Fly fishing

No 10 in new fishing line as foreign trawlers dump tons of bass in the English Channel

Foreign trawlers are dumping fish in the Channel as the government refuses to take action to curb the practice.

Footage obtained by The Telegraph shows a Dutch fly shooter who dumped thousands of fish last month by cutting a net.

There are strict limits for bass due to their low numbers, but fly shooters accidentally catch them while angling for other species and then have to release them back to sea, under UK government rules.

Fly shooters fish by dragging weighted ropes along the seabed with a long, thin net in between, designed to capture entire schools of fish.

However, campaigners say it shows fly shooters ‘cannot operate within sustainable legal limits’.

Dr Ian Hendy, a fisheries expert at the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Marine Science, estimated the video showed 10 tonnes of bass, or between 5,500 and 11,000 fish.

Although they were released, many would die from being caught in the net or due to damage to their swim bladders caused by a rapid surge to the surface, he said.

“Big fishermen don’t care…as long as they make a lot of money”

He said: “The impact on losses of genetic variability with breeding individuals is huge with such a large capture in one fell swoop. It is in no way a reflection on small-scale coastal fishermen. Big fishers rush in and don’t care about atrocities as long as they make a lot of money.

“They continually commit these atrocities without reprimand. It happens much more frequently than people realize. It wipes out entire fisheries – it’s the equivalent of napalming the ocean.

Trawling also releases carbon dioxide by scraping the seabed, leading to calls for it to be banned.

The catches seen in the video are considered unusually large, but experts said ‘bycatch’, where fish are accidentally caught by trawlers, was common and often resulted in spills.

The practice has drawn controversy and criticism from small-scale fishermen who say it harms fish stocks and prevents them from earning a living by fishing more sustainably.