THE National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has joined the fight to combat the trade in fish caught by unlicensed vessels.
The move is a response to growing concerns about this traffic, which the NFFO says is not a victimless crime.
A wide ranging information campaign, launched in Fishmongers Hall in London, included the Marine Management Organisation, inshore fishing groups and other bodies.
The campaign is supported by the NFFO, the Angling Trust and the British Hospitality Association, which all say they share the same concerns.
The NFFO said trade in fish from unlicensed vessels is illegal. But the sale of fish from this source is a significant and growing problem.
‘We have conservation measures in place to safeguard our fish stocks and where they are being circumvented by semi-professional fishermen operating from unlicensed vessels, it is not something that we can or should ignore,’ said the NFFO.
‘The quantities that are being caught and sold by unlicensed vessels are now significant and beyond anything that could reasonably be called recreational fishing.’
The NFFO believes the campaign isn’t the whole answer but the buyers of illegal fish must be made aware that they are aiding and abetting criminal behaviour that undermines attempts to manage fish stocks on a sustainable basis; and poses a direct threat to the livelihoods of genuine fishermen operating from licensed vessels and subject to various controls.
‘High value species like bass and cod are being caught and sold illegally in increasing numbers to shops and restaurants.
‘This undermines the market for genuine fishermen and because this backdoor fish goes unrecorded, it also threatens to undermine our efforts to manage these stocks sustainably.
‘There are other options available to tackle the problem, from putting bag limits on recreational catches of all affected species, to naming and shaming businesses successfully prosecuted for buying fish from unlicensed boats.
‘But it is right to start with this information campaign in the belief that once these businesses know what is at stake, they will want to do the right thing.’