Why 45cms MLS For Bass

[Comment – this article also appears as an advert in the November 2005 issue of ‘Sea Angler’ magazine, paid for from funds donated to the BASS restoration project.
If you prefer, you can download the original article as a pdf file (208KB). It is also possible to download a Welsh version (text only) as a pdf file (56KB).
You will require a copy of Acrobat Reader to read the pdf file, a free download is available from the Adobe website.
]

In the very near future, Defra will begin a public consultation, which proposes to increase the Minimum Legal Size (MLS) at which a bass can be retained by anybody in England and Wales.

Increase the MLS for bass[photo – support the increase in MLS for bass and there should be more like thisphoto courtesy Allan Hughes]

The proposal is that the MLS should go from 36cms (just over 14 inches) to 45cms (just under 18 inches), so an increase of 9cms or little more than 3.5 inches. Proposals to increase commercial net mesh sizes to reduce accidental capture of bass below 45cm will also be part of this consultation, to ensure that most bass will be given the chance to spawn at least once.

The consultation, on raising the MLS, will be the first of a series of consultations, which will later include,

  • proposals for inshore gill net restrictions within 1 mile of the shore
  • a closed season – to protect bass when they are ready to spawn and
  • Stronger laws for nursery areas to further protect immature bass.
  • The introduction of COMMERCIAL licencing and the use of carcass tags, to reduce the current high level of illegal netting and sale of ‘illegal’ bass.

All of these conservation proposals will be designed to increase the number and size of bass in our coastal waters, and will have a knock-on effect, which will help improve the quality of sea angling for all.

Still not convinced?

For some anglers, the reasons behind a proposal to increase the minimum size for bass may still not be clear. After all, many of us currently do not catch many bass bigger than 36cm (1lb) – so why is a 45cm (2lb) limit being proposed?

At the current time most anglers in the UK mainly catch small bass – because that’s all there is to catch. The bigger fish have been seriously reduced in numbers, by years of over-fishing. It’s true that some lucky or skillful anglers catch a few bigger bass, but there are nowhere near as many big bass as there used to be.

There are however, lots of small bass around – due to favourable climatic conditions the bass nursery areas are producing record numbers and our warmer winters are increasing the survival of these little bass. But, before those small bass become big enough to put a decent bend in your rod, they are taken by the commercial fishery when they are between 36-45 cms (mostly by British vessels fishing within our own 6-mile limit) and very few bass now survive to become adults – fish worth angling for.

How much better would it be to have a good chance of catching the same numbers of bass – but two or three times as big!

If the minimum size for bass was increased to 45cm it would mean the following for anglers:-

  • A short period (12-18 months) during which any 36-45cm bass caught, could not be retained. During this period, commercial fishermen will not be able to retain any fish below 45cm either and the proposal to significantly increase mesh sizes at the same time will reduce accidental captures of smaller fish.
  • After that initial 12-18 months, there would be not only be a year on year increase in the number of bass caught by the average angler, but also a year on year increase in the size of those bass, caught by sea anglers.
  • A lot more bass would be able to spawn. This would help ensure that breeding was maximized each year and keep spawning success high.

It is common sense really –
1. Reduce the number of immature fish being taken by fishermen

2. leaving more fish to spawn

3. helping to produce more fish for anglers.

This approach has already produced staggering increases in the numbers and size of striped bass for anglers in the USA – why should we not have the same in the UK? After years of campaigning, sea angling representatives are at last being taken very seriously and this is our first chance at driving through changes designed to benefit our fisheries and our sport.

Don’t just sit there – do something!
During the consultation period, your help is urgently needed. To ensure that these proposals, to increase the MLS of bass, along with other measures – like bringing in netting restrictions and commercial licencing – will ultimately result in :

“MORE AND BIGGER BASS FOR SEA ANGLERS”

Watch for the Defra public consultation and participate by making a written response, to make the changes for improved sea fishing a reality.

Details of the consultation and suggested responses will appear on this web site in the bass management plan section, also you will be able to find details of the consultation on the Defra website, once it has been announced in October/November 2005.