflats and coastlines in estuarine environments. While bait collection remains relatively small-scale at a local level, its total commercial value to coastal communities has been estimated between £25-30 million annually, making marine bait an important socio-economic resource in this areas.
What is the issue?
Since the implementation of the 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act
, Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities (IFCAs)
have been responsible for managing the collection of angling bait as a marine resource. IFCAs must ensure that the collection of bait does not jeopardise the wellbeing of key ecosystems or species listed under EU directives. This movement has been accelerated since UK government’s recent change of approach to managing European marine sites, which has resulted from the threat of legal action by ClientEarth
and the Marine Conservation Society
The new approach utilises a risk prioritisation tool and a matrix to provide guidance to IFCAs and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in identifying ‘at risk’ sites. Within this matrix, fishing activities (of which bait collection encompasses several categories) are classed as Red, Amber, Green or Blue according to the impact of the activity on the specific feature for which a site has been designated.
The result of this matrix has been to highlight the hazards of digging with forks and crab tiling (in particular) to seagrass ecosystems, which have been identified as ‘highly vulnerable’, and it is proposed that continued bait collection in certain areas may threaten these disturbance-sensitive habitats. Consequently, a range of regional by-laws are being considered, which may severely restrict the collection of bait by anglers around our coastline.
The Angling Trust will continue to support anglers and angling clubs in opposing the proposed by-laws that will threaten the freedom to collect bait at certain sites; safeguarding continued access to bait digging sites while ensuring minimal disturbance to surrounding ecosystems and vulnerable species is our aim.
What have we already achieved?
In September 2013 the Angling Trust held a National Summit on Bait Collection, which brought together a wide variety of stakeholders – anglers, scientists, fisheries managers and conservationists – to discuss the issue of bait collection and the sustainable management of this valuable resource. In the intervening years the Angling Trust and Fish Legal have worked hard to produce a useful Bait Collection Fact Sheet
, which is openly available to all and helps to guide anglers through the (increasingly complex) laws surrounding the issue of bait collection around our shores.