This is the email that SACN sent out to it's membership:
To all SACN Members,
No doubt many of you are aware of the furore that has grown following the story published in last week’s Fishing News of plans to develop a commercial tope fishery in the UK.
Briefly, a fish merchant in Lowestoft has a market into which it can sell large tope, and wants to create a market for the smaller tope, as well as being able to supply the lucrative far eastern markets for shark fins.
Having created the market, they expect vessels from around the UK (as well as Lowestoft based long-liners) to supply them with fish, many changing over to long-lining.
With tope being such a long-lived species, slow to grow and with limited reproduction, the recreational tope fishery in the UK (which supports the livelihoods of many charter skippers and their families) could be wiped out in a very short space of time.
It is expected that such a fishery would be fished out in a very short time, before those that would have made some significant profit from the new market would need to move back onto other species.
Following a collapse of the large tope population, along with the smaller fish, it could be 30 years or more before a significant population of large tope could be recovered in UK waters, assuming that they were then protected from further exploitation.
Further details of the plan to establish the market and create the fishery are at:
(Please keep an eye on SACN Latest as we intend to update this story with details as they emerge and to post other items regarding developments.)
This can’t be right!
Tope are featured on the IUCN ‘Red List’
Tope have been given the highest rating of 5 (should be left alone, not eaten) by the Marine Conservation Society.
The UK has a National Shark Plan (but not the EU), this proposal goes against that plan.
The EU and the UK government have agreed to move to an ‘ecology-based’ fishery management regime. (Destroying the population of an apex predator is anything but ecology-based management!)
The UK government is moving towards recognising the value of Recreational Sea Angling and re-designation of those species popular with anglers, particularly those of limited commercial value.
The UK/EU governments are beginning to look at the need for an Impact Assessment before any significant innovation is introduced by the fishing industry. This proposal would almost certainly fail such an assessment on the basis of the harm that would occur to the UK tope population, the overall marine ecology and to the valuable Recreational Sea Angling Sector.
(So incredulous have some anglers been on hearing of these proposals, they are convinced that this story must be some kind of ‘wind-up’, or a devious plan to lessen the fervour of RSA campaigners by, having stirred the debate on tope, offering us a concession in the belief that we might then go back to sleep)
So, how come anyone can even think of developing such a fishery?
There has been an awakening, not only to the damage that an increasingly catch efficient fishing industry can (and is) doing to the marine environment, and to the fish stocks that live there, but also to the need to take effective action.
However, that need to take action is a slow process and is working against centuries of practices and rules and regulations largely formed when the sea’s wealth was considered inexhaustible.
And change to culture and mind-sets is needed from top to bottom, to effect necessary changes. People have difficulty in believing that things are changing, especially when they don’t personally agree with the need for change, or see their own interests, and the interests of those they work with, threatened (even if the longer term threat of refusing to change is more devastating than continuing as now).
A company has a market for a product, those that are able to supply that market have a right to take whatever they can from the sea, subject to quota etc (because tope are of limited commercial interest, there is no quota or regulation of the catching of the species, so if they have a market fishermen have the right to take whatever they can).
What can be done?
Even assuming a political will to do something at a high level, it would seem that fishery rules have yet to catch up with 21st century thinking on the need to conserve our natural resources and remain grounded in the overriding need to protect the profits of fishermen, ignoring the many livelihoods of angling charter skippers dependent on the market for catch and release fishing for the species.
So, it would seem that in the short term, there is little that can be done in the way of providing some form of legal restraint.
However, that is not to say that an effective campaign will not make the proposers of this plan think twice about going forward with it, if they and those who regulate them can be made aware of the need to maintain public support for their business interests and the wider interests of the commercial fishing industry.
And Sea Fisheries Committees have the ability to introduce byelaws for conservation purposes, if they have the will to do so to protect such a valuable resource from destructive exploitation.
(Imagine, if we could get just 10,000 of the acknowledged more than 1 million UK sea anglers to turn up at their business premises, and at the next meeting of the Sea Fisheries Committee for the area!).
In the longer term, we must continue to press for tope and other such vulnerable species to be re-designated as a sports fish only, in line with the recommendations of the governments ‘Net Benefits’ report.
What is SACN doing?
So far, we have been concentrating on informing as many anglers and concerned environmental organisations as possible about these proposals, and what they would mean for the future of the UK tope populations if proceeded with.
At the same time, we have been gathering information and making this widely available.
In the near future we will be writing to Mullender’s, the local sea fisheries committee, DEFRA, and the EU with our concerns.
(The NFSA Conservation Group have issued a press release, written letters and a number of Conservation organisations have also become involved)
It has been proposed that anglers interested in fishing for the small shark species (tope, smoothounds, spurdog etc) should form a society aimed at developing the recreational fishery for these species, and campaigning strongly for their conservation, along the lines of the work that the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) does so brilliantly for bass, and the National Mullet Club (NMC) does for mullet. A relatively few anglers that are deeply passionate about a particular species can do far more than any generalist organisation such as SACN, the NFSA etc (although strong partnerships deliver a framework of support and effective lobbying).
(Both BASS & the NMC are not only involved in conservation of their beloved species, but also develop the social side, publishing magazines and educational material, holding fish-ins, forming local groups etc., all part of a vital picture).
There is no stronger protection for a species than to show that its continued widespread availability has a significant social and economic value to a largely non-destructive recreational sector. For a number of species, in different parts of the world, this has tipped the balance between the species flourishing or the species being in great danger.
Ian Burret, the SACN Regional Co-ordinator for Scotland has expressed interest in forming such a group, so anyone who may want to get involved should contact him at
What can we do as individuals?
- Well, firstly those of you who belong to environmental organisations, or even know of those that may be interested (eg local Wild Life Trusts etc) should ensure that they know of the issues and that you are concerned to see them pursued.
- Support the Bite-Back campaign at [url]http://www.bite-back.com/[/url]
- Contact Mullender’s and try to convince them why this isn’t such a good idea for their long term business or the industry as a whole.
Mullender W.E.T. Ltd.
No.3 Hall Trawl Market
Tel: 01502 572944
- Write to the Sea Fisheries Committee for Lowestoft (there are two members of SACN who have now been appointed to that SFC!)
Clerk & Chief Fishery Officer
6 North Lynn Business Village
Norfolk PE30 2JG
- Write to DEFRA, the EU fisheries, maybe the Prime Minster (Contact Details for all of these and others are available on the SACN webpage under the ‘Contacts’ columns at [url]http://www.anglers-net.co.uk/sacn[/url]
- Keep SACN informed of anything that you know of and of any responses that you get.
(Expect the explanation that they are only trying to provide a market for by-caught fish that are only thrown back dead now. If they develop this market, as they have said they intend to do, tope will be specifically targeted, you can be sure of that.
Another explanation that might be offered is that ‘conservationists’ are arguing that one way of relieving pressure on currently hard-fished stocks is to develop the market for non-traditional species to ‘spread the load’. Having hammered some species to extinction, it is no solution to move onto other species, especially species so valuable to another more valuable sector that does not involve a high mortality, and to the ecosystem as a whole, and especially species so vulnerable to exploitation with such very poor capacity for recovery)
[url]Where to now?[/url]
Even if this turns out to have been something of a ‘storm-in-a-teacup’, it really does forcefully illustrate just how vulnerable many of our valuable recreational species currently are to the whims of the commercial industry, seeking to move onto new possibly non-regulated and non-quota species to make up the shortfall in their profits caused by restrictions imposed on other species and by increasing area closures.
Already, with fears over re-designation growing amongst commercial fishermen, there is a move by some to make the most of what is available, whilst they still can, and to establish a track record in those species to bargain with.
It’s becoming increasingly important that anglers move forward the various campaigns to protect those species as fast as is possible, and that means anglers coming forward to support their representative organisations as much as possible, before it becomes too late.
Please forward this information to anyone you think may want to assist, and those clubs, federations etc who are members of SACN, should make sure that their members are aware of the issues that need to be addressed.