The RYA is urging sailors to report all sightings and entanglements involving poorly marked fishing gear as it reveals a lack of data on the issue

A campaign to improve the visibility of fishing gear at sea is appealing to sailors to report all cases of entanglement.

The RYA said a lack of data could jeopardise attempts to get gear properly marked.

The appeal comes after the Cruising Association (CA) launched a petition urging the Government to take action to make lobster pots safer for small vessels.

The CA’s patron, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Yachting Monthly are backing the campaign.

So far, just over 4,150 people have signed the petition: 10,000 need to sign in order for the Government to respond.

Sign the Cruising Association petition here

To help encourage the reporting of entanglement, the RYA launched an online form in May.

But, the association says just 85 reports have been submitted despite considerable anecdotal evidence that incidents occur much more frequently.

The RYA said data is essential to support negotiations on improving the visibility of static fishing gear, and it is relying on boaters to report incidents.

Since May, only 58 entanglements and 27 observations have been reported. The data has been used to identify hotspots around the UK.

However, the RYA is concerned that unless the CA petition is backed by data, the Government might dismiss the campaign, believing it to just be an emotive subject.

It said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) had made it clear that solid evidence clearly showing unacceptable safety risks and costs to boaters as a result of poorly marked fishing gear was needed before further action could be considered.

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The RYA cruising manager, Stuart Carruthers, urged all sailors to report poorly marked fishing gear.

“For many years the RYA has been concerned by reports of boaters who have experienced fouled propellers and entanglement with sea-fishing gear such as nets, pots and associated markers, flags and lines,” he said.

“While fishing equipment cannot be charted, we believe that it should be properly marked so that it is visible by both day and night. This will avoid damage to small craft and the loss of fishing gear for the fishermen,” explained Carruthers.

“We are pleased that the Cruising Association is encouraging boaters to complete the RYA online form. We have had direct discussions with DEFRA and MMO who have made it clear that they would need solid evidence clearly demonstrating that the safety risk and/or cost of poorly marked fishing gear is unacceptable before they consider taking action,” stated the cruising manager.

He stressed that discussing the issue on forums and social media would not provide the evidence needed.

“To demonstrate that it is as significant as the concerns that people voice, we need boaters who have spotted poorly marked gear or experienced an entanglement to complete the form,” stressed Carruthers.

“Please don’t leave it to the boat next door; if you have an entanglement, report it. Observation reports will also help improve the heat map of hot spot areas around the coast that boaters should be aware of,” he continued.

“We have a well-developed relationship with Government and its agencies. Through this and with better data, we continue to seek better regulation for marking and improved enforcement action for those who ignore the law,” added Carruthers.