Zonation is an understandably popular means of resolving conflicts between different user groups on the coast by allocating distinct areas for incompatible uses. Alternatives range from the establishment of permanent exclusion zones for certain activities (for example to protect core ‘no-take’ areas of reserves, recreational beach quality, coastal structures, commercial or recreational shipping infrastructure etc.) to temporary, rotational zonation operated on a time scale varying from months to years. Enforcement is simplified and partly self-regulating where implemented with the consensus of major bait digging user groups.

In most cases, the effectiveness of zonation for managing bait collection activity will depend on the size of the local sand and mud flats and demand for bait, which is affected by the size of the local or regional angling population and retail demand.

Rotational zonation allows over-exploited stocks and damaged habitats to recover while new stocks are utilised. It is a useful approach for management of bait stocks and more likely to be acceptable to shoreline species collectors than permanent closure because larger quantities of target species may be collected as areas are rotated. Several case studies in literature demonstrate how areas zoned as no-take refuges can act as sources of recruitment to adjacent fisheries. It is logical to expect that unexploited areas adjacent to exploited bait beds will benefit in the same way. The Budle Bay case study (Appendix) demonstrates that unexploited areas acted not only as sources of juvenile recruitment of lugworm, but also adult migration from densely populated bait beds. This management approach is, however, more confusing and difficult to enforce than permanent exclusion and can not provide permanent protection to vulnerable habitats, coastal structures, or fragile and/or long-lived fauna or habitats of nature conservation importance requiring long-term protection from physical disturbance.

Permanent exclusion from specified areas is effective because it is easily explained and understood and cheaper to administer and manage. For this reason, most examples of species collection zonation in the case studies were either originally established as or eventually ended up as permanent exclusion areas. The Boulmer Haven case study (Appendix) may become an example of best practice for the zonation of bait collection activity.

Zonation has been underway for many years at Cleethorpes, where part of the beach is permanently open to bait digging and part reserved for other beach users under local authority byelaw. Bait diggers have complained to the local Council, that the habitat used by bait diggers and its bait stocks are inferior to those in the closed area of the beach. They asked for the zonation to be discontinued so that they have access to the whole beach. The Council, however, was advised that the reason for this difference in beach quality is purely due to the activity of bait collectors, and have maintained the status quo (P. Olive pers. comm.).

Next Section                         References