A sailing club was preparing for one of its regular dinghy races. The normal starting area off the club was severely hampered by many lobster pot lines floating on the surface without counter-weights. There are practical constraints on moving the starting area. Navigating through the lines in a rescue boat would be severely hampered. Is there any legislation to have these lines weighted or positioned away from the shore?
CHIRP continues to receive a large number of reports about fishing gear, including some in which disabled craft have had to be towed to safety by a lifeboat.
As we have previously mentioned, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency ( MCA) has recently issued Advice to Fishermen and Yachtsmen on the Marking of Fishing Gear. This is available on the MCA website. The guidance includes
- Fishing gear should be clearly marked with buoys and flags.
- Action should be taken to avoid the dangerous practice of lines floating on the surface.
- Owner of the gear to be marked on the buoys.
- Gear should be sited outside navigable channels.
As further information, we add that:
- The leaflet is advisory. Regulation of fishing matters lies with the Sea Fisheries Committees, Harbour Authorities and Devolved Administrations.
- The advice has been developed with input from the fishing industry. However many lobster pots are laid by non-commercial fishermen.
We are under no illusion that we are going to see an immediate improvement. Nevertheless we believe that the MCA advisory leaflet is a helpful first step in addressing the issue. CHIRP continues to encourage reporting of incidents as they provide evidence of the need for on-going progress.
In the meantime, those involved in leisure sailing have to address the practical difficulties that arise, such as those described in the report. In this type of situation a Race Officer may wish to consider the following:
- Is there a significant probability that the patrol craft will be required to provide assistance to competitors in the area hampered by buoys and floating lines?
- What would be the consequence if it is unable to do, or if the patrol boat becomes disabled due to a fouled propeller? Take into account the weather and tidal conditions.
- Is there an alternative of moving the starting area, e.g. by starting from a committee boat.? Can the affected area be made a prohibited area for the race?
In the medium term, the best way forward may be to enter a constructive dialogue with the local fishermen to discuss the situation, as it is probable that neither party has exclusive usage of the area. Some of the solutions, (for example, shortening and/or weighting of lines, use of marker buoys with flags) are technically simple but need goodwill to implement.