The bait which is an integral part of the coastal life is often perceived as a low-value resource due to limited fisheries data, locally focused, and largely unregulated. A wide range of marine invertebrates can be used for bait depending on the season, personal preference, and the species to be caught, but in nearly all locations, intertidal soft-sediment polychaetes are the dominant group collected. Generally, commercial and semi-professional fisheries for polychaete worms supply the regional and international markets for bait worms for recreational fishing. There is also a direct harvest of polychaetes from the wild by recreational fishers which is generally accepted to be a substantial portion of the total harvest. The first global assessment of polychaete bait fisheries was manifested based on an empirical assessment of three UK-based ragworm fisheries combined with an analysis of published literature. According to this assessment, the five most expensive (retail price per kg) marine polychaete species sold on the global fisheries market are (Glycera dibranchiata, Diopatra aciculata, Nereis (Alitta) virens, Arenicola defodiens and Marphysa sanguinea). With approximately 121 000 tonnes of polychaetes collected globally valued at £5.9 billion, it was estimated that 1600 t of N. virens per annum (worth £52 million) are landed in the UK alone. Activities of collectors at local collection sites monitored using remote closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras showed considerable activity with a mean of 3.14 collectors per tide (day and night) at one site. Moreover, individuals were digging for up to 3 h per tide, although intensity differed seasonally and between sites. Collectors usually walked considerable distance across the intertidal sediment to reach areas that were usually already dug and collect on average 1.4 kg of N. virens per person per hour. In addition, the demand for wild-caught polychaetes could surge as an ever-expanding aquaculture industry increases polychaete consumption for use as maturation diets for broodstock and to offset stagnations in the supply of fish meal and fish oil. To ensure sustainability and to minimize the environmental impacts of coastal regions, urgent action is required against wild biomass collection. Within the context of fisheries and conservation management, the implications of these human activity and biomass removal levels are explored. Polychaete bait fisheries are highly valuable at the local, regional and national scales. Removal of significant biomass from the wild might have considerable impacts and therefore, urgent governance equivalent to other fisheries is the need of the time.
For more details please visit the link: Bait worms: a valuable and important fishery with implications for fisheries and conservation management