To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department will take to tackle the problem of illegal landing of undersized bass; and for what reason the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority might face a legal challenge if they prohibited gill net meshes from 89 mm to 109 mm in order to stop this practice.
There are clear rules in place requiring that undersized catches of species not yet subject to the landing obligation, such as bass, are not retained on board, trans-shipped, landed, transported, stored, sold, displayed or offered for sale, but shall be returned immediately to the sea. This is a long standing principle which will continue to be enforced accordingly.
Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) are independent statutory authorities and have direct responsibility for the protection of sea fisheries resources in their districts, and for the sustainable management of their exploitation. When an activity is occurring, or may occur, that is likely to impact the marine environment, the IFCA, as regulator, is expected to consider the significance of this within its district. Cornwall IFCA recently considered using its powers under Section 157(2) of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to introduce an emergency byelaw to address bass netting issues. However, this was judged to not fully meet the qualifying criteria for an emergency byelaw as stated in the Act and could potentially be challenged on those grounds.