Why not net the real culprits

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From Peter Double.

I READ Ramsay Cudlipp’s report (JEP, 30 May), ‘Anglers face big fines under new law’, and thought I’d make a comment or two.

The difference between ‘anglers’ and ‘amateur fishermen’ needs to be understood. Either they are anglers, or they are amateur fishermen; they are very different animals. It’s hard to find an example of a professional angler, other than angling charter skippers, but there are only two or three in Jersey so we can’t blame them for unsustainable fishing or endangering the livelihoods of the commercial lads.

Part-time amateur fishermen, or weekend professionals, the ones who hunt for bass with fishing rods using the skills they learnt as anglers, and who sell their catch at the back doors of pubs, restaurants and hotels without a commercial licence should certainly be taken to task.

The bass they catch and sell pay for the boat, the gear, the fuel, the insurance and, probably, the mooring fees, too, and the whole business is mostly tax-free. Suggesting that the whole angling community be penalised for these tax and licence dodgers is, well, quite frankly outrageous.

I certainly believe that leisure craft should have some kind of limit on their catch. They can get out and fish bass habitat for a whole tide well off shore and catch the sandeels they need to attract the bass. In my experience, the catch rate from boats is far higher than that of shore anglers. Perhaps an increase in the size limit for boat-caught fish might be a better idea than a bag limit.

Regarding the size of the fine and the five bass bag limit, I think local anglers will agree that there are shore anglers here in Jersey who would happily pay £20,000 for the privilege of catching five bass in one day.

Deputy Higgins quotes ‘that he has heard that there are trawlers going up-Channel scooping up five tons of bass’. He should know that catches from the wintering stocks off Guernsey have produced twenty-five tons of bass per boat per night and said the bass brought tears to the eyes of the Jersey marine biologist who watched them being landed in the UK.

Both the article and the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel advertisement imply that anglers could be adversely affecting the commercial fisherman’s livelihood. Are we suggesting here that anglers, you know, the chaps with a fishing rod and a couple of hooks, are contributing to the international crash in fish stocks caused by unsustainable commercial fishing?

I don’t think so! Over fishing in Scotland caused commercial fishermen to blame someone or something other than their own unsustainable methods. They chose grey seals!

A Japanese oceanic fishing boat was arrested and escorted into Roscoff after drifting into French territorial waters some years ago and on board she had 72 kilometres of drift nets. The more modern craft carry twice as much. Sort of makes our fishing rod and fish hooks pale into insignificance, don’t you think?

Just prior to writing this, I was buying fish at the La Collette fish van where I was told that wild bass were almost unobtainable and at a premium. A friend also told me that he took 20 bass from a kayak two weeks ago and not one fish was over two pounds in weight. All the fish were returned.

I wonder if the Guernsey bass fishery is Channel Islands stock and whether this is affecting local catches? I suggest it’s more likely to be the case than me and my grandson float fishing at St Catherine’s Breakwater.

I shall be e-mailing the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel in due course on a rather more formal basis.

The Old Coach House,

La Ruelle,

St Lawrence.

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