Chris Daphne, the NAC Environment Officer "sank his teeth into" this (in the nicest possible way, of course)a while ago, with the result that any recreational eel angler can apply for a license, and it will be granted for fishing on a C&R basis. I understand that the minister responsible has also undertaken to change the wording of the instrument to allow recreational C&R angling.
As for your comment "you and your ilk are the challenge facing angling today" then I think you are over reacting a little. This post started out as a plea for anglers not to use eels as bait, and has been seen by the angling anarchist contingent as an attack on their right to fish. More than a little ridiculous, I think!
Special licenses for the C+R Eel angler. Wow, result, a few will just love that......they'll probably get them laminated, proudly sporting them pinned to their lapel for their catch photos, and a handful signing off on specialist forums with 'Eel licence holder No. 927305'.
As regards my overreacting, I beg to differ. So much so, that I now hang my head in shame because I did not research the new freshwater fish removal bylaws thoroughly some time ago, and use my position on the marine wing of the AT to present a case when it may have counted. You'll probably have a hard time believing this, but I care just as much as you for any species that is genuinely in trouble. FTR, I do believe that something is going wrong with Eel stocks, but by no stretch of the imagination is it anything to do with anglers.
Where we differ is in how to approach these problems to best ensure a sensible, workable, and above all else, successful outcome. I make no secret of the fact that I believe the AT, the NAC, and other interested individuals have been sold a right pup. One that IMO will do absolutely nothing for the species, its long term recovery, or the future of this fine pastime.
The departments you will be dealing with are more slippery than the species up for discussion.
Just take a look at the floppy hat brigade and their well trodden path to Whitehall. When have they ever returned with anything other than bull, false promises, spin and tales of non delivery? How many times have well intentioned campaigns backfired on the recreational angler, and the cause being promoted?
Iíve seen it all before, and itís time to change the record.
Tempting as it may be for a conservation rep to deliver positive news to his supporters, cutting corners (eg. knee jerk acceptance of compulsory C+R) will set back genuine progress on restoring this truly remarkable species back to full health.
Having now looked at many of the available documents (including the SI), you have just opened the door to what is merely a paper / tick box exercise in EU conservation (is there any other kind?) that will undermine any genuine conservation effort. Your journey is just starting, and much like the Sargasso is to an Eel, it's going to be one hell of a long one, with only an outside chance of ever getting your rocks off at the end of it.
Like I said to you in a previous post, if there is a moratorium on commercial Eel fishing in the foreseeable future, I'll eat my mouse. In fact, I will now go as far as to suggest the C+R concession by the recreational fishery will actually go a small way to bolstering the future of the Eel export industry.
53. The Environment Agency will close the glass eel and elver fisheries in 2010 if the restocking targets are not reached in that year. The restocking target will be initially based on the catch in 2009, and will be further refined throughout the season following the returns made by the elver stations. In order that the Environment Agency is able to close the fisheries, they will have the necessary powers to withdraw eel licences (during the 2010 fishing season only). A different method will be used in further years; we are looking to use powers introduced through the
Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to authorise eel fisheries; authorisations will only be granted once an assessment of the stock indicates that the fishery is sustainable, and will not cause damage to the aquatic or marine environment. The Environment Agency will be able to attach conditions to an authorisation, and in addition, will be able to repeal it immediately should a reduction in the fishing effort for eels be considered necessary. However, it should be noted that current estimations indicate that the restocking target for 2010 fishing season is likely to be met34, and therefore further measures to curtail fishing effort is unlikely to be unnecessary.
How sick would that be? UK anglers are criminalised for retaining an Eel, even if only a deep hooked fish that was certain to die, caught in our territorial waters for consumption on home soil, and our rightful shareholding in the species used to support the trade in foreign exports and put our Eels (whether retained or released) on a China mans plate.
C+R is for us. We do it amongst ourselves, for ourselves. It is not a tradable asset, and even if it were, the likes of the NAC, NMC or BASS etc. do not have the deeds. We do! It cuts no ice with those that administer the fisheries......other than for their own ends. Sorry, as I have previously informed individuals from BASS, and the NMC, gambling with our culture and heritage for responsible, sustainable and voluntary measures in an effort to benefit our chosen quarry, is totally unacceptable.
Just look at the closed season dates to further understand the primary motivators at work.
As explained at paragraph 36 it is difficult to assess the financial impact of the
proposed close seasons. However, by placing the closed season at the beginning and end of the natural season it will mean that although the fishers will be constrained to a specific time period, they will still be able to capture at peak times.
Assume the number of fishers obtaining licences remains constant, and that costs of providing eel passes and screens remains constant. The total costs presented of introducing eel passes and screens are at the higher end of the estimation, assuming that there are more complex structures. A potential risk to owners of obstructions is the introduction of unsuitable fish pass, which following an assessment will need to be removed and the correct type installed. Only a proportion of owners/occupiers of abstractions and discharges will be required to screen, following an assessment by the Agency. Should the restocking target not be met in any given year, there is a risk that glass eel/elver fisheries will be closed. Due to the state of the stocks, significant improvements may not be realised for some time and a complete closure of the fisheries may be necessary to ensure that the improvements are robust.A key risk is potential high infraction costs from the EU Commission should these measures not be approved.
The best thing that the AT and the NAC could have done was to steadfastly campaign for the rights of recreational anglers to retain Eels as they see fit, thus forcing the UK agencies into having to report + account for recreational catches. In addition to highlighting the mass under-reporting of commercial Eel catches, said most recently to be in the order of a factor of between 3.4 and 15 times, and challenging the inevitable BS science that will soon appear, you may have had a chance of undermining any chance of the UK Government ever demonstarting a 40% escapement target.
Should they not comply, they will face stiff penalties. The mandatory closure of fisheries, following non compliance, would have been the time and place to first target the glass Eel fisheries, then the commercial Silver / Yellow Eel industry, leaving anglers rights intact till the very end, before any potential moratorium. Should you have felt the need, a concerted educational campaign highlighting the Eels life cycle / plight resulting in an extension to the natural and ongoing evolution of angler responsibility towards stocks ,could have increased support for your cause.
Although unlikely, you have also just presented DEFRA with the potential to close areas to recreational anglers, most likely relevant to RSA, for the supposed purpose of protecting congregations of silver / yellow Eels. Now, with no allocation, any fish caught, and subsequently proven to be damaged during the course of capture, can be classed as discards.
Discarding of 'significant' quantities of a species under a multi annual plan in any particular area can, and does, result in temporary closure of that fishery. Add into the equation the issue of MCZís and things may get very scary indeed.
To give you one example, in July / August I fish an inshore mark for a particular species of sea fish. As a consequence of the gear, techniques and baits being fished, we encounter quite a considerable number of migrating silver Eels. To date, we have released any lightly hooked fish and retained only those that come to the boat spewing blood. Often, they have been Eels of a reasonable size, and those retained are put through the smoker to be enjoyed by family and friends.
Can you tell me, a conscientious angler, what I should do in future?
All said and done, I do not doubt your passion for Eels, specimens or otherwise, and I share in the respect you have for such a remarkable species. Sometimes, however, it pays to think outside of the box when it comes to the politics of fisheries management.
It just so happens that a big Eel is on my radar for next season. Just like you guys, I'll probably be spending an inordinate amount of time researching waters, hunting down that giant Eel, and with any luck having my picture taken with a real specimen to be proud of.
Regardless of any new legislation, and should I be fortunate enough, it would always have been sent back to its watery lair.
Edited by Sharkbyte, 10 January 2010 - 09:01 PM.