The legal framework


This section presents the main conclusions drawn from the legislative review carried out during the preparation of these guidelines. It is, however, stressed that the legal status of worm collection for bait, which is not directly regulated under existing legislation, is in need of legislative review. No legal expert was involved in producing this section. A future legislative review might draw different conclusions, and judicial review is required to clarify several of the issues highlighted here.

This review identifies the general features of the legal framework. There is no single common framework across the UK and, whilst there may be strong similarities in their effect, the legal position in different parts of the UK have evolved from different beginnings. This review is not able to address these variations comprehensively. Furthermore, the review should be seen as guidance to legislation and current opinion on the legal status and management of bait collection and not as a definitive account of the legal position. Therefore readers are strongly recommended to seek expert advice in connection with any bait or shellfish collecting issues.

This review drew on studies presented in Cleator and Irvine (1995), Fowler (1992), Huggett (1995a and 1995b who provided valuable reviews of legal issues with regard to activities on the shore), and important recent case law. An unpublished information paper by Andrews (1998) clarified the legal situation with regard to ‘sea fish’ (crustacea and mollusca).

The recent case law on bait digging comprised two significant rulings:

  • the decision made regarding the collection of intertidal and subtidal species from Strangford Lough (Adair v. The National Trust 1997, judgement of Girvan J.), and
  • the Court of Appeal ruling over Anderson v. Alnwick District Council (1992), concerning a conviction under a local authority byelaw controlling baitdigging that went to appeal at the Crown Court and Court of Appeal.

It is recommended that readers refer to the original case law on the above two judgements if they need more information than is briefly summarised in this report or the case studies in Annex II, or wish to quote any part of this case law.

To date, a range of statutory bodies have used their legal powers to manage or regulate bait worm collection (Table 9). Examples of the legislation under which bait collection may be regulated, and the statutory bodies that may exercise these powers, are listed in Table 10.

Further information setting out the wider legal context to the legislation relating to collection of bait and animals is provided. This covers the definition of the foreshore, ownership and common law rights over the foreshore, customary rights and tolerances.

The public right to collect bait and shellfish

Regulation of fisheries (seafish and shellfish)

Regulation of bait worm collection

Several and Regulating Orders

Landowners’ rights

Structures on the shore

Legislation and Byelaw-making powers

Overview of the legal aspects of bait collection