Closure of bait beds

If management under voluntary agreement, limited zonation or licensing fails, escalation of control to the complete prohibition of collection at a site has tended to occur. This is easier for managers to administer and enforce than any other management option. Recent case law, however, demonstrates that closure of any one site can only be a regulatory measure and must not completely stop bait collection in an area. Alternative bait sources within a reasonable distance of the closed site must remain accessible to collectors. If this were not the case, case law would support a challenge by anglers to closure of bait beds. Effectively, therefore, closing bait beds completely is a form of zonation (described above) on a larger scale.

Enforcement of legal closures of bait beds by regulatory authorities has sometimes been hampered by the rather cloudy legal position of the public right to collect shoreline species. There is also an overall unwillingness on the part of authorities to resort to the expense of a prosecution (and subsequent appeals) to test the law. Recent judgements in case law have still not fully resolved the legal position.

Closure of a bait collection site has been shown to increase pressure on stocks and may cause unforeseen conflict at other sites up to 100 miles away, as demonstrated by the case of the Budle Bay case study in Northumberland (Appendix). A similar situation arose in the Helford River, where bait digging pressure increased as a result of restrictions on other estuaries such as the Newlyn, Hayle and Fowey (Minutes of meeting of Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, 6/1/93). There are also reports of bait diggers from the Newcastle area travelling to southwest Scotland in order to collect bait, as a result of bait bed closures on the Northumberland coast (D. Donnan pers. comm.).

Careful assessment of the likely results of a bait collection ban and consultation with other site managers in the region is therefore essential before a closure is implemented. Ultimately, closure of bait beds should only be undertaken as a last resort and as part of an overall regional strategy for bait collection.

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