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Anglers' fears for cod stocks

PUBLISHED: 09:27 08 February 2008 | UPDATED: 10:24 03 July 2010

Beach anglers being pestered incessantly by legions of

small codling aged under

one year may well believe that the statutory requirement, insisting these babies should be returned to the sea in order to grow bigger, is worth the effort on conservation grounds.

Beach anglers being pestered incessantly by legions of

small codling aged under

one year may well believe that the statutory requirement, insisting these babies should be returned to the sea in order to grow bigger, is worth the effort on conservation grounds.

However, do not bank on that. For this time last year the situation was very similar, but the sudden explosion of codling fry then turned out to be a false dawn, writes Roy Webster.

Right now beach anglers are mostly having to make do with small fish like whiting, dabs, flounders and the odd decent sole, with cod fit for the pan seen only on the beaches following stormy conditions.

At present, now that the winds have abated, the few quality cod out there are far beyond casting range, so the only return for the expense of buying bait, fuel and tackle to fish from the beaches is mostly small stuff or nothing at all.

Commercial overfishing has undoubtedly resulted in an ecological disaster for many edible sea species to the point where cod are now endangered.

And this was evident on a television documentary recently depicting tons of small dead codling being tipped back into the ocean from trawlers that had already landed their quotas.

This seems an almost criminal waste of fish resources but it is just one of the three reasons why beach anglers have been suffering such a lean time.

Another is that the shrimp beds that used to attract codling to within 150 yards of the shore off town beaches appear to have been smothered by commercial and domestic pollution spewing from the estuary.

Then another consideration is the burgeoning number of predatory seals in a black fish-eating population of mammals that stretch from Scroby Sands to Blakeney Point.

The annual consumption of sea fish by these hungry beasts is not quantifiable, but one educated estimate suggests these animals along our eastern seaboard consume a tonnage of cod equal to our European Community catch quotas.

These are the three main reasons why those shoals of cod fry never have a chance of reaching acceptable

sizes, let alone the maturity of breeding stock.

Actually it does not require that many spawning cod to produce the legions of undersize fish being caught now. But, alas, the fish gathered in such small shoals do not appear to possess the capacity to survive in sufficient numbers to persuade anglers that the Government's plan to bring in a sea-rod licence can ever be justified.

At present, beach fishing following last week's brisk north-westerly was very reasonable from marks between Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

After the big blow codling to 4lb were caught from the North Beach and three local anglers who fished from Corton shared a catch of 18 codling

to 5lb. One man in a boat reeled in 26 codling from a mark off Gorleston, but it was all too predictable.

Once the winds abated, the quality fish had gone, by now they may well be spread out along the slabs of the fish markets.

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