Prohibition of commercial bait collection activities

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 damage.

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.

Next Section                     References