A new byelaw has come into force which bans netting for sea fish (with a small number of specific exceptions) in Cornwall's rivers and estuaries.

This Cornwall IFCA River and Estuarine Fishing Nets Byelaw 2017 has been developed to rebalance access to sea fish in Cornwall’s rivers and estuaries in favour of hook and line fisheries.

The byelaw will also add extra protection for some fish stocks, including bass and mullet, and increase the protection for juvenile fish which congregate in rivers at the start of their lives. In addition the byelaw will modernise a suite of legacy byelaws inherited by Cornwall IFCA making them much more enforceable.

The Byelaw was placed before the public for formal consultation in September and October 2016.This consultation received an unprecedented response from the public, many in support, and some in opposition but most supporting the principle but requesting some changes. As a result, there was a considerable amount of additional time spent working with Defra to make modifications to this byelaw to resolve the concerns raised.

The modifications made by Defra relate to the use of ebb nets. Ebb netting is an unusual, traditional, method of fishing where a single panel of fishing net is fixed between two poles, pivoted from one side of a vessel, where the vessel is moored in a river, estuary, channel or stream. Currently there are only a very small number of people using this method for recreational purposes. Under this new byelaw anybody wishing to use an ebb net must now obtain a permit from Cornwall IFCA, and make an annual report of all fish taken using ebb nets in the Cornwall IFCA district. There is also a requirement to give prior notice (between 4 and 24 hours) before going ebb netting.

Sam Davis, Cornwall IFCA Chief Officer said, “Developing this byelaw has been a lengthy and complicated process, however we are delighted that we have the byelaw in place. This is the first time we have created a byelaw to balance between different sectors and we hope this bylaw will greatly improve the access for hook and line fisheries to these key areas in Cornwall. This byelaw will also greatly improve our ability to carry out enforcement activities in Cornwall’s rivers, one of our highest priorities”.

Under the Cornwall IFCA River and Estuarine Fishing Nets Byelaw 2017, it is now an offence to use a net for sea fish in any of the rivers or estuaries within the Cornwall IFCA district. It is also an offence to carry a net on board a vessel while engaged in any fishing activity within the rivers and estuaries. The prohibition on carrying or using a net does not apply to various low impact nets such as:

• Landing nets.

• Sand eel seine nets used under a permit issued by Cornwall IFCA.

• Ebb nets used under a permit issued by Cornwall IFCA.

You can find a full text of the byelaw at our website by following a link on the home page.