Improving retail sources of bait

Many anglers prefer to purchase their own bait, rather than travel long distances or incur the discomfort of collecting their own supplies from the shore (particularly in winter). Rising prices and poor quality retail stocks will, however, still drive many anglers back onto the shore. Increasing quantities of bait derived from farmed stocks of native species are now available through retail suppliers. Up to now king ragworm Nereis virens has been the main species available, derived from native stocks in the Netherlands, but lugworm farming is under development and should begin to yield blow lug Arenicola marina and/or black lug A. defodiens supplies soon. Other species (catworms Nephtys spp. and peeler crab Carcinus maenus) may soon follow. This trend should lead to a reduction of bait collection effort on the shore. Eco-labelling might help to promote sales of environmentally-friendly farmed stock and should be encouraged.

Imports of native bait species also take place from wild fisheries in Ireland and the Netherlands. Such imports are of great importance for angling, but it cannot be guaranteed that these are from sustainably managed stocks – there is no management yet of bait collection in Ireland. Import of unmanaged, unsustainable commercially dug worm stocks from any area is undesirable. As with the provision of farmed worm stocks, eco-labelling for sustainably managed worm fisheries should be considered.

Small quantities of lugworm taken as a bycatch from bivalve fisheries in south-western England are now also available to the retail trade.

Imports of non-native species (e.g. from Japan or Korea) to other European countries, particularly in the Mediterranean, are becoming widespread. No evidence was obtained of any such imports of live bait to the UK, and the introduction of any non-native species to the sea in the UK would be illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Steps should be taken to actively discourage retailers or worm farmers considering such imports, and to inform anglers that release to the wild of non-native species is a prosecutable offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and could be environmentally damaging. The potential environmental implications of introducing large predatory Polychaete worms to UK waters are alarming.

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