2014 NEC Reports

Annual General Meeting 1 March 2014

Environment & Conservation Report 2014

During the year I have reported to each Executive Committee Meeting.  The reports are included in the minutes, circulated to all clubs and also displayed on the WFSA website.

WFSA members sit on Welsh Marine Fisheries Advisory Group and Inshore Fishery Groups, the stakeholder groups in Welsh Government Sea Fishery Management.  The IFGs have been revised during the year and I believe that Hefin Jones still sits on IFG-North and I know I am on IFG-Mid, but don't know what happened to IFG-South.

As part of the EU response to the scientific evidence of the serious decline in bass stocks, UK Fishery Departments are preparing proposals to avoid the introduction of a Total Allowable Catch (TAC=quota management) that would be largely allocated on the basis of historical catch records.  This would mean a French takeover of all bass forever. The IFGs are developing proposals as part of this UK plan. WFSA has submitted views for discussion during the early part of 2014 under the IFG / WMFAG umbrella. But the Welsh Fishery Department proposals indicate that they do not really accept the need for urgent and serious action, unless their proposals have some deeper political objective, but they won't improve bass stocks.  This is onging and there will be a Wales consultation before the final trip to Europe:  we'll keep you posted.


During 2013, we took part in what turned out to be a very successful Stakeholder Group to progress Marine Conservation Zones.  We say successful because it has allowed the proposals for no take zones to be withdrawn and will encourage future proposals that we hope will fit in with a rational conservation approach, allowing appropriate recreational activities. But is been slow and now we are waiting for the new Natural Resources Wales to develop proposals.  It will all be part of the developing work in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive -a European directive to improve the ecological state of the seas.

We responded to a re-consultation on grandfather rights regarding banning bigger trawlers from the Welsh inshore, and are pleased that this will happen now.

WFSA have supported a number of projects relevant to our interests including:

FishMap Môn This EFF project is now complete.  It has produced innovative maps of fishing activity and seabed habitat, and allows depiction of fishing intensity and habitat sensitivity. The outcome is a tool that will be useful in Wales for future development of marine management and which has wider relevance as a model.

Sustainable Fisheries in Welsh Waters: EFF Funded at Bangor University I am on this project's Science User Advisory Group as WFSA representative.  This project is investigating  Welsh stocks – mainly shellfish but definitely bass and other finfish. I have tried to encourage WFSA members to share data with the scientists.  Like it or not, we keep getting evidence that anglers do catch fish: this makes angling interests  important and our voice will be heard in decisions affecting fish stocks.  The economic calculations of the English Sea Angling 2012 have attracted a lot of attention: they are important but the message is that management should focus on protecting and improving fish stocks not on stopping angling!

Celtic Sea Partnership is a new WWF run project, developed from their PISCES programme, but widening to the whole of the Celtic Seas. A useful group to discuss and develop measures for marine management within the context of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

We continue to be involved with Marine Conservation Society angling litter campaigns.

 Roger Cook
24 February 2014


Federation of Sea Anglers  

NEC 17 May 2014

Environment & Conservation Report



Still waiting for Welsh Government Fisheries to respond properly to what I wrote: they'll have to develop final proposals soon but no news yet.

It is on the agenda for this week's Inshore Fishery Groups and there will be further progress in the next few months.



I mailed about this opportunity to bring together the representative bodies from across the UK to support a UK-wide policy (and beyond) on sea angling and conservation.  This is based upon what the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network has developed in the Give Fish a Chance programme.

Essentially, it says that many anglers while enjoying their sport and occasionally taking a fish to eat are keen to do what they can to minimise their impact on the environment and on the fish themselves.  There are a number of guidelines for conduct while fishing and particularly GFAC fish length guides that allow you to be sure the fish you take has had a chance to breed, helping ensure survival and replenishment of the stock. There's more information at  http://www.ssacn.org/gfac


Many of you responded positively so then I met to discuss a way forward with Steve Bastiman of SSACN and David Mitchell of Angling Trust. We suggest that the attached joint press release will be a good first step.  Then we expect that representatives from Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Netherlands will join in the near future.

If you can approve this, then we'll get the notice out to the press, quite soon.

Then there'll need to be some detailed work by WFSA:
- reconciling the GFAC sizes to our minimum landing size;
- seeing how we could make use of the length to weight conversion tables to develop new specimen and record lists, where appropriate;
- adjusting WFSA and GFAC conservation guidance;
- any constitutional issues to go to the AGM 2015.

And the opportunity to use the GFAC sizes in exciting new competitions and promotional work.

I'm sure there'll be differences of opinion about some of the detail but I recommend support for this as a way to improve how people fish and to gain influence for WFSA in the face of .



Marine Planning

I attended a meeting about Welsh Government's proposals for engaging with people as they develop the Marine Plan for Wales. You can see the proposals at above link : I send in a generally positive response but stressed that "stakeholder engagement is not cost free to the various stakeholder bodies. Group or individual inputs must not be constrained by inability to commit the necessary time or money to support engagement."
And commented that "one of the more fruitful policy maker / stakeholder interactions we experienced was in the Stakeholder Focus Group during the Highly Protected Marine Conservation Zone process.  In that case, the policy writers regularly interacted directly with stakeholders during the development of proposals.  In this way we saw the impact of our opinions and were able to refine our inputs as the work progressed.

WFSA would be keen to see some engagement arrangements allowing expertise to be input into developing proposals, rather than yes or no answers to finalised positions".

There will soon be weblinks from Welsh Government to explain developments in the process.


Wales Sea Angling
Marine Planning  will need us to make sure that recreational sea angling gets due attention.  I did some sums based on the English Sea Angling 2012 survey.  Transferring the outputs from that pro rata to Wales, you can calculate that there are 45,500 sea anglers in Wales (2% of adult population) spending £63m per year.

This may be too low, as previous estimates had more than this based on between 4 and 11% of the population going sea angling.  Anyway, it is a big figure and all we want is for someone to leave a few fish for us to catch!


WWF Celtic Seas Partnership http://www.celticseaspartnership.eu

There will be a Wales wide meeting of this project at The Future Inn, Cardiff Bay on Thursday 5 June 2014 between 9.30am and 4.30pm.
It will consider:
How will Wales engage in the future of the Celtic Seas? 
What does ‘Good Environmental Status’ mean for us? 
How can we work together to achieve healthy, sustainable seas?
I can go but it would be better t have fresh faces: there's a
booking form at this link, or contact me to arrange to go.

Roger Cook

Aberystwyth 6 May 2014


Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers  

PM Newsletter  July 2014

Environment & Conservation

I was just responding to Welsh Government's proposals dated 19 June 2014 regarding bass when the latest ICES recommendations came out.  These are the most detailed study yet and recommend that catches be cut by 80% in 2015!

This agrees with what a lot of anglers have been saying about bass: stocks are in a desperate state.

Welsh Governments proposals are totally inadequate to address this new situation.  Their main points for discussion around Inshore Fishery Group areas before a public consultation covered:
a long term management plan  in Wales;  an all Wales minimum landing size; a ‘carriage offence’ on all UK fishing vessels (either registered or not) in Wales; review regulations for nets set from unregistered boats or set by hand on beaches; daily bag limits for RSA and quotas for commercial vessels; a ban on commercial pair trawling for seabass inside the Welsh 12nm and juvenile or spawning protection areas in Wales.

I've written:

If the bass stock were in a good state and there was time to address its conservation over several seasons, then I think the proposals you list could be developed into a long term management plan that could offer benefits to all with an interest in fishing for bass.  Even so, I am not sure they would have achieved the reduction in catch advised by ICES, and in formal consultation it would be necessary to evaluate the measures in relation to their impact on the bass stock.

Unfortunately, it is clearer now than it was when you drafted the proposals, that we do not have the benefit of time nor a stock in good condition. The latest advise from ICES, the most detailed examination to date, indicates that the total catch retained should be reduced by 80% for 2015.

It is clear that to achieve this, serious restrictions on bass take have to be introduced urgently.  Wales should not stand back and hope that other nations' trawlers will reduce their catches.  We all have to take action to reduce take, if the stock is to be given the opportunity to recover. 

I believe this requires a significant increase in a minimum landing size for all sectors: at least 45 cm.  Even this increase would only reduce commercial landings by about 60%, to approach 80% needs a MLS of something like 55 cm.

If MLS 45 cm were introduced, it is likely that the necessary gear changes and costs of the exercise mean that most commercial activity would stop until there are enough fish above this size.  Since this does not reach the ICES advice, it might be better to stop commercial fishing until the stock has recovered.

There will need to be serious controls on recreational sea angling (and all other forms of non-licenced catching), that impose the same MLS and a bag limit of one fish per boat / shore angler. If commercial catching were stopped, there would also be a case for stopping all others from killing bass. Given the high survival rate of line caught bass, I believe catch and release angling could continue.

I think these options are essential to establish a viable bass stock.  There will then be the necessary time to develop proposals for future management and stock allocation according to socio-economic factors to the benefit of the Welsh economy.

I recognise that this is a different level of restriction than envisaged in the list of measures suggested and for some of which you indicate "broad support".  I don't think that Wales should be using the argument that we must not disadvantage our "industry".  In the light of ICES evidence of the seriously threatened state of the stock, we need to take a longer term view, stand on some moral high ground and develop proposals that will allow stocks to recover.

I  think that the eventual consultation document should include estimates of the impacts of the various proposed measures on the bass stock.  That's the only way the responders can assess the immediate and longer term impacts of the measures to be included in the long term plan.

ICES Report on Bass
ECOREGION STOCK - Celtic Sea and West of Scotland + North Sea European sea bass in Divisions IVbc, VIIa, and VIId–h (Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, English Channel, and southern North Sea)

Give Fish a Chance
At the last Executive, we agreed to co-operate with the Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers and Angling Trust in developing a UK wide policy on on sea angling and conservation.  This is based upon what the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network has developed in the Give Fish a Chance programme.
Essentially, it says that many anglers - while enjoying their sport and occasionally taking a fish to eat - are keen to do what they can to minimise their impact on the environment and on the fish themselves.  There are a number of guidelines for conduct while fishing and particularly GFAC fish length guides that you can use to be sure that the fish you take have had a chance to breed, helping ensure survival and replenishment of the stock. There's more information at

I'm sending a separate spreadsheet which relates WFSA MLS, records and specimen sizes to these GFAC lengths (and weights derived from them).  It's quite a challenge reading it but I'd like us to discuss these, starting Saturday and then perhaps by e-mail so we can make what changes are necessary so that the UK GFAC list is relevant and useful.


Future marine policy stakeholder arrangements
I'll report on the Friday 18 July inaugural meeting of the new ‘Wales Marine Strategic Advisory Group. 

"Building on the success of the MCZ focus group, Peter Davies Sustainable Development Commissioner for Wales has agreed to act as chair. Working through this group, Welsh Government will seek to jointly develop areas of Marine related work by drawing upon expertise from the stakeholder community.

The Wales Marine Strategic Advisory Group (WMSAG) will meet twice per year and establish task and finish groups as appropriate. 

In order to ensure coherence across these arrangements, the chair of the Wales Marine Fisheries Advisory Group (WMFAG) will represent the fishing engagement model on the Wales Marine Strategic Advisory Group (WMSAG).  Wales Marine Fisheries Advisory Group (WMFAG) and the Inshore Fisheries Group (IFGs) will continue to function and focus on matters of relevance to marine fisheries and aquaculture.

We intend to review these new arrangements after a 3 year period."

Roger Cook
Aberystwyth 13 July 2014



lsh Federation of Sea Anglers  

NEC 11 January 2014

Environment & Conservation Report


Thanks to all for their input to me to help write some points about how bass should be managed in Wales, UK and EU.  What I wrote to Welsh Government was:

"A preamble regarding rationale:
Given the  stock situation is so serious and that ICES have recommended a 36% cut in catches, it is essential to progress any measures that will contribute to achieving that cut.  It is clear that a UK approach also needs to be measured by its likely contribution to stopping imposed TAC and reducing French trawling
We have to make sure that there is good evidence that the proposed measures will reduce take.
While we could prioritise measures that minimise economic impacts, it is essential that we protect the stock so as to ensure better sustainable fishing in the years to come.
In terms of economic value, there is good evidence that bass taken by recreational anglers provide most economic benefit per fish taken, and that black fish (taken by unlicenced commercials by any method) secure the least return per fish.  As black fish sales undercut the market for licenced commercials, it is sensible to focus on reducing sales of black fish in Wales.
We should judge the measures needed by these criteria.
Comments on SUGGESTED measures applicable to Wales
Minimum landing size of (MLS) 37.5mm within Wales: this is too small.  We must allow fish to breed if the stock is to increase.
Create carriage offence for bass below MLS in Wales: of course.
Extend bass legislation to all Wales (i.e. inland of former SFC boundaries): yes
Restrictions on beach nets in respect of: 

•           Marking, tagging and attending nets,
•           setting a 5inch (127mm) mesh restriction
•           length of net to be deployed
•           setting a 200m limit from structures which may cause aggregations of bass such as warm water outlets or weirs
What impact on take by recreational, licenced and unlicenced netters? Many anglers find these nets causing dangerous obstacles to beach and boat users. There is strong pressure to argue for the banning of nets. I think they are the source of a lot of the black fish and should be banned, or very seriously limited as per attending, length and locationSeee also notes on mesh size.
Bag limits for recreational fishermen:  what level of limit is needed to contribute to stock improvement?  Again evidence is needed of the proportionality of this. That said, if other measures are introduced that look likely to achive stock sustainability, then I'm sure most RSAs would be happy with a bag limit.  Important that catch and release fishing is recognised. 
Ban on targeted pair trawling for bass: and on other towed gear especially that which targets aggregations, but isn't this outside Wales anyway?
Monthly quota limit of 5 tonnes per vessel: need evidence on the impact on take.  It seems a high limit unlikely to reduce take in Welsh waters.
Trawl ban on all fishing inside the Burry Inlet from the points extending from Ragwen Point to Worms Head: ?
Consider additional spawning area/seasonal bans inside the Wales 6nm zone.: evidence for spawning in this zone? Evidence for effects of seasonal bans outside spawning areas.
The mesh size question is important in relation to MLS: need the evidence for likely impacts on larger fish take, both bass and salmonids, especially if these concerns are used to argue against increase in MLS. What is the value of net caught bass? Compared with line caught ?
I indicated that these notes were points to develop and to discuss when the WG Bass Working Group meets.  This should be soon but there's time for anyone to let me have any details or further points


I responded on behalf of WFSA to:

WG second consultation on Historic Rights (banning big trawlers in Welsh waters) : this was a much better argued paper with some real information.  I circulated our response, thanks for input and support.

Natural Resources Wales Initial Consultation on extensions to Marine Protected Areas: this will return but again thanks for your help in ensuring WFSA gets in on the arguments.

Am drafting responses to NRW "Planning our Future" (will suggest need for more emphasis on marine, due 10 January ) and Defra "Balance of Competencies" Review (due 13 January)



I attended a conference in London on 28 November oh Managing UK's Marine Natural Resources
There was some fascinating information.  I thought the professionals there didn't really recognise the impact on government policy of the UK large scale commercial catchers, so I said so and quite a few agreed.
Stunning talk on overfishing n the Irish Sea by Professor Callum Roberts. Worth looking at this and other talks available at http://www.coastms.co.uk/conferences/480/show


And to Cardiff  for an update from Welsh Government on Marine and Fisheries Division work on Tuesday 3rd December. The purpose of the meeting was to explain how they are delivering the recommendations of the MCZ Task and Finish Team, to update on potential European marine site designations in the future and provide an overview of the Welsh Government’s wider Marine Programme.


EFF Projects

I went to a meeting of the science user advisory group of Bangor University Fishery assessments, including bass in Aberystwyth on December 2.

And gave a presentation at the final conference of FishMap Môn in Bangor on 10 December.
You can see the maps at http://www.ccgc.gov.uk/landscape--wildlife/managing-land-and-sea/fishmap-mon.aspx

WWF Celtic Seas Partnership http://www.celticseaspartnership.eu

I attended the introductory meeting in Liverpoolon 30/31 October.  During 2014 there will be regional meetings in Wales to discuss with other sectors practical ways of implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and using the ecosystem approach. There will also be workshops with specific sectors to look at how the project can support them with sustainable management.


Nature Funding Concept Note – Hang on to Your Tackle
Thanks to Colin (Merthyr), Helen (Aberystwyth) and Robbie (Llandudno) who attended the meetings re the NRW fund.  If there are ideas for possible funding we can discuss on Saturday.

But subsequently, we have supported the Marine Conservation Society concept note, based on the pilot project ‘Hang on to Your Tackle’ in Pembrokeshire and Gower. The project outputs and methodology are fully developed but need a dedicated Project Officer to be delivered across Wales.
Background – Most anglers take their litter home, but underwater clean-ups and regular beach cleans all too often reveal that some anglers are leaving behind snagged lines, fishing weights and hooks. Lost fishing line and tackle can remain in the environment for many years, ensnaring sea birds and other marine life. It's also a hazard for people enjoying the coast.
There are between 100,000 and 250,000 anglers in Wales (1) and at least as many who visit and fish in Wales each year. Not all anglers are aware of the negative impacts of lost or discarded tackle. Education is a key element in reducing all forms of litter and is a key policy shift for Welsh Government with the development of their holistic approach to management.
Objectives – involve and inform anglers on ways to reduce the amount of fishing litter lost and encourage responsible disposal of anglers tackle; taking angling litter away from key angling sites, and using purpose-made bins to dispose of litter at angling hot spots; promote the use of correct angling techniques and gear to minimise loss of tackle by following the MCS Hang on to Your Tackle Top Tips, developed in partnership with the Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers (WFSA).


Roger Cook

Aberystwyth 6 January 2014