BASS writes to WAG

On 11 October 2006, Carwyn Jones, Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside for the Welsh Assembly Government announced the results of the consultation into the proposal to increase the minimum landing size (mls) of bass, together with an appropriate increase in the commercial net mesh size.

BASS have written to the Minister expressing their dismay and concerns over his decision, as well as take the Minister to task, over reference in his statement to the figures of bass sales by unlicensed fishermen, which he claims were supplied by BASS. His claim is incorrect.

A copy of the letter to the Minister is published below.

Letter dated 16 October 2006 to Mr Carwyn Jones AM, Minister for Environment, Planning & Countryside, Welsh Assembly Government

Ref: Consultation on increasing the minimum landing size for bass

Dear Sir

It is with great regret and a sense of disbelief that I write to you regarding your announcement of the 11th October.

Our society and other angling organisations are dismayed at your decision not to increase the mls for bass to 45cms. An opportunity to protect and develop the brood stocks of Wales’ bass has been wasted, in favour of pandering to the short-term profiteering of a vociferous minority of commercial exploiters.

Clearly, the views of the angling community have fallen on deaf ears, despite the consultation responses being in favour of increasing the mls, by more that 4 to 1.

The fact that bass will still be targeted before the majority will have spawned will certainly ensure the continued decline of the recreational sport fishery and within time, the demise of the commercial fishery, for without a robust brood stock the juvenile fish, which currently support commercial exploiters, will dwindle in numbers to the point where they become uneconomic to pursue.

How can this be allowed to happen, when so much evidence to support an increase in the mls, has been provided?

How can the concerns and recommendations of impartial organisations such as SWSFC, CCW and EAW, who recommended increases to first spawning size as a minimum, be ignored, along with all those anglers who responded in good faith in the hope that common sense and prudent management would prevail?

Certainly, a standardisation of mls was long overdue in Welsh waters and catch restrictions, to reduce black fish landings, can be supported by anglers –
But only as part of a package of conservation measures which, include an increased mls to 45cm and capping of commercial effort on bass, which have been outlined to the Minister in our consultation responses and at the meeting held with angling representatives.

The announced measures merely tinker around the edges of the problems, which face the inshore bass stocks, from unlimited commercial pressure and all that this announcement promises is the preservation of bass for commercial exploiters – not a strengthening of the stock, or an increase in the size and availability of bass for the recreational sector.

So what exactly will this decision achieve?

1) This decision will marginalise anglers, who despite the fine words of ‘being valued stakeholders in fisheries management’ and recognition of the huge expenditure that they commit to the economy of Wales, have seen their support for an increase in the mls on biological and economic grounds swept aside in preference for a derisory increase of 1.5cm in areas outside of the SWSFC jurisdiction.

Effect – It will have serious implications for the tourism value of sea angling in Wales.

2) It will create a disparity between the bass mls in Wales and England.

Effect – Making it impossible for smaller bass caught in Wales, to be transported and/or sold in England – which is really good news for the commercial sector in Wales, who now have their market restricted solely to Wales, for bass between 37.5 and 40cms.

3) The same disparity will allow English vessels to catch and land into Wales any bass of between 37.5 and 40cm – Fish over 40cms will be landed into English ports, where prices are likely to be higher. The 200 members of the Cornish Fish Producers Org Ltd. (see consultation responses) will doubtless be laughing all the way to the bank, now that they can target Welsh bass below the English mls and have a market for them in Wales.

Effect -This increased volume at market will suppress local prices (the main reason given by the commercial sector for introducing bag limits on unlicenced catchers and sellers) due to supply exceeding the restricted demand within Wales.

4) Vessels from Cornwall and North Devon will make a bee line for Wales, in search of smaller sized bass, which they claim the fish-eating public prefer (which is complete nonsense, but that is their claim).

Effect – The decimation of the inshore bass stocks along the coast of Wales, in a mad free-for-all and something akin to a gold rush, until localised stocks have been exhausted.

In our opinion, if a management plan were ever required to:-

  • Eradicate bass from the coast of Wales
  • To put commercial catchers at a disadvantage to their English counterparts
  • To discourage anglers from holidaying in Wales

Then it would look remarkably similar to these proposals.

We therefore reluctantly find ourselves unable to support the introduction of bag limits, without a meaningful increase to the mls for bass and the capping of commercial effort and will be recommending to our membership that they oppose such measures.

Whilst writing to you; We also wish to correct a statement, which appears in your press release.

At no time has BASS placed a figure of 35% on sales of bass from unlicenced sellers, yet this society has been used as a source of reference for that figure.

In truth, the percentage of black landings of bass is a complete unknown and we take exception to an inaccurate statement being attributed to BASS.

We would be grateful therefore, if you would instruct your Press department to release a statement, to the effect that BASS was not the source of this estimate and issue an apology, for the inference that has brought into question the validity of our evidence.

Yours sincerely

John Leballeur
Chairman of the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society