Fishing is at the heart of the Ascension community. The opportunity to fish is so important and precious that AIG are proposing a new system that will ensure fish stocks stay healthy and that future generations of people living on Ascension can enjoy the same great fishing we have today. We are launching a public consultation on the strategy to get the views of people living on Ascension and ensure the system works for the community and will have wide support.
The proposed management system would be light-touch. It is based on the principle that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and won’t restrict people’s ability to fish unless a fish stock is in trouble and it is absolutely necessary. However, just as you take your car in for an MOT to check if there are any problems before the engine fails completely, so we need to keep checking how healthy our fish stocks are so we can spot issues early on and take sensible measures to keep things running smoothly.
The aim is to create a responsibly and sustainably managed fishery that benefits everyone on Ascension and has the people who fish at the heart of decision making.
The proposed strategy has five important parts:
Everyone over 18 will need to register or have a licence to fish on Ascension. People who live on Ascension (those with a contract of more than 6 months and their dependents) would only need to register each year to be able to fish from a boat or the rocks. This will be FREE. Visitors and businesses will need a licence to fish on Ascension. Businesses would include both those selling fish on the island and sports fishing companies. Boat owners taking friends out fishing and receiving a contribution towards the running costs of the boat would not be classed as a business.
Proposed licence costs are shown in the table below.
|Registration or licence
|People living on Ascension
|Visitors/short term contractors
|Visiting sports fishing vessel
|Up to 30 days
|Sports fishing business licenced on Ascension
|Sports fishing client
|Retail fish businesses
|Scientific research fishing
We need good data so that any problems with a fish stock are identified early and the right management measures put in place. AIG Conservation can collect some data, but the fishing community is in the best position to collect information about the health of fish stocks. Everyone registering to fish will be asked to do this by filling in a log book about what they catch. Licence conditions will mean all businesses and visitors will need to provide data on the fish they catch.
The data collection described above will be the starting point for assessing how well Ascension’s inshore fish stocks are doing. For example, if we see a very rapid decline in the number of eels caught or a reduction in the size of grouper recorded in surveys, then we may be concerned about these stocks and consider recommending management measures. If the data do show a decline in a fish species, it does not necessarily mean overfishing is to blame. However, adjusting the fishing pressure may still be necessary to maintain good fish stocks in the face of factors such as climate change.
AIG Conservation scientists will compile and analyse the data, but it is the fishing community that will be most affected so they should be at the heart of decision making. The Inshore Fisheries Advisory Committee (IFAC), made up of members of the fishing community, and AIG Conservation will work together to provide recommendations to the Ascension Island Council about whether any stocks are in trouble and need management measures. The Council in turn will advise the Administrator about whether any measures should be introduced.
To meet our international obligations, minimum landing sizes of 251cm for blue marlin, 168cm for white marlin and 125cm for swordfish will be introduced. Other management measures will only be introduced if it is felt necessary to protect the stock based on an analysis of the data collected. The same process for deciding whether management measures are needed will also recommend what types of measures should be introduced. As a minimum, all management measures will be reviewed by AIGCFD and the IFAC every six months to ensure they are still relevant and necessary. The types of management measures that could be introduced if they are needed include:
There are some types of fishing that are never sustainable and would be prohibited under the new system. These are not commonly practiced by Ascension fishermen and are:
We know fishing is important to many people living on Ascension and that people care passionately about it. We would, therefore, encourage everyone interested to give us their thoughts on the proposed new system. There will be public meetings at Saints Club at 19:00 on 27 April and Two Boats Club at 19:00 on 28 April as well as questionnaires distributed around the island. We really do want to hear your views.
AIG Conservation and Fisheries Directorate