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Welsh Assembly Panders to Noisy Angling Lobby
In pandering to a noisy angling lobby in South Wales, the Welsh Assembly has abandoned any pretensions it may have has to a rational, proportionate, or science based approach to fisheries policy.
By electing to end ‘grandfather’ rights for two North Devon vessels and five or six Welsh boats which have historically fished within the Welsh 6 mile limit, the Welsh Assembly has chosen to ignore scientific evidence and gone with a crowed pleasing approach that will jeopardise the economic survival of the boats concerned.
This is not an auspicious start for fisheries policy within devolved government and the new concordat between fisheries administrations. Our fears that devolution would be used to usher in discriminatory measures under the guise of conservation are now being realised.
In fact, it would be difficult to find a group of fishermen more committed to conservation than the North Devon Fishermen’s Association. Under its direction a voluntary seasonal closed area to protect skates and rays in the Bristol Channel has been in place since 2005 and after talks with the Belgian fishing industry, the closure is also observed by the Belgian beam trawl fleet. The Association has also supported a higher minimum landing size for rays and a range of protective measures for bass including closed nursery areas.
The fact that the Welsh Assembly has been unable to muster a credible scientific case to exclude the Devon vessels says much about the health of the bass stocks and the sustainable forms of fishing undertaken by the fleet.
In the past such discriminatory measures would have been unlikely because the Secretary of State was required to endorse any by-laws and to ensure that their purpose was not discrimination wrapped-up in conservation rhetoric.
The NFFO is pressing for an urgent meeting with the First Minister to discuss the issue.