[N]orth Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) is calling for fishermen and women to follow a Voluntary Ban on placing nets around St Bees starting 1st March 2018.
Although thankfully not a common occurrence, there have been distressing reports in the past of numbers of birds getting caught up in the nets and drowning. Obviously no one wants or intends this, and fishers themselves have been deeply upset when it has occurred.
As fisheries regulators the NWIFCA has a duty to ensure that netting is not having a damaging effect on birds. The breeding season is the crucial time for seabirds such as razorbills and guillemots nesting on the cliffs at St Bees. Following meetings with fishers, Natural England and the RSPB the NWIFCA Technical Science and Byelaws Sub-committee (TSB) agreed the introduction of a Voluntary Code of Practice to be brought in in 2018.
St Bees is an important cliff habitat for breeding seabirds, and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It also lies within the Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Many of the bird species are diving birds which have the potential to become entangled in nets when searching for their food.
Under the Code of Practice all netting activity, whether from the shore or from licensed or unlicensed fishing vessels, is banned during the period 1st March to 15th July (provisional date) in an area from the mean high water mark extending out to around 1km. The date the ban will be removed is provisionally set as 15th July, but will be finalised during the season and will depend on advice from Natural England on the behaviour of the birds and timing of their breeding and fledging which will be weather dependent.
NWIFCA Officers will monitor the effectiveness of this Voluntary Code of Practice to inform the Authority of whether more stringent management is required.