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Net Fisheries

Net fishing takes place across the Southern IFC District using a variety of different methods. The main netting methods used can be broadly separated into three categories:

Fixed nets

A fixed net is a type of gill net which is held in situ, at any point along its length, by an anchor, or any other object including the seabed. Fixed nets are generally shot along the tidal axis and fish most effectively on the slack part of the tide. Due to the net being fixed, fish may encounter the net either by active swimming or by passive movement with water currents.

Drift nets

A drift net is a type of gill net that is set without an anchor and allowed to move freely with the tide or current. They are often set to target a particular section of the water column. The mesh size, length of net and soak time used will reflect the target species (including the minimum conservation reference size of that target species) allowing drift netting to be a selective method of fishing. Fishers who use drift nets are experienced in knowing where and when to set the nets to maximise interaction with their target species and minimise bycatch. Drift netting takes place across the District targeting a number of species including grey mullet species, skates and rays, herring and sole.

Ring nets

A ring net is a type of gill net set in a circle, either in open water where the circle is completed, or close to the shore where a U-shape may be formed with the net set against the shore. As with drift nets, the mesh size is dictated by the target species with a common range from 3 5/8 to 4 inches. Ring nets are constantly attended and are hauled only a short time after deployment. Catch is commonly removed from the net whilst it is being hauled. Ring nets are primarily used to target shoals of fish such as grey mullet species and it is noted to be a selective method of fishing as fishers will not set the net speculatively but rather only when the presence of a shoal of fish has been identified.

Descriptions of net types are taken from Officer experience, engagement with fishers and definitions provided in Potter and Pawson (1991) 1 .

1 Potter, E. C. E. and Pawson, M. G. 1991. Gill Netting. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Directorate of Fisheries Research, Laboratory Leaflet Number 69, pp. 34

In 2021, 260 tonnes of fish were landed from ICES areas 29E7, 30E7 and 30E8 having been caught using nets 2. The top fish species landed were: Sole, Mullet, Plaice, Cuttlefish and Thornback Ray.

Data from the Marine Management Organisation, 2022. ICES areas 29E7, 30E7 and 30E8 cover the majority or the Southern IFC District and some areas outside. 

Fishery Monitoring and Stock Assessments

Currently, the Southern IFCA do not undertake stock assessments of the species caught in net fisheries. However, the Southern IFCA is currently undertaking a review of net fishing within harbours and estuaries in the District. More information on the review can be found on the Ongoing Reviews page .

However, twice annually the Authority monitors juvenile fish species found inside estuary fish nursery areas. These surveys aim to provide an understanding of the importance of the estuaries and sheltered harbours within the District to juvenile fish populations. For the results of these surveys please see below:

Marine Protected Area Assessments

The development of the Net Fishing Byelaw included the Policy Objective: 'To further the Conservation Cbjectives of Designated sites', where:

  • Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are a feature of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Atlantic salmon or sea trout (Salmo trutta) are a faunal component or notified feature of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Atlantic salmon or sea trout have a functional linkage to a SAC (areas of sea beyond the boundary of an SAC where Atlantic salmon are a feature) or SSSI (areas beyond the boundary of a SSSI where Atlantic salmon or sea trout are a faunal component or notified feature) and may provide a role in maintaining or restoring a salmonid population at favourable conservation status

Accordingly, the following relevant Conservation Assessments have been undertaken:

  • Habitats Regulations Assessments
  • SSSI Assessments
  • Functionally Linked Area Assessments

These Assessments were reported in the Conservation Assessment Package for Plan/Project: Net Fishing Byelaw. This document should be read in conjunction with the Net Fishing Byelaw Literature Review, the Net Fishing Byelaw Monitoring and Control Plan and the Site Specific Evidence Packages document.

The Inshore Netting Review: Process, Tools & Intentions 2021 document in conjunction with the above documents, the Net Fishing Byelaw and the Salmonid Good Handling Code of Practice provide context and transparency of the process which has informed management intervention, as well as providing clarity of intention regarding the ongoing management of the District's net fisheries. If you wish to view more information on the Net Fishing Byelaw please visit the Net Fishing page.

The development of the Byelaw was also supported by an Impact Assessment, designed to consider the costs and benefits associated with the Byelaw. Please click here to view the Impact Assessment.

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