Success! Devon & Severn IFCA Officers recommend B&PSC members REJECT Salcombe Estuary netting proposals 

Ahead of the meeting of the Byelaws and Permits Sub-Committee (B&PSC) members on 22nd February, the Devon & Severn IFCA Officers have issued full papers, including their recommendations on the recent consultations, as well as a summary of consultation responses.

Six items were open for consultation, but the proposed fixed net fishery in Salcombe Estuary dominated the responses given its massively regressive nature. Such was the outrage generated by the proposal that Devon & Severn IFCA received a staggering 360 unique responses to the consultation, over 100 more than responded to DEFRA’s consultation on the national Bass Fishery Management Plan. 

Amongst these responses were 43 organisations representing statutory bodies, conservation and recreational angling interests, the majority of whom the Angling Trust had engaged with to reply to this consultation, including Natural England, who had a vacancy in their statutory membership position on the IFCA and the B&PSC. This has since been filled in time for the critical vote.

We are pleased that the consultation response was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposals for the 6-month fishery within Salcombe Estuary. 

Of the 360 responses, only 6 supported the regressive plans. This included 4 commercial fishermen. 354 were opposed, which included 6 commercial fishermen. 

The Officers of the Devon and Severn IFCA have laid out a series of compelling reasons for the membership to reject the proposals, as follows:

  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with the response to the public consultation;
  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with many of the objectives set out in the Fisheries Act 2020;
  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with many of the goals set out in the national Bass Fisheries Management Plan;
  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with the principles of the Bass Nursery Area legislation;
  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with D&S IFCA’s Statutory Duties set out in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009;
  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with scientific advice;
  • The proposed net fishery in Salcombe is not consistent with advice from D&SIFCA Officers.

Within the summary of responses to the formal consultation, the Officers have recognised the depth and quality of the Angling Trust’s response, stating: “The response from the Angling Trust is significant, in terms of its level of detail and its structure, setting out multiple points, relating to many points of concern.”

The response from the Angling Trust was also the only one to be linked to, in full, within the summary of responses, whilst being quoted at various points throughout the summary. You can read our response here. 

It now seems almost unimaginable for General IFCA and B & PSC members appointed by the MMO to vote in favour of the proposals. These members are subject to the Terms and conditions for appointment as a General Member of the Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authority Section 151(6)(c) Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which includes the following clauses of relevance:

  1. Appointees to IFCAs are legally required to consider all the local fishing and marine conservation interests in the waters of the IFCA district in a balanced way, taking complete account of all the economic, social and environmental needs of that district. Appointees should recognise that they are part of a committee and should not regard themselves as representing solely one particular interest within the IFCA district

  1. Appointees must not undermine the credibility of the IFCA. Appointees must not, in their official capacity or any other circumstances, behave in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office, the MMO, the IFCA committee or IFCAs in general into disrepute. Examples might include but are not limited to misuse of social media, abuse of position, failure to declare a conflict of interest, and consistent poor behaviour as an appointee. Breach of this clause could lead to termination of the appointment by the MMO.

In addition, 7, 8, and 9 deal with declarable conflicts of interest, and we trust that those with a clear financial interest will declare this and abstain from voting.

Next Steps

The B&PSC will hold the casting vote at their meeting on the 22nd February. There is a limited public gallery at which anglers will be represented by the Angling Trust’s Sea Angling Engagement Manager, Grant Jones, and representatives from the Wyvern Region of the Angling Trust, Mike Spiller and Alex Parker.

The Officers of the Devon and Severn IFCA have made it clear in their papers that if, against all odds, the members vote in favour of the proposal, further steps would still need to be undertaken before the fishery could be established. This includes considering Natural England’s formal advice regarding the SSSI, consulting further with the Duchy of Cornwall and amending D&S IFCA’s Byelaw 17 – Fixed Engines. These represent significant hurdles for the proposed fishery in their own right.

The Angling Trust would like to thank the Devon and Severn IFCA Officers for their diligent and transparent work on this consultation, from the thoroughly documented minutes of sub-committee meetings at the outset to the presentation of these final papers and the time to acknowledge every consultation response individually.

With DEFRA giving a clear steer to all IFCAs to implement appropriate management within Marine Protected Areas by the year’s end, we will be continually engaged with Devon and Severn IFCA Officers. We are assured by the evidence of their work that we can achieve progressive improvements to inshore fisheries management that protects critical habitats, improves stocks and delivers greater socio-economic benefits for all of the region’s coastal communities.

The Angling Trust will continue to provide a strong voice to anglers and wider stakeholders interested in marine conservation by giving consultations such as this, the dedication they require. Thank you to every individual and organisation we engaged with who submitted their own responses to this consultation.

Full Papers

The two documents likely to be of most interest can be found here:

  1. Summary of responses to the formal public consultation
  2. Officers recommendation to reject the proposal to open the Salcombe Estuary to fixed netting

It should be noted that Devon and Severn IFCA were also running consultations relating to several other issues, including the restriction of netting activity (commercial and recreational) on the Emsstrom wreck, recreational netting bag limits, soak times for nets at sea and MCRS limits for mullet and gilt head bream. Papers covering all of these can be found here. You must click Byelaw and Permitting Sub-Committee > Sub-Committee Papers > Sub-Committee Papers 2024 > 22nd February 2024.

For any further queries, please contact our Sea Angling Engagement Manager, Grant Jones, who has led this work for the Angling Trust: [email protected] 

As recreational sea anglers, its essential to stay informed and engaged in matters that directly impact the health of our ocean and the future of our sport. The Angling Trust is committed to fighting for fish, fishing and the environment.    

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