The Broads is a very special area and has National Park status with some areas also designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The fishing close season, which was established in 1995 by the National Fishing Byelaw, traditionally runs from 15 March to 15 June inclusive to enable fish to spawn without disturbance from anglers.
The close season applies to all fisheries within the Broads Authority area and the Environment Agency recently wrote to remind fishery owners in the Broads of the need to observe the close season period.
A review of this Byelaw occurred nationally in 1997 and a number of lakes within SSSIs were subsequently removed and fishing allowed in the close season. However, none of the waters within the Broads area were removed or ever identified for removal.
The consequence of this is that the close season restriction still applies to all fisheries in the Broads and this means that fishing for freshwater fish between those dates is an offence.
Chris Window from the Environment Agency said: ‘We were concerned that anglers might be unaware that they were fishing out of season and therefore placing themselves at risk of being prosecuted. Clearly this is a situation we want to avoid so we wrote to fisheries to clarify matters.’
The Agency are also concerned that some fisheries were observing the close season whilst others were not and wanted to ensure a consistent and fair approach was in place for everyone.
‘This situation has obviously caused concern among fishery owners and anglers, however the byelaw is explicit and the requirement to observe the close season is clear. Many fishery owners have been in touch with us confirming that they have put the necessary actions in place to ensure the law is followed,’ said Chris.
Charles Beardall, Area Manger from the Environment Agency said: ‘Clearly some fisheries have now had to close for three months and are understandably upset at the loss of business they could suffer. We have listened to their views and agree that in some circumstances, where the environmental risk to the ecology of the Broads is low, a case can be made for the removal of certain waters from the close season restrictions.
‘To help with this situation, we will be working with the angling community to identify low risk sites where we believe all year fishing will not adversely affect the ecology of the Broads.’
‘In order to do this, we will be asking fishery owners to propose sites which we will then review and confirm whether we believe they are suitable for all year fishing. Once suitable waters have been identified we can support their removal in any future Byelaw review.
‘However, it is important to remember that other organisations, including Natural England and the Broads Authority, will also need to agree any proposed changes if any amendment to the Byelaw is to occur,’ he said.
The process will be started in the coming weeks and the Agency hopes to work with the angling community in developing a screening method for identification of appropriate waters. Although any revision of the Byelaws is unlikely to happen in the next 12-18 months, it is important to begin this process now.
In the meantime the Agency is working to see if an arrangement can be made to enable fishing at these proposed waters prior to an actual change in the Byelaw. However, until such time as this is confirmed, the close season remains in place and fishing on those waters remains prohibited.