Whilst fishing last Sunday’s D&WAA beach and pier festival in an attempt to win a turkey (well Mrs Boatman expects at least one hot meal a year), I was approached by a Kent and Essex sea fishery officer. On enquiring what his business was, he stated that he was educating the anglers about the short comings of retaining undersized fish. I explained to him that this was an angling match and none of the anglers would want to keep undersize fish. Also all the fish they had was of NFSA sizes, which is above the DEFRA size limits. What’s more, these match men knew the size limits off by heart!
I challenged him on the damage that the fishing fleet has done to the stocks. He then informed me that he was once a commercial fisherman and the commercials are having a tough time of it at the moment. I suggested that they have earned lots of money in the past; sometimes as much as £2,000 a day. His answer to that was ‘you cannot catch them twice’. Exactly says I, that’s the whole anglers v commercial argument.
He quickly changed the subject and informed me if I had any peeler crabs (what’s my name ‘Rothschild’ I’m only a poor pensioner) then they have to be of legal size. Velvet’s and edible crabs must not be gathered in peeler form unless they conform to DEFRA size. Again I enquired did he know where any of these crabs are shedding at this time of year as it would be of great interest to us all. His reply was that he would sooner educate us to the rules as opposed to prosecuting us.
As we discussed quotas and days at sea as the only solution to the commercials lack of fish (or finance), he was joined by three more of his fellow officers. I enquired why they were mob handed and the reply was ‘It’s quite a dangerous job as a couple of Kosovans had knifed each other over a dispute about mackerel on Dover Pier recently’.
So there you have it. Is this a look into the future, when we all have to have licences? These guys in their navy blue trousers and jumpers with Kent and Essex Fishery Officer on them (possibly earning double time on Sunday) prosecuting us anglers with the gusto of traffic wardens. Surly if they want to educate fishermen, it would be a lot more helpful if they kept a better look out on the commercial fish landings, to help conserve the stocks – as opposed to monitoring the paltry catches we get.
See you all in Jail.