Two of Britain's biggest deadbait suppliers are backing a new Pikemark which lets bait firms show their products come from lawful and sustainable sources. The initiative is being launched by the Pike Anglers Club, in response to claims that coarse fish were being illegally netted from the Norfolk Broads to supply the deadbait trade.
PAC advertising and promotions manager Mike Kelly said: "We strongly rebutted claims coarse fish were being netted illegally for the deadbait trade when they first appeared in the angling press and other media.
"But it was clear that with bait companies and those who sell or use their products coming under increasing scrutiny, we needed to work more closely with the industry to show that coarse fish are not being stolen wholesale to supply it.
"Anglers can buy bait carrying our Pikemark with confidence, in the knowledge that the PAC has checked out the supply chain to ensure that the bait they are buying comes from a legal and sustainable source."
Commercial confidence means the PAC can't make details of where dealers source their baits from public. But Mike Kelly said: "We insist on knowing the origins of baits and carrying out background checks before allowing anyone to use our Pikemark.
"This ensures that we meet the needs of pike anglers, bait suppliers and anyone else who is concerned about where deadbaits come from."
Paul Bird, managing director of Grimsby-based Baitbox, said: "We've signed up to the Pikemark because pike fishing is under attack.
"We feel it's important for the tackle trade and the PAC to work together, pike fishing's important to us and being able to use a range of baits, including coarse deads, is important to pike anglers."
In 11 years, Baitbox has expanded to employ six people, who help supply 350 shops and 11 wholesalers around the country.
The firm supplies anglers with eight or nine tonnes of coarse fish a winter, all of which come from a large stillwater where no recreational fishing is allowed and coarse fish are harvested each year.
Neville Fickling, proprietor of Gainsborough-based Lucebaits, said: "I'm endorsing this because I'm a pike angler and I've been a member of the PAC from the beginning."
Lucebaits supplies 60 tackle shops and deals with around a tonne of coarse fish each winter - approximately 10 per cent of its turnover. These are obtained from a similar sustainable supply to that used by Baitbox. Both firms will be displaying the PAC Pikemark on their packaging this winter.
Mike Kelly said he hoped the rest of the bait industry would follow suit, to show pike anglers' baits came from legal and sustainable sources.
"Baitbox and Lucebaits have shown the way by signing up," he added. "We'd be happy to hear from any other companies interested in finding out more about the scheme."