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IFCA threatened with judicial review says crisis over bass stock is 'not urgent' for new byelaw


Juvenile sea bass
The new byelaw could prevent landings of juvenile bass like these

Last month, Fish Legal reported that the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) had been threatened with legal action for deciding to reject a proposal for a new emergency byelaw which would have protected juvenile bass from commercial fishing nets.

The scientific advice is that that bass stock is at a dangerously low level as the result of commercial overfishing and successive years of very low numbers of young fish reaching maturity. This is aggravated by a lack of coordinated control measures.

In February, the Cornwall IFCA threw out the suggested emergency byelaw on legal advice from Defra that it “could be subject to challenge”.

However, the IFCA is now claiming that it did not approve the byelaw because the situation is not “urgent” (as required by the legislation) and it refuses to disclose the full Defra legal advice despite the considerable public interest.

Cornwall IFCA is also claiming that it “had not been made directly aware of the landings of undersize bass due to small nets with a small mesh size” and that it could not get further information from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) due to “data protection issues”.

“As a result, Cornwall IFCA does not have any direct evidence to indicate that mesh sizes were the cause of the landing of undersize bass.”

The MMO, however, are on record as having drawn the Committee’s attention to the use of nets that catch undersized fish.

Cornwall IFCA has also suggested that “determination of net mesh size is not a matter resolved by an emergency byelaw but by education, consultation and if necessary, a byelaw developed under section 155 of MaCAA".

David Curtis of Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society said: “Cornwall IFCA’s continuing failure to protect juvenile bass is damaging its reputation as a conservation authority. Over 150 anglers have written to the IFCA in recent weeks asking it to reconsider its decision not to introduce an emergency byelaw. But instead of putting the fish first and putting the matter back to its Committee, Cornwall IFCA seemingly prefers to waste taxpayers’ hard-earned money on legal action.”

Justin Neal, solicitor at Fish Legal said: “This is an unfortunate position for the Cornwall IFCA to be in as it clearly has the ability to use its powers to prevent the ongoing problem of under-sized bass netting. The simplest way to resolve the current impasse and possibility of legal action would be for its Committee to reconsider the proposal, this time with a full discussion of the issues.”

Fish Legal threatens Cornwall IFCA with judicial review

Contact: Fish Legal - Eastwood House | 6 Rainbow Street | Leominster | HR6 8DQ | Tel: 01568 620447

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