The Angling Trust has welcomed the successful procession of a new byelaw effectively banning netting in Cornwall’s rivers and estuaries proposed by the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA).
The River and Estuarine Fishing Nets byelaw 2017 was agreed by the CIFCA committee on 16th September 2016 and subsequently went out to statutory consultation.

Two hundred and seventy-five submissions were received by the CIFCA, the overwhelming majority of which were in favour of excluding nets from estuaries. Concerns were expressed in respect of ebb nets, the potential for long lines to be used in estuaries, and in respect of seaward boundaries for the River Camel and Helford River being landward of existing Bass Nursery Area boundaries.

At the CIFCA meeting on December 16th the Committee considered the officer’s report of the consultation results and agreed that the byelaw be passed to the Marine Management Organisation for quality assurance before being passed on to Defra, who will consider the byelaw for ministerial sign off.

The Angling Trust has been calling for a total reform of inshore netting byelaws for some time and recently published a dossier of evidence in support of such a change. Regulation has fallen behind netting technology and consequently the current legislation is outdated and fails to offer sufficient protection to vulnerable fish stocks, many of which use estuaries as key nursery or spawning areas.
The Inshore Fishery & Conservation Authorities are required to review their byelaws on an ongoing basis to ensure they are relevant and fit for purpose and the Angling Trust will continue to press for increased protection for threatened fish stocks through this process.
The Devon and Severn IFCA also consulted on a very similar byelaw but, despite an extensive open consultation period that saw the vast majority of responses in favour of increased protection for fish stocks from netting, the byelaw failed to proceed beyond the IFCA and was sent back to the committee for changes. This followed a debacle during the committee meeting on December 9th where a member of the general public (a representative of commercial fishermen) was allowed to address the committee directly, possibly in breach of due process. The Angling Trust and Fish Legal are investigating further.
David Mitchell, Angling Trust Head of Marine, said: “The Cornwall IFCA has a duty to manage inshore fisheries sustainably and to secure the right balance between social, economic and environmental considerations. The new byelaw will contribute to achieving this and we and the many thousands of anglers throughout Cornwall and beyond very much welcome Cornwall’s rivers and estuaries being net free in the future”.
Malcolm Gilbert, Conservation Officer of the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers said: “If this byelaw is eventually signed off by the Secretary of State it is a game-changer for recreational sea angling. The byelaw is not without flaws and valid questions remain unanswered in respect of ebb netting, long lining and the seaward boundaries for the Camel and Helford estuaries but the all year round prohibition of mono nets from our estuaries would be a stunning achievement for many marine fishery resources as well as for salmonids. This byelaw will not only be beneficial for the highly valuable recreational angling sector but will allow more immature fish to survive to adulthood which will be beneficial to both recreational and commercial fishing in the long term.