Prohibition of commercial bait
Commercial bait collection is a
potential source of conflict among bait collectors
and between collectors and other users. It is not
part of the public right to fish, but is widely
tolerated by managers and landowners and will continue
to provide an important source of bait for many
recreational anglers until farmed bait becomes more
widely available. Commercial bait collection may
be licensed formally by landowners (who may not,
however, regulate competing non-commercial collection
activities in order to protect commercial resources).
A very few collectors have rights to collect bait
commercially in specified areas.
Although commercial bait collectors
are frequently seen as the major culprits causing
unacceptable environmental effects or conflicts
with other foreshore users, such a reputation may
not be warranted. The important distinction between
professional collectors and the unemployed casual
collector has already been noted (see section 5.1).
Professional commercial collectors provide an important
source of bait for a great many sea anglers, including
a great many of those who are unable to collect
their own for various reasons, and are an important
asset to the sport of sea angling. They are also
more likely to adhere to good practice than many
anglers who do not belong to a representative body.
Unregistered, unprofessional commercial collectors
are more likely to be responsible for environmental
Banning all commercial collection
would result in reduced commercial supplies (until
supplies of farmed bait improve) and rising retail
bait prices, leading in turn to increased bait collection
effort by larger numbers of recreational anglers.
This would likely have a greater environmental impact
than the small number of commercial diggers previously
supplying them. This effect could occur not only
in the area of the ban, but also further afield
(collectors supply retail outlets over a very large
area). A ban might also lead to larger quantities
of bait imports for the retail trade, including
an increased possibility of the introduction of
non-native bait species to UK waters.
If still considered desirable,
a ban on all commercial bait collection would be
extremely difficult to enforce. The distinction
between recreational and commercial bait collection
is too difficult to define to make discrimination
against commercial collection possible. This is
because of the difficulty of proving in court that
collection was being undertaken for commercial purposes,
and not for personal use over the next few days,
or for the personal use of friends or family (for
which no charge would be made).
The option favoured by most professional
bait collectors is to legalise and control commercial
collection through license. This has already been
discussed in section 5.5. Doing so on a national
basis will likely require new legislation, and introducing
such controls locally may be difficult for SAC management
groups and less effective.