The AST and the S&TA have submitted a joint response to the EA/Defra consultation on a Net Limitation Order (NLO) for the North-East Coast net fisheries. The existing NLO expires in December 2012
These fisheries employ drift nets and T and J beach nets. It has been Government policy since 1991 to phase out the use of drift nets, and over the past 20 years, and with the assistance of a buy-out scheme in 2003, the number of drift net licences has fallen from 142 to 14. However, in the ten years since the buy-out of the majority of drift nets, the number of T and J nets has doubled, from 30 to 61, and their share of the overall catch has risen substantially.
Scottish fish being caught
The proposed new NLO would retain the phase out of drift nets and for the first time introduce a similar policy for T and J nets. As existing licencees give up their licences, these will not be reallocated, and in time theses fisheries will close. A genetic study of fish caught in T and J nets has shown that these are mixed stock fisheries, with a high proportion of fish caught originating in Scottish rivers.
The AST and the S&TA believe that governments throughout the UK should take action now to close mixed stock fisheries, with appropriate compensation paid to netsmen. Failing this, we would like the UK Government to do more to reduce exploitation of salmon and sea trout in the North-East coast net fisheries. While we welcome the proposed renewal of the phase out for drift nets and tits extension to cover T and J nets, we want the Government to set a timetable, with a firm date for final closure, for the phase out fisheries and to take other measures to reduce their impact on the salmon and sea trout stocks originating in rivers in North-East England and in Scotland.
Basis of AST's concern
A number of factors underlie our concern about the impact of these fisheries:
In these circumstances, we have also proposed that a limit, or quota, be introduced on the total.numbers of salmon and sea trout that can be taken in these fisheries in any year; we would like to set this set at a level closer to the average catch over the last five years than to last year’s high level. An overall catch limit would also help reduce the risk that increasing catches in the North-East coast net fisheries will encourage Greenland and the Faroe Islands to authorise the resumption of high seas mixed stock fisheries.
You can read the full text of our response here, and the Environment Agency’s review of these fisheries and proposal for a new NLO can be found at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/library/consultations/139400.aspx