Angling Trust

Angling Trust delivers a massive win for Salcombe Estuary as netting ban to remain

A proposal to allow commercial fishing nets within Salcombe Estuary for six months of the year has been defeated following months of campaigning led by the Angling Trust.

Devon & Severn Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) voted to maintain the existing ban on fixed and drift nets within Salcombe Estuary, with 11 of the committee members voting in favour, none against and two abstaining. Additional members who had declared a conflict played no part in the vote.

Grant Jones, Angling Trust Sea Engagement Officer, said:

“Salcombe Estuary is a national treasure for anglers, home to some of the best flounder, bass, gilthead and mullet fishing that UK waters have to offer. Protecting these fish and the serenity of the estuary as a whole was essential, and I’m pleased that months of tireless work, engaging with hundreds of individual anglers, plus every imaginable organisation with an interest in the estuary has proved worthwhile.”

Devon & Severn IFCA launched a public consultation last December after a proposed amendment was agreed by its Byelaw and Permitting Sub-Committee (B&PSC) which would have allowed netting to resume for six months of the year to provide “opportunities for commercial fishermen to diversify and boost their winter income.”

The B&PSC considered that a mortality rate of 18.8% of bass caught during netting trials within Salcombe Estuary was acceptable, and although it recognised that sea trout were present in the estuary at an unknown scale for feeding purposes, it said it was not a known migratory route.

Allowing netting to resume would have been an environmental disaster and harmful to wildlife, such as the native grey seal and other marine species. The estuary is also an important bass nursery area and home to healthy populations of mullet, gilthead bream, flounder, plaice and salmonids.

Following the announcement of the consultation, the Angling Trust formed a collaborative working group led by Grant Jones that included members of our regional volunteer group from the Wyvern Region, Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) and the National Mullet Club (NMC).

Collaborations extended outside of angling with the Devon Wildlife Trust, South West Rivers Association, The Salcombe Harbour Authority, Plymouth University and many others engaging with us throughout, opposing the proposals whilst also recognising the social and economic benefits offered by angling.

Why fixed and drift netting must now be prohibited in ALL estuaries. An open letter to England’s IFCAs from the Angling Trust.

Devon & Severn IFCA’s meeting documents

Support also came from local businesses, the tourism sector, other water users, groups with an environmental or species-specific interest, angling competition organisers, individual anglers and the Duchy of Cornwall, who own the seabed and would have had to provide approval for netting to go ahead.

In addition, we also undertook a number of socio-economic surveys to demonstrate the value recreational angling brings to the local community and the threat that will be posed by the opening of the fishery.

The consultation received a staggering 360 responses, the majority of these incredibly detailed and without a single template letter amongst them. It was Devon and Severn IFCA’s largest ever consultation response.

The Angling Trust, NMC and BASS collectively submitted the most detailed consultation responses, with each one not only referenced within the officer’s report, but directly referenced within the authority meeting whilst the debate took place ahead of the vote.

Mat Mander, Devon & Severn IFCA Chief Officer, said:

“Undoubtedly, the unprecedented level of response to the formal consultation reflected the support the Angling Trust provided by engaging so effectively with its members and the wider recreational community. The evidence and information provided through the formal consultation response undoubtedly helped D&S IFCA’s members reach their decision to maintain the prohibition on netting in Salcombe.”

There were several other votes on the day, which we will expand upon in more detail over the coming days. However, we are delighted to confirm that each of them was a progressive movement towards sustainability and positive outcomes for angling, which included restricting commercial activity in a number of other coastal areas.

Andrew Burt, of the National Mullet Club, said:

“The consultation response to this amendment had a clear message that vulnerable, critical habitat, nursery and refuge areas must be protected and nets have no place in them. Hopefully, today’s decision to leave the byelaw unchanged also gives a clear lead to other IFCAs and organisations managing inshore waters.”

BASS secretary Andy Davies said:

“We congratulate the work done by the IFCA sub-committee and are pleased that they took account of our advice related to likely mortality rates of bass. We hope that this will set a precedence for other IFCAs to follow.  BASS looks forward to campaigning alongside the Angling Trust to maintain the integrity and sanctuary provided by Bass Nursery Areas across England and Wales should they come under threat in the future.”

Grant Jones added:

“One of the elements that was focused on was the significant socio-economic benefits that angling brings to the area. Over 100 individual anglers aided the Angling Trust in compiling economic data off the back of an annual flounder competition in Salcombe, as well as the Salcombe Small Boat Festival. Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the surveys, they made a massive difference.

“This victory, whilst very meaningful, has to become the catalyst for further wins. If anglers continue to speak up, engage with the Angling Trust, add their voice to consultations and encourage others to do similar in the future, we can start making massive waves.

“The support along the way has been excellent, and I am pleased to see how we have mobilised sea anglers in a scale not previously seen. If we can continue to do that, the possibilities are truly exciting with our newfound status as stakeholders under the Fisheries Act. Thank you to everyone who engaged, you each played a part in this success.”

If you have any emerging concerns or consultations in your area that you would like the support of the Angling Trust on, then you can contact our engagement manager directly by email, at [email protected]

We also run a dedicated sea angling group on Facebook to discuss ongoing issues, you can join it at

If you are not yet a member, please consider joining the Angling Trust. All of the work we do is backed by the support we receive by individuals. Membership starts from just £30 per year and includes public liability insurance and discounts on tackle, bait, accessories and more.

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