How You Can Help

Defra has now announced details of the consultation, covering the raising of the bass minimum landing size (MLS) from 36 cms to 45 cms, together with an appropriate rise in the commercial net mesh sizes. If successful, this will be the first phase in the implementation of the proposals outlined in the ‘Bass Management Plan’, others should follow in 2006.

Full details of the Defra consultation, including the consultation letter and accompanying documentation can be read on this web site. Alternatively you can visit the Defra web site for full details

Now is the time for the recreational sea angler to participate in determining UK Government policy and law on the management of the UK inshore bass fishery and if successful, we hope will lead to other species sought by recreational sea anglers receiving similar protection. Please do not waste this opportunity, write a letter to Defra in support NOW. Thank you.[NB – the closing date for responses is 8 february 2006]

We are aware that there will be tremendous opposition from the commercial sector, so it is VERY IMPORTANT that there is an overwhelming response of support from the recreational sea angling sector for these proposals.

Suggested action to take

  • Write a letter to Defra, supporting the proposals. [see ‘writing letters’ below][NB – residents of Wales will need to address their response to the Welsh Assembly Government, please refer to the separate notice on this web site, for details.]
  • Write a letter to, or visit your local MP/Welsh Assembly Member, asking him/her to support the proposals by making representations to the Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP, Fisheries Minister, on your behalf. [see ‘Writing letters’ below][NB – residents of Wales can ask their Welsh Assembly Government member write to the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones, Minister for Environment Planning & Countryside, Welsh Assembly Government as well as the Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP to support the proposals.]

Important note

You will be aware from the partial regulatory impact assessment document (ria) in the Defra consultation documentation that, there are various options available for consideration. However, BASS/SACN/NFSA are urging sea anglers to support Option 2, which is an immediate increase of the bass MLS to 45cms. Should this bring the expected benefits, then there will a stronger case for a higher increase in MLS at a later date when bass benefiting from this increase reach the higher sizes.

There is concern that a vote now for Option 5 (a staged increase in the MLS for bass to 55 cm), will benefit those supporting Option 1 (do nothing) by splitting the vote between Options 2 and 5.

We also recommend that you support an increase in corresponding mesh sizes to 110cm as this will allow the greatest numbers of bass below 45cm to slip through.

Writing letters

The following examples are for guidance only, since it is preferable that you compose a letter in your own words, possibly using the information contained in the ‘bullet points’ (see below).

Writing to Defra – below is a basic letter.

Address your response to:

Nicola Clarke
Coastal Waters Policy Branch
Defra
Area 7E
3-8 Whitehall Place
London
SW1A 2HH

[NB – residents of Wales must address their response to the Welsh Assembly Government. For address details please refer to the WAG consultation documentation.]

CONSULTATION ON MEASURES TO INCREASE THE NUMBER AND SIZE OF BASS AVAILABLE TO COMMERCIAL AND RECREATIONAL FISHERMEN

I am writing to express my total support for Option 2 of the proposal to increase the bass minimum landing size from 36 cms to 45 cms.

I also support the proposal to increase the minimum mesh sizes of nets used to catch bass by licensed commercial fishermen from 90mm to 110mm.

Please remember to Sign the letter and print your full name beneath your signature, as well as, making sure your full address is legible so that Defra can acknowledge your response and include you in any further consultations.

We cannot over emphasise how important it is to try and write your response to the Defra consultation in your own words. However, if you are unable to find the time to produce a letter in your own words using the ‘bullet points’, please make the effort to ‘copy & paste’ the above example and send to Defra. Thank you.

Writing to your MP or Welsh Assembly member

If you are not sure who your local MP or Welsh Assembly member is, visit this web site for details.

When contacting your MP it is preferable that you write, rather than email, since emails can easily be deleted, whereas a letter has to be replied to, as required under parliamentary procedures. Keep your wording simple, preferably using your own words, ideally incorporating some of the ‘bullet points’, given below. [NB – This website gives useful help about writing letters to Mps, etc.]

Example – Letter to your own MP or Welsh Assembly member

You will be aware that Defra [NB – the Welsh Assembly Government, for residents of Wales] are currently conducting a consultation over a proposal to increase the minimum landing size of bass from 36 cms to 45 cms.

This will ensure that each female bass will have spawned at least once and aid the provision of bigger fish for both the recreational sea angling sector and the inshore commercial fishermen.

The associated socio-economic benefits derived from this, will help to benefit coastal communities around the UK from the increased recreational sea angling activity, as well as, produce greater profit for inshore commercial fishermen. This development is in line with the recommendations made by the Cabinet Office, Strategy Unit report of 2004, ‘Net benefits’ into the future of UK fisheries. In addition this proposal will produce positive ecological effects for the inshore marine environment.

There are many Recreational Sea Anglers in this constituency who will be delighted should the proposals be adopted, with your assistance.

I urge you to respond personally and positively to the Defra consultation, and ask you to make representation to the Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw, the fisheries minister (see note 1 below), asking him to ensure that the proposals are fully implemented.

The consultation details can be accessed on the Defra website. [NB – the Welsh consultation package can be found at http://www.countryside.wales.gov.uk] [(note 1) – Welsh Assembly Government Members should also write to the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones, Minister for Environment Planning & Countryside, Welsh Assembly Government, as well as the Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP.] [Comment – for more information about the recommendations of the Cabinet Office, Strategy Unit in their report, ‘Net Benefits’ read this archived post.]

Summary

  • Mile upon mile of gill netting is currently set to catch bass around our coasts. A mesh size set to catch bass at 36cms in length, 0.5 Kg inevitably means few bass will survive long enough to reach a good size.
  • How? An increase in the minimum landing size means the holes or mesh size in gill nets set for bass will be made bigger.
  • Why? Many anglers prefer catching bigger bass than small ones and coincidentally bigger sized bass are worth more to licensed commercial fishermen too. Why put up with ‘tiddler bashing’ when most people, given the choice, would prefer to catch bigger bass?
  • With a minimum landing size set at 1kg, more bass will survive to reach 2kg and over than they do now.
  • Other species of fish are also caught in gill nets set for bass, so the benefits of increasing the minimum landing size for bass will spill over to other fish too.
  • Reasearch confirms the amount of money anglers spend on a wide range of goods and services is directly related to the quality of the fishing they experience. If there are more big bass about, angler expenditure will also go up and the economy will benefit particularly in coastal areas. (see ’15’ below).

Useful facts

  1. The maximum weight of bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) attained during their natural lifespan of 20+ years is roughly 10 kilos.
  2. At the current minimum landing size of 36 cms a bass weighs roughly 0.5kg or 1/20th of their potential weight.
  3. At 45 cms a bass weighs roughly 1 kg or 1/10th of their potential maximum weight.
  4. It is estimated that the transition from 36 to 45 cms can be effected in 12 to 18 months and from then on everyone is better off – not least the bass, as the stock will then potentially benefit from a minimum of one spawning opportunity.
  5. Around Britain and Ireland, female bass mature at 40-45 cm aged 5-8 years of age (Kennedy and Fitzmaurice 1972, Pickett and Pawson 1996). However, scientists consider first spawnings to be unreliable.
  6. As bass mature and grow the number of eggs produced increases with body weight. Bigger female bass produce more viable eggs, which increases the buffering capacity for poor spawning years (see also negatives of a skewed age structure on fish stocks discussed in the Net benefits report in section 3.4.2 of the section ‘Stocks and the environment’).[NB – you will need to download a free copy of Acrobat Reader from the Adobe web site to read the pdf file].
  7. Ongoing tagging studies of inshore and offshore bass >1kg have proven that a large percentage of bass now remain within the UK 12 limit – limiting the benefit which might otherwise accrue to foreign vessels.This point was confirmed by Dr Mike Pawson(CEFAS) in a written statement presented at a meeting on 12 January 2005 between Defra and BASS, in which Dr Pawson wrote, “It is probable that the potential benefits of unilateral management measures inside UK territorial waters will accrue mainly to UK exploiters”.Dr Pawson’s statement was based on a preliminary interpretation of tagging studies carried out since 2000, which suggest that the offshore fishery accounts for some 10% of total fishing mortality on bass around the coasts of England and Wales.
  8. The European market is currently supplied with 55,000 tons 2001 (Ofimer report 2002 ) of small farmed bass which significantly decreases the price of the same sized immature wild bass.
  9. It is estimated that farmed bass production is capable of supplying all European consumer demand.
  10. Defra places the first hand commercial sale value of bass landed in England & Wales at £ 3.2 million in 2003.
  11. In July 2003 small wild bass were only fetching £ 4-5 per kg., 1-2 kg bass £ 9 per kg, and 2-4 kg £12-13 per kg. (bass management plan)
  12. Line caught bass above 50cm, when handled and stored correctly fetch the maximum price per kg. and are now so valuable that carcass tagging has been introduced by south west exponents of this capture method, to maintain premium prices.
  13. The Executive Summary of Work Package 10 (2004) for ‘Invest in Fish South West’ states, “The most popular species to target is bass, with nearly half of all sea anglers choosing it as their favourite.” (visit their website for information about ‘Invest in Fish South West’)
  14. An ongoing ‘Wish to catch survey’ conducted by the NFSA places bass as the first choice species among sea anglers in all regions of England, bar the North East.
  15. A Study by Drew Associates 2004 commissioned by Defra, estimated the value of sea angling expenditure in England and Wales at £ 538 million and the value of the angling experience at up to £ 1.3 billion per annum, with scope for development.
  16. Commercial landings confirm fish above 2 kg in weight are scarce – these fish are still only 1/5 th of the maximum weight of a bass yet make up 75% of the catch.
  17. The minimum landing size of striped bass in the United States (a species related to European bass) is set at 71cms in most States to ensure every fish will have reproduced.
  18. The striped bass stock deemed on the point of collapse in early 1980’s was fully restored by 1995 and has since expanded to record levels of abundance.
  19. As the striped bass stock recovered, angling-related expenditure rose from $85 million in 1981 to $560 million in 1996. It is estimated that recreational fishing expenditure on striped bass now probably exceeds ONE BILLION dollars per annum – yet angling only accounts for 3% of fish mortality, due mainly to catch and release.
  20. “In Irish waters, the decline in large bass through the 1970’s and 1980’s led to a policy banning its commercial exploitation in favour of recreational fishing and tourism.” ICES Cooperative Report no 255 2002

Other helpful action to consider taking

  • Encourage your sea angling friends to make a positive response.
  • Ask your club, federation etc to put in a response.
  • Ask your tackle shop, charter skipper, anyone you know who earns a living from servicing recreational anglers to respond, stressing how much this will mean to their future livelihoods (the commercial fishing sector are expected to make a big play of how the proposals could damage their livelihoods).
  • Contact tackle companies, hotels that you stay at, tourist centres in towns that you visit etc, and ask them to respond. Again stressing the livelihoods at stake and the positive contribution that the proposals will have on local economies if adopted.
  • Write to sea angling magazines, to the local press, your local radio station etc in favour of the proposals and the benefits that these will bring, asking their readers/listeners to also support the proposals.
  • Write to your local Sea Fisheries Committee, asking them to support the proposals.
  • If you are a member of an NGO, especially one with an interest in marine matters such as the Marine Conservation Society, the Wildlife Trusts, WWF, Greenpeace etc, please write to them stressing what a difference these proposals will make to the health of our inshore waters, and asking them to respond to the consultation.
  • Download a poster (see below) and ask your local tackle shop to display.

Display a poster

It is vitally important that as many recreational sea anglers as possible are made aware of, and support the consultation proposals, as well as the proposals outlined in the Bass Management Plan. For, if successful, the spin-off from implementation of the bass management plan will benefit other species sought by anglers and lead to a bright future for sea angling generally.

Please therefore help to promote the benefits of the ‘Bass Management Plan’ by downloading one, or all of the following posters and get your local tackle shop to display.

Here is a list of the posters that you can download:-

Tell your sea angling friends. Thank you for your support.

[You will require a copy of Acrobat Reader to read the pdf file, a free download is available from the Adobe website.]

Your help will make a difference

Many of you have responded to previous appeals on various issues and that has made a difference far beyond achieving the objectives of the campaign.

Recreational Sea Angling is now recognised as an important sector in its own right, with its own special needs and potential for development of its social and economic benefit to the country as a whole.

What particularly makes these proposals unique is that past campaigns have largely been about protecting what we have now.

This is the first step taken which is aimed at enhancing what we have now.

If we can achieve the overwhelming response that is needed, then there is much else good in the pipeline that can be bought along, starting with further measures to follow from the Bass Management Plan, but also extending such measures to other important recreational species.

Our greatest enemies now are apathy and cynicism.

If Defra and the Minister perceive a lukewarm reception to this consultation from the Recreational Sea Angling Sector, they will be inclined to returning to ignoring our needs in future and listening attentively to the commercial sectors views.

If we can demonstrate a hunger for change, a willingness to make a difference then they will listen to us, and take notice of what is needed to develop the full potential of the Recreational Sea Angling sector, for the greater benefit of our marine environment and for the social and economic wellbeing of the people and economy of the country.

It’s all down to us now.

BASS restoration project team

[NB – Please continue to refer to this web site, the SACN web site and the NFSA website, for the latest information]