The Department of Environmental Protection today [June 24] advised registered fishermen that there has been a change in the size of bait nets permitted to be used in Harrington Sound and Flatts Inlet. The 18-ft restriction has been reduced to 12-ft.
On June 21, 2013, the Minister of Environment & Planning Sylvan Richards published the Fisheries Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 2013, which restricts the depth of a bait net that can be used in Harrington Sound and Flatts Inlet to 12 feet. This is a significant reduction from the previously permitted depth of 18 feet, and the shorter nets should allow more fish to escape.
The Minister said, “This measure has been put in place in an effort to reduce the impact of fishing on bait species, such as herring, anchovies, ‘fry’ and half-beaks, which gather in these areas, and is part of the Department’s Bait Species Management Plan, which was drafted in consultation with key stakeholders.”
Landings statistics collected by the Department of Environmental Protection have shown a declining trend for some species of bait fish around Bermuda, in particular anchovies and herring.
Dr. Tammy Trott, Senior Marine Resources Officer for the Department said: “The apparent decline in the abundance of some bait species is a concern as these species are a critical component of the marine food web.
“Many larger fish, birds and marine mammals rely on bait species as their main source of prey. Therefore, if the populations of the bait fish decline then the populations of the species that feed on them may also decline.”
This recent amendment builds on other measures aimed at the protection of bait species, namely: sites closed to netting of any kind [i.e. Coot Pond, Whalebone Bay, Shelly Bay and Somerset Long Bay], and the restriction of recreational fishers to the use of 8 foot diameter cast nets only.
“All fishers, commercial and recreational, are encouraged to adhere to the Fisheries legislation for catching bait fish and to take these fish sparingly,” a spokesperson said.
Dr. Fred Ming, Director of Environmental Protection said, “There have been complaints made to the Department that some fishermen are taking whole schools of bait. We are asking for the cooperation of these and all fishermen in taking bait in moderation. This will help to sustain the bait fish populations for generations to come.”
Fishers are also advised that the only fish permitted to be caught in nets are bait fish [i.e. herring, anchovies, “fry” and half beaks], jacks [except pompano], mackerel, yellowtail snappers over 30cm/12ins, and flying fish. All other fish captured must be released back into the ocean immediately.