Coracle Men Threaten to Take Human Rights Action; FISHING: River Regulations

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBIN TURNER

CORACLE fishermen are planning to go to the European Court of Human Rights to protect their ancient craft from the threat of extinction.

They claim the historic Welsh tradition of coracle fishing could die out because a review of river regulations favours rod and line anglers.

That is the view of Mike Elias, one of just 25 coracle fishermen left in the world.

He and his fellow coracle fishermen cast their nets on the Tywi, Teifi and Taff rivers in West Wales, a unique tradition thought to date back to Roman times. But he believes a review of the 1975 Freshwater Fisheries Act, the recommendations of which will go to Parliament for approval this year, threatens to bring an end to the coracles.

He said, "We feel that rod and line angling has become too strong and has had too much of an influence over this review.

"At the moment we can challenge net limitation orders which can be brought in to reduce coracle fishing licences, but if the review recommendations are accepted that right of appeal could come to an end.

"The recommendations also give stronger powers to local and regional fishing groups and that would mean the balance of power going to the angling lobby.

"It could mean that rod and line fisherman would be able to have the final say on how many coracle and net fishing licences there should be, and it's likely they will want to reduce our numbers still further."

There are just 24 coracle fishing licences allowed on the West Wales rivers, the only place in the world where coracle netsmen work rivers.

Mr Elias, a Carmarthen town councillor and secretary of the Welsh Netsmen's Association who has a long family tradition of coracle fishing, said the netsmen were considering implementing human rights legislation to ensure their rights to fish in the traditional method were maintained.

He said, "We have been warning for some time that this very old fishing tradition could be forced out by the very powerful angling community. It seems now that those fears are very close to being borne out by new laws which could work against us.

"What we are very concerned about is the way these recommendations for changes in fishery regulations have come about.

"The panel established to head the review for change was 99pc made up of people with angling interests and Jack Cunningham, the minister overseeing the project, has been quoted as saying how much he loves rod and line angling. …