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Angling Trust calls on anglers to report breaches of the wrasse no take zones following TV expose


Steven Neely with wrasse - credit Steven Neely

Ballan wrasse; the species that is being most intensively targeted by commercial fishermen for 'cleaner' fish. Image credit: Steven Neely.

Anglers and other members of the public are being encouraged to report illegal fishing after a BBC report identified commercial fishing for wrasse in a no take zone designed to protect wrasse stocks from over exploitation.

The Angling Trust contributed to a BBC Inside Out investigation which was broadcast on Monday October 15th, showing how thousands of wrasse are being taken from our shores to supply 'cleaner' fish to Scottish salmon farms.

The programme identified a licenced fisherman openly fishing for wrasse in a voluntary no take zone off the coast of Portland in Dorset.

The no take zones were introduced by the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (SIFCA) to protect stocks of wrasse which are shipped up to Scottish salmon farms where they are used as ‘cleaner’ fish eating the sea lice which infest salmon farms.

With salmon farms paying up to £20 per wrasse it has become a lucrative fishery for inshore fishermen along the South West coast of England.

The Angling Trust is encouraging anglers, and other sea and coast users, to help the IFCA’s compliance and enforcement officers by providing intelligence of suspicious or illegal activity, such as fishing in closed areas. With resources of IFCAs stretched the Trust hopes anglers providing intelligence will help provide evidence which will support the IFCA in carrying out it’s compliance and enforcement roles – as well as whether the voluntary no take zones to protect wrasse are working.

David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust said: “Anglers are often described as the eyes and the ears of the water. In this case we really believe they have a role to play in identifying illegal fishing and reporting it to the authorities. We look forward to working together with the Southern IFCA to help educate anglers about what’s legal, what’s not, and how to report it helpfully and accurately. We will also be asking all the IFCAs to prioritise enforcement of measures to protect wrasse from over exploitation.

The Southern IFCA is currently investigating the case identified by the BBC and the individual in question has had his contract supplying the Loch Duart salmon farming company suspended.

Notes and Useful Links:

  • Wrasse are a popular and important recreational angling species in the South West of England. They are a ‘gateway’ species into angling for young people as well as an increasingly popular species for catch & release specialist lure angling.

  • Details on how to report suspicious activity can be found here
  • Details of the Southern IFCA wrasse fishery guidance, wrasse ’frequently asked questions’, and charts of the wrasse no take zones can be found here

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