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Sound ‘bassis’ for restrictions

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Simon Hart MP (C): Recently complained to Environment minister over impact on recreational anglers

Simon Hart MP (C): Recently complained to Environment minister over impact on recreational anglers

ONE of the latest political footballs in the run-up to the Assembly elections and the EU referendum later this year is one that will resonate with a number of people living and working near the coast of south west Wales.

In January, a six month ban on catching bass was introduced, while a shorter ban for commercial fishermen runs concurrently. After this, a quota system will be put in place, limiting the number of fish which both commercial and recreational fishermen can take, for the remainder of the year.

UKIP in particular has taken this issue to heart. As The Herald reported last week, Llanelli candidate Ken Rees claimed that local commercial fishermen would be unable to survive if the rules were passed, and that it would lead to a situation ‘whereby a local fisherman innocently lands some bass on a local beach, only to be pounced on by the Marine Management Organisation, taken through the courts, and fined’.

Local MP and keen bass fisherman Simon Hart has also voiced his opposition to the legislation as it applies to shore fishermen. Mr Rees also suggested that many people would be unaware that the ban had begun.

WHAT WILL THE RESTRICTIONS BE?

As of January 1, recreational sea anglers (RSAs) will be forced to follow ‘catch and release’ practice, meaning that recreational fishing for bass is not prohibited, although taking fish for the table is. This will continue until the end of June.

From July 1 until December 31, RSAs will be able to retain one bass per day – a reduction from last year, when it was permitted to retain three. It is thought that similar measures will be put in place again next year.

In the commercial rod-and-line and netting fishery, fishing will be completely prohibited in February and March. During January and April-June, each boat will have a monthly catch limit of 1.3 tonnes. For the entire six-month period, vessels fishing with trawls and seine nets will not be permitted to target bass, and a maximum of 1% ‘accidental catch’ out of the total catch can be made up of bass.

From July –December, boats will be set a catch limit of 1,000 kilos per month.

An increase in minimum size, from 36cm to 42cm which was introduced in September last year has also been retained.

WHY HAVE THESE RESTRICTIONS BEEN INTRODUCED?

The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has been expressing concerns about bass stocks in European waters for some time. In 2004, their advice was that the bass fishery should not be allowed to increase. At this point, the UK, which is one of the major commercial bass fisheries along with France, landed 617 tonnes. In 2014, a total of 1003 tonnes were landed by British commercial fishermen – an increase of nearly 40%.

At the same time, the spawning stock of bass – which generally reach maturity at around 6-7 years of age – has plummeted from 15,000 tonnes down to around half of that in July 2015. This is below the level at which the sustainability of the fishery is considered to be in danger.

ICES suggested that the maximum sustainable yield of the bass fishery for 2016 would be no more than 541 tonnes slightly less than a fifth of what was landed in 2014.

Interestingly, their report suggested that they had ‘no basis for advising on the allocation of landings between commercial and recreational fisheries ‘. It is thought that quantifying the number of fish caught yearly by recreational anglers is problematic, and that accurate data for this would be almost impossible to obtain.

The commercial bass fishery in Wales is far smaller than its English counterpart. In 2014, 911 tonnes of bass were landed in England, compared to just 92 tonnes in Wales. The money generated by the Welsh commercial bass fishery was around £600,000, as opposed to more than £6.5m in England. In 2014, the Welsh commercial fishery accounted for 3.3% of the total EU catch. The English landings of bass accounted for 34% of the EU total.

In a statement following the introduction of the restrictions in December, the Welsh Government said : “At the EU Fisheries Council held in Brussels on December 14 -15, 2015 a number of important management measures for sea bass fishing in 2016 were agreed. These are based on a clear acceptance of the compelling scientific advice that the bass stock in the southern half of the North Sea, the waters of the English Channel and the Celtic and Irish Sea remains under severe fishing pressure.

“The Welsh Government believes the new measures will prove effective in halting the continued decline in the sea bass stocks and will also continue to support the low impact nature of our bass fishery for the commercial and the recreational industry.”

It is thought that, rather than the restrictions being the result of ‘EU bureaucracy and red tape’ the reason for implementing EU-wide legislation was as a result of member states – including Britain and France – failing to legislate their fisheries effectively, if at all.

Bass are a non-quota species, which means that these monthly boat-by-boat catch limits are all that can be realistically imposed to protect stocks. Prior to last year, there was no limit on how many fish a country, or individual vessel, could take.

EFFECTIVENESS OF THE RESTRICTIONS

Opinion is sharply divided over how effective the catch limits for recreational and commercial fishermen will prove. Local MP Simon Hart – a member of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group – met with environment secretary Liz Truss to complain about the impact on recreational anglers.

Mr Hart said: “EU Fisheries Ministers caved in to pressure from commercial fishing interests and granted four month exemptions to commercial hook and line and the highly damaging bass fixed gill net fishery which are responsible for 50% of landings.

“At the same time anglers face draconian restrictions and are at risk of criminalisation if they try to keep the self-same bass that a netsman is free to kill during the moratorium.”

Mr Hart added: “Recreational anglers are prepared to play their part in what was expected to be a fair, effective and proportionate package of measures that would help rebuild bass stocks but this has not happened.

“The recreational bag limits are grossly unfair, make an ass of the law and fail to acknowledge that recreational sea angling is the most sustainable form of bass fishing which delivers the best economic return.”

While it is possibly difficult to understand how removing more fish from a depleted stock will make recreational fishing more sustainable, Mr Hart raises a valid point about commercial fishing activity during the first six months of the year.

The original proposals called for a blanket ban on all fishing for bass, with the exception of recreational ‘catch and release’ fishing for six months. This led to an outcry from the commercial fishing industry, with many lobbying Euro MPs and politicians to stop this ban. Stephen De-Waine of the West Wales Shellfishermen’s Association was among those.

In his letter to Welsh MEPs, Mr De-Waine said: “It will have devastating economic consequences for not only Welsh fishermen, some of who rely totally on catching bass for a living, but also with all the fish buyers and businesses which provide fishermen with consumable and non-consumable goods to support their businesses.”

February and March were chosen for the two month blanket ban because this is considered to be the spawning season for bass.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that the commercial bass fishery in Wales is not a year-round occupation. In Pembrokeshire, for example, most of the commercial rod-and-line boats do not begin fishing until around April, at the earliest, with gill netters beginning before. As is currently the case, weather conditions are generally too rough for the operation of small inshore boats (typically less than 10 metres in length) in January and February.

Therefore, while a six month ban would have caused a loss of earnings to fishermen for a period of around two months, there is no reason to assume that the ban could not have run from January-April, something which may have reduced the resentment felt by recreational fishermen who feel that they are being asked to do more than their bit.

IS IT THE EU’S FAULT?

Pair trawling: Blamed for over-fishing

Pair trawling: Blamed for over-fishing

While UKIP has made serious political capital from the ban, along with other EU fishing regulations, the fact remains that bass stocks in British and Welsh waters were in steep and sustained decline, and had been for at least a decade. Natural factors have played a part in this – bass larva are vulnerable to sustained periods of cold or rough weather early in their lives – it is hard not to see a correlation between increased fishing and declining stocks.

Bass are known to group together in large numbers to spawn in February and March, when they are targeted by pelagic trawls. This is particularly damaging to a sustainable fishery, in that many fish are killed before they have a chance to reproduce.

While trawlers only account for around a third of bass taken in the fishery (34% in 2014) catches like these are far more harmful to stocks, and as such, should be restricted. Pair trawlers have also been suspected of causing the deaths of dolphins and porpoises, although this has not been conclusively proven.

The Welsh Government, as it has with other fisheries including the Cardigan Bay scallop fishery, appears to be aiming for a sustainable fishery. Unlike in England, the Welsh Government has launched a Task and Finish Group to consider the future of bass fishing, and has held several meetings.

An attendee with a stake in the industry, who asked not to be named, told us that there was a general consensus that the fishery had to be legislated in some way to make it sustainable. One of the ideas at the meeting which was widely supported was the banning of pelagic trawling in Welsh waters. This, while not widespread at present, could become more so as the seas warm, so a ban would be an effective pre-emptive measure to preserve future stocks.

The misapprehension persists that it will be illegal to catch bass during the first six months of the year. In fact, they can still be caught for sport, as long as they are returned to the water alive. The image of innocent pleasure fishermen being dragged off the beach by enforcement officers for accidentally hooking a bass is therefore somewhat misleading.

There are around 20 fisheries enforcement officers working in Wales, covering all aspects of commercial fishing and catches landed in Welsh waters. This would give the impression that, like the ban on smoking on beaches, the one-bag limit in the summer will be practically unenforceable, and will rely on the honesty of individual anglers.

Penalising powers available include verbal and written warnings, as well as prosecution.

In some ways, the commercial fishery is more easily regulated. However, there will be few Welsh commercial boats in danger of exceeding the 1,000kg per month quota. A total catch of 92 tonnes, even assuming that there are only 30 rod-and-line boats or gill netters in Wales, equates to around three tonnes per boat.

Between April and September, the traditional season, this equates to around half a tonne each. While netters catch more fish, the difference is not as great as one might think (30% in fixed and drift nets, compared to 19% commercial rod-and-line in 2014).

SO, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

It is hoped that the restrictions will reduce the number of bass landed to around 1500 tonnes in 2016, from 2,682 tonnes in 2014. If this was applied proportionally to the Welsh fishery, this would lead to landings of around 50 tonnes. However, the biggest catch reductions will be among trawlers – not a regularly employed method in Wales. As stated earlier, the monthly maximum catch limits are unlikely to affect most of the inshore fishermen in Wales, especially as tides and weather conditions will prevent them from fishing anything like 30 days a month.

If anything, the restrictions placed on trawling, and the ban on fishing in February and March, should increase the number of fish successfully spawning, which could lead to an increase in stocks.

While 1500 tonnes is still almost three times the limit recommended by ICES, it represents a step towards a more sustainable fishery, and should go at least a small way to arresting the decline in bass numbers.

For recreational anglers, there are certain inequalities evident. For example a retired person fishing 30 days a month could take 30 bass per month, while someone only able to fish on weekends would be limited to eight or ten. However, as suggested earlier, it is much more difficult to monitor the catches of recreational anglers, meaning that a monthly quota would be almost impossible to impose.

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Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award

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ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.

The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.

The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.

Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.

“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.

As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.

“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.

“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”

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Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years

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Carmarthenshire County Council

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.

The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.

However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.

The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.

All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.

The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.

Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).

It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.

He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.

“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.

“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.

“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.

“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.

“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”

Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.

“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.

“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”

The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest

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POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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