Sandown Bay Protection Forum

by David Proudfoot

Sandown Bay Protection Forum has launched a new website to publicise their concerns and are appealing to local residents and businesses to sign their online petition. The results will be used to pressure the Isle of Wight Council and the Portsmouth Harbour Authority to pass a bylaw to restrict netting activity within the Bay area.

With its picture postcard Blue Flag beaches, Sandown Bay is one of the Isle of Wight’s most popular tourist destinations. The bay is also famous for its excellent fishing for many species, but in particular for bass… one of the most sort after and valued UK sea fish. The ease of access for beach and boat fishing make Sandown Bay a popular destination for both local and visiting anglers.

To bring the plight of the Sandown Bay’s dwindling fish stocks to the attention of the public and the “powers that be”rdquo;, a group of anglers have organised themselves as the “Sandown Bay Protection Forum” (SBPF). Their aim is to bring the excessive netting in the bay under stricter control. The forum is not looking for a complete ban, just the preservation of fish stocks for the benefit of all. It is also felt that sheer density of Set Nets present in the area pose a safety threat to all water based leisure activities, not just angling.

A presentation to the Sandown Council by the forum has already begun due process which may lead to the creation of a new bylaw to restrict netting activity. The SBPF has now set up an on line petition which can be found at the Forum’s web site . In addition to this the SBPF is now also looking to gain pledges of support from local businesses and all other interested parties to help them in their quest to maintain Sandown Bay as a premier destination for anglers and tourists.

What are ‘Set Nets’?

In inshore waters set-nets are mainly fished by small boats for a variety of species, but because they are inshore they are also a hazard to others users of Sandown Bay that once was one of the safest bays for swimming and other inshore water sports in the country.

Set-nets are long walls of netting which trap fish by the gills or by entanglement. The netting is mostly woven from fine nylon twine, which is practically invisible underwater, and is hung on ropes with plastic floats which is attached to the headline to keep the netting upright, whilst the bottom line is weighted to ensure contact with the sea bed. Moorings are used at each end of the net which are weighed down by anchors heavy enough to hold the net in place and at the top end a buoy or buff which floats on the surface. If the buoy is too small it may not be clearly visible, and is subject to be hit by other vessels sometimes with catastrophic results. If the rope which attaches the buoy to the anchor is too short then at high water the buoy will be submerged often just under the surface creating an invisible hazard. If the rope is too long then at slack water (when there is no tide) the excess rope floats on the surface of the water creating a virtually invisible hazard to other users.

These nets may be used singly or a number joined in fleets with suitable moorings to hold them in place. There is a risk of catching sea birds and large mammals in larger mesh nets in shallow water. If the nets are not hauled quickly, the fish die and spoil. When the nets are hauled, spoilt and undersize fish are usually thrown back often dead.

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