Lobster pots and small craft safety


A concern to boaters for many years and it has been on the RYA's agenda for as long.

Fishing gear which poses a hazard to navigation because it cannot be readily seen has been a concern to boaters for many years and it has been on the RYA's agenda for as long. If there was a simple solution to the problem, we would have fixed it a long time ago.

Legislation focuses on the marking of fishing gear for identification purposes and not for collision avoidance - which is of course our main concern. There is a general marking requirement in UK legislation that in effect states that within UK Territorial Waters "Marker buoys and similar objects floating on the surface and intended to indicate the location of fishing gear shall be clearly marked at all times with the letter(s) and number(s) of the vessel to which they belong". Even if this legislation was adequately enforced, the problem would remain that gear needs to be marked so that it can be seen.

The Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009 gives Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) the express power to introduce byelaws "requiring specified items, or items of a specified description, that are used in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources to be marked in such manner as may be specified". The RYA considers that such a specification must ensure that not only can the owner of the gear be identified but also that it can be seen; we are working to achieve this.

Data on entanglements is poor and lacks detail.  The assumption that RNLI callouts to fouled propellers are all because of poorly marked gear is simply not supported by the records.

The RYA is aware that there is currently a petition urging the Minister of State (DEFRA) to improve the way static fishing gear is marked for the safety of small craft at sea. However, this will be curtailed as all petitions are being closed in preparation for the forthcoming General Election.

The RYA has a well-developed relationship with Government and its agencies. Through this we continue to seek better regulation for marking, improved enforcement action for those who ignore the law and robust data to support our work.

This article was published in April 2017.