RECREATIONAL angling activities could be curbed in Hartlepool by new conservation measures, a town organisation has warned.
Hartlepool Boatowners’ Association is warning town anglers of the potential changes which they say will have a knock-on effect for fishing.
The North Eastern Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NEIFCA) is currently consulting on new byelaw regulations to protect shellfish stocks.
Tug Wilson, chairman of Hartlepool Boatowners’ Association, says the new rules will affect recreational anglers by preventing them from gathering bait and collecting crabs and lobsters pots between Seaton Carew and Saltburn.
Mr Wilson said: “This area is part of a protected European Marine Site managed by NEIFCA.
“It would put a stop to potting of crab and lobster, digging for bait and taking any shellfish or crustaceans off the beach.
“This includes all estuaries on the Tees where I know bait gathering is carried out and Seaton foreshore where bass fishing often takes place.
“The only recreation for a lot of guys around here is to do a bit of angling.
“They have to dig for their bait because it is very expensive to buy and if they can’t afford to buy it they are not going to be able to go fishing.”
The coast around Hartlepool is classed as a Special Protection Area by NEIFCA.
The new bylaw would also see a prohibition on the use of edible crab for bait.
NEIFCA stated in its latest newsletter: “Alongside a wide range of partner organisations, the authority has a legal duty to ensure that all fisheries-related activities, occurring with the boundaries of these sites, are managed sustainably and not adversely affecting associated protected features.
“Although the authority’s main focus to date has centred on trawling activities, the revised national approach has implications for other fishing sectors particularly those using pots and nets or gathering bait within European Marine Sites.”
Mr Wilson, of the Rift House area of Hartlepool, said he would accept the restrictions but is keen to raise awareness among recreational anglers of the potential consequences for breaking the rules.
He said: “It is just one of those things we will have to live with but people should know about the restrictions.
“If anyone is caught fishing or doing anything in the restricted zone their equipment could be confiscated and fined anything up to £1,000.”