October 2020, in the Southampton Magistrates Court, two men pleaded guilty to seven separate fisheries charges, including; taking a quantity of bass below the minimum size, removing bass from a Bass Nursery Area, deliberately fishing for bass using fixed gillnets and using a vessel not registered with the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) to take sea fish for sale from within the IFCA District.
The court heard how, in the early hours of the 17
October 2019, fisheries officers intercepted the Plymouth-based fishing vessel Top Dog, numbered PH5580 at the mouth of the River Itchen in Southampton Water. IFCA officers boarded the visiting fishing vessel, owned by Mr Dean Rollason, and located a number of undersized bass. The master of the vessel at the time, Mr Shane Barton – a repeating offender, was interviewed under caution and then escorted to a slipway where he left the scene with the vessel in tow.
Following further searches of the area, IFCA officers located a substantial net, marked by a small surface float. The net was in excess of 750metres long, in 13 sections and ran along Weston shoreline, into the River Itchen. Officers immediately hauled the net and were able to return a total of 50 grey mullet, 30 bass, 10 flounder, 5 plaice, 20 dogfish and 5 smooth hounds to the water alive. Further fish were removed from the net, totaling a combined estimated value of £1340. Evidence was later gathered that linked the fishing vessel Top Dog with the unattended illegally-set net.
Commenting on the case, Ian Jones, Chief Officer of Southern IFCA said, “Bass are a highly prized sea fish, valuable to the local recreational and commercial fishery. The Southampton Water Bass Nursery Area is an important refuge for juvenile fish and legislation is in place to protect stocks. Southern IFCA is committed to the protection of our fish stocks and coastal fisheries. Bass nursery areas legislation allow bass to grow and in turn replenish the seriously depleted stocks. It is very pleasing that this intervention resulted in a substantial quantity of bass, mullet and other species from the net returned to the water alive. The Authority takes the illegal use of nets very seriously. There is a legal net fishery in Southampton Water, however this case highlights the impact that an illegally set net can have on that legitimate fishery. The Authority is grateful for witnesses from the local fishing community and to Associated British Ports, Southampton, and to Dorset Police, who assisted with this prosecution.”
The District Judge ordered Mr Barton and Mr Rollason both of Plymouth, Devon, to pay fines and costs of £4,800 and ordered forfeiture of their fishing net, worth an estimated £1,900.
Further protection for bass has been introduced in recent years. Anyone fishing for bass is advised to check the bass fishing guidance and the local regulations for bass nursery areas.