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Dorset anglers' concerns after Sark bans controversial 'cleaner fish' wrasse fishery


Wrasse - Small Wrasse - Credit Adam Kirby x550px
Wrasse are being used to remove sea lice from farmed salmon. Credit: Adam Kirby

The Channel Island of Sark has become the first place in the UK to ban the controversial wrasse fishery supplying live wrasse to the Scottish salmon farming industry where they are used as cleaner fish removing sea lice from farmed salmon.

The Angling Trust has been calling for a UK-wide ban on the live wrasse fishery since it established itself along the south coast of England in 2016.

Wrasse are an important recreational species for anglers and the Trust has called for a precautionary ban based on a lack of evidence about the sustainability of the fishery and the impact on wider ecosystems – including highly-protected European Marine sites.

However, concerns have now been raised that pots destined to be used to catch wrasse off Sark will now be used off the Dorset coast following the ban by the Sark government. Such a move would add further pressure to existing wrasse populations in Dorset and anglers and charter skippers in the county have reacted angrily, claiming it threatens to deplete wrasse stocks in the area.

David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Head of Marine, said: “We are pleased to see Sark taking a pre-emptive move to ban the live wrasse fishery before it was able to establish itself. However, the news that this might just displace fishing into the waters around Dorset is an unwelcome and unintended consequence.

“We call on the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority [the body responsible for managing the wrasse fishery in Dorset] to ensure this does not happen and to introduce their own ban on live wrasse commercial fishing until an effective and robust management regime, based on good scientific data on the impact this growing pressure is having on the wrasse populations and the viability of local ecosystems, can be put in place.

“The Angling Trust will be seeking to meet with the Southern IFCA at the earliest opportunity to discuss this matter.”

Last year the Angling Trust contributed to a BBC Inside Out investigation into the live wrasse fishery in Dorset which uncovered illegal fishing for wrasse in a voluntary no take zone introduced by the Southern IFCA.

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