Description

Gathering of molluscs or crustaceans or digging for fishing bait within the intertidal zone

Key locations

Bait collection for fishing is believed to occur on all suitable sediment shores throughout Northumberland and North Tyneside unless restrictions apply. Bait digging on the Berwickshire coast is believed to be minimal.

Collection of species such as periwinkle from rocky shores is believed to occur from all suitable locations within Berwickshire and Northumberland.

Commercial periwinkle fishery is thought to take place on rocks off Lookout Point at Seahouses.

Mussels are commercially harvested  at Fenham Flats near Lindisfarne

Frequency

Bait digging all year round but mainly September to March on low tides Rocky shore species are collected mainly during the summer months Periwinkle (Littorina littorea) is collected throughout the year. Lobsters and edible crabs mainly during the summer months

Potential issues

  • Biological disturbance – removal of crabs/ lobsters/ periwinkles (Littorina littorea) from rocky shores, and removal of sediment-dwelling worms from sandy and muddy shores. Non-target species can also be damaged/disturbed.
  • Physical damage to the structure of the interest feature caused by the movement of rocks and boulders, or digging of sand and mud
  • Bird disturbance

Features of Marine Protected Areas which might be affected

  • Reefs
  • Sea caves
  • Sand and mud flats
  • Inlets and bays
  • Grey seal
  • Birds (wintering)

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (England)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
IFCA bylaw making powers Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (section 155-162) Northumberland IFCA
Local Authority bylaw making powers Local Government Act 1972

The Byelaws (Alternative Procedure) (England) Regulations 2016

Public Health Amendment Acts 1907 (Section 82)

Northumberland County Council

North Tyneside Council

NNR bylaws making powers National Park and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (Sections 20 and 106) Natural England
Power to create Bylaws for European Marine Sites The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regulation 40) Marine Management Organisation
Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) of impacts

 

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regulation 63) All Competent or Responsible Authorities as defined by the Regulation.
SSSI Consent, Assent or  Advice

 

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) (Section 28) Natural England
Powers for creation of bylaws on  Marine Conservation Zones

 

Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Section 129) Marine Management Organisation

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (England)

The following guidance, codes, plans or strategies are also relevant to the management of this activity:

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
NIFCA Code of Conduct for mussel collecting on Blyth Estuary Voluntary Code of Conduct for collection of mussels within the Blyth Estuary Northumberland IFCA Non-Statutory
Voluntary agreement and Code of Conduct at Boulmer Haven Code of Conduct for bait collection Northumberland County Council Non-Statutory

Details of Current Management (England)

Intertidal hand gathering activities fall into two broad categories: 1) gathering of crustaceans or molluscs for consumption; and 2) collection of fishing bait. (including worms). The collection of intertidal ‘sea fish’ (fish, molluscs and crustaceans) is a public right and is regarded as part of the inalienable right to fish in tidal waters. For species which are considered sea fish the public right to fish means that both commercial collection and that for personal use can be carried out. This right to fish is capable of being regulated and managed (e.g. through byelaws) although in practice much hand gathering is largely goes unregulated. 

The public right to collect bait worms is ancillary to the public right to fish and is limited to personal use only. In practice, it is difficult to differentiate between personal and commercial bait collectors on the ground.

Collection of species from the rocky shore in England does not require a permit when for recreational/personal use but NIFCA byelaws for intertidal species collection enforce European and national minimum landing size for crab (edible and velvet), lobster and Nephrops, plus the number of individuals of crab (5), lobster (2), whelk (20) and prawn (5) that can be landed by an individual in any one day.

Bait collection (recreational and commercial):

Management responsibilities for bait gathering are complex, lying with various organisations depending on the landownership and impact issues.

Bait digging for personal/recreational use is ancillary to the right to fish from the foreshore and can be regulated and managed. No legal right exists to gather bait for commercial sale or reward. Commercial bait digging requires consent from the land owner and any relevant authority. Collection of species from the rocky shore for commercial use requires a permit from NIFCA if undertaken in Northumberland or North Tyneside.

Peeler crabs (crabs which have recently moulted and are still soft) are a sought after bait items. In some locations shelters, such as tyres, are placed in intertidal areas to aid collection. The legal basis of this is unclear. The right to fish on the foreshore includes the right to place fishing gear there without landowners’ permission. However, fishing gear must entrap ‘seafish’, which crab shelters do not – they simply provide habitat – so in theory landowner permission is required. The use of tyres as a shelter for peeler crabs appears to be on the increase in estuaries and further data is required on the extent of this practice and on its impacts.

A Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve byelaw restricts bait digging within the reserve, although a voluntary agreement with anglers allows some bait digging on either side of the Holy Island causeway. The area of this zone will likely be changed in the future in order to protect the seagrass under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive.

A voluntary agreement is in place at Boulmer Haven involving Northumberland County Council, foreshore owners and angling organisations, combined with a local authority byelaw. The agreement and byelaw restrict bait digging in the north area of the bay to allow access to boats. A copy of the byelaw can be downloaded HERE

Bylaws:

NIFCA byelaws ban digging in areas of seagrass within the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast SAC (Byelaw 8) and restrict the use of edible crabs for use as bait (Byelaw 3)

A Northumberland County Council byelaw prohibits digging in northern half of Boulmer Haven but is not enforced. A copy of the byelaw can be downloaded HERE The restrictions were not put in place for the purpose of environmental protection, but they do help to protect the conservation interest of the shore.

Lindisfarne NNR byelaws prohibit digging within NNR.

No regulations are place outside of these areas.

Mussel Beds:

This is a private fishery on Ross Sands where low level harvesting is regulated by a NIFCA permit.  Northumberland IFCA carries out an annual mussel survey to assess the stocks and to provide a baseline from which future management decisions can be made. Historically mussel harvesting also took place on beds south of Holy Island.

Unregulated collection takes place on Holy Island and Blyth. NIFCA  have a code of conduct in place for Blyth.

Collection of mussels from SSSI sites, if carried out or permitted by the owner or occupier of the land, will require consent from Natural England.

Periwinkle collection:

Commercial collection of periwinkle (Littorina littorea) takes place on the Tweed Estuary and there are reports of a commercial off Lookout Point at Seahouses.  Buyers will apparently only buy individuals over a certain size, smaller individuals are sieved out and put back. There is currently no regulation in place for periwinkle fisheries. Any future regulation would require a Habitat Regulations Assessment.

Gaps in Management (England)

More information is needed about the extent of the use of tyres as shelters for peeler crabs and on the impacts of this practice. No regulation of periwinkle collection. Byelaws are generally not applicable to activities ancillary to the common right to fish, such as bait digging, although bait digging is still covered by the Habitats Regulations. Nothing to control turned boulders/cobbles – awareness-raising may be needed.

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (Scotland)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Power to create Bylaws for European Marine Sites The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (Regulation 28) Marine Scotland
Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) of impacts

 

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994

(Regulation 48)

All Competent or Responsible Authorities as defined by the Regulation.
SSSI Consent, Assent or  Advice

 

Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (Sections 13-17) Scottish Natural Heritage

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (Scotland)

The following guidance, codes, plans or strategies are also relevant to the management of this activity:

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
St Abbs to Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve (VMR) agreements and codes

 

The St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve (VMR) has a voluntary no-take provision within its boundary that is generally well complied with. St Abbs to Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve Non-Statutory

Details of Current Management (Scotland)

Intertidal hand gathering activities fall into two broad categories: 1) gathering of crustaceans or molluscs for consumption; and 2) collection of fishing bait. (including worms). The collection of intertidal ‘sea fish’ (fish, molluscs and crustaceans) is a public right and is regarded as part of the inalienable right to fish in tidal waters. 3. For species which are considered sea fish the public right to fish means that both commercial collection and that for personal use can be carried out. This right to fish is capable of being regulated and managed (e.g. through byelaws) although in practice much hand gathering is largely goes unregulated. 

The public right to collect bait worms is ancillary to the public right to fish and is limited to personal use only. In practice, it is difficult to differentiate between personal and commercial bait collectors on the ground. In Scotland mussels  belong to the crown through The Mussels Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1847 and permission must be gained from Crown Estate Scotland before commercial collection can be carried out.

There is believed to be minimal intertidal hand gathering of species within the Berwickshire coast, although more information is required on this.

The St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve (VMR) has a voluntary no-take provision within its boundary that is generally well complied with.

Gaps in Management (Scotland)

Need further information about the extent of intertidal hand gathering on the Berwickshire coast.