Illegal fishing in Southampton waters

Illegal net fishers face fines for several charges within nursery area of Southampton waters.

Rules and regulations exist within the industry of fishing to protect fish stocks, manage environmental degradation and ensure a stable food supply remains for future generations. Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) encourage and enforce compliance with local policies around Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

Coastal areas and estuaries are known to provide a safe habitat for juvenile fish. These areas (nursery grounds) enable fish to spawn and mature into adulthood where they can deliver services to the ecosystem and economy. Fishing for bass from any vessel is prohibited between 30th April to 1st November in several regions, including Southampton waters, an identified nursery ground for Bass.

IFCA revealed, “On 19th October 2020, in the Southampton Magistrates Court, two men pleaded guilty to seven separate fisheries charges, including; taking a quantity of bass below the minimum size, removing bass from a Bass Nursery Area, deliberately fishing for bass using fixed gillnets and using a vessel not registered with the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) to take sea fish for sale from within the IFCA District.”

Upon inspection, officers identified a number of bass below the minimum landing size of 36cm, set by MAFF. The fishing vessel was later linked to an illegal net within the nursery ground that stretched over 750 metres long. An estimated value of £1340 worth of fish was entangled within it. The net was immediately removed and species including bass, grey mullet, flounder, plaice, dogfish and smooth hounds were returned to the water alive.

How can we keep nursery grounds safe?

Some legislation exists to protect areas that are known habitats for juvenile fish. IFCA is one organisation that works towards healthy seas and sustainable fisheries.

Chief officer of Southern IFCA, reports “The Authority takes the illegal use of nets very seriously. There is a legal net fishery in Southampton Water, however this case highlights the impact that an illegally set net can have on that legitimate fishery. The Authority is grateful for witnesses from the local fishing community and to Associated British Ports, Southampton, and to Dorset Police, who assisted with this prosecution.”

Nursery grounds are essential ecosystems for commercially and ecologically important fish. We believe tighter restrictions should be implemented to prevent any form of netting within critical habitats.

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