[Welsh bass angler, John Morgan, has written Mr Carwyn Jones AM, Minister for Environment, Planning & Countryside, Welsh Assembly Government to express his disgust over the Minister’s recent decision concerning the bass MLS. A copy of Mr Morgan’s letter is reproduced below.]
It’s taken a couple of weeks for me to recover from my incredulity at your decision regarding the BASS MLS. A couple of weeks to rack my brains trying to understand the reasoning behind your decision . . . . for it makes no sense whichever way I look at it.
Could you please explain to me how, in the face of all the factual evidence, and the knowledge that of the 230 consultation responses received 180 gave unanimous support to the MLS being raised, you still managed to, effectively, do absolutely nothing to protect the bass fishery.
To my mind it does beg the question – what was the point in carrying out a consultation if you were going to ignore the result. Public opinion, scientific opinion and the views of SFC’s, the EA and the CCW were all ignored in favour of the short term financial needs of a very small industry in Wales, the commercial fishing sector!
The South Wales area (where I live) already had a 37.5 mls so you have increased the mls in only part of Wales. What do you expect that to achieve? Even my local Sea Fisheries Committee supported an increase to 42cm.
Please explain to me how you can justify allowing a species to be targeted at a size below that which it has had a chance to procreate. Do you really believe that that is a sensible course of action? Perhaps we should start to slaughter cattle before they have their calves?
The reasoning behind the increase, apart from the obvious fact that bass should be allowed to breed at least once in their lifetime, was that it would provide a growth area for Recreational Sea Angling and its associated industries.
An outdoor sport that has more room for expansion than any other; this area is at present worth millions of pounds to the economy and could grow further if nurtured.
If you want proof of the value that recreational pursuits have look at the real impact of the Foot and Mouth outbreak; the area of the biggest loss of revenue and the most impact was on tourism. If you want even more proof then look at the Striped bass fishery in the USA.
Let me illustrate my point further.
I used to fish two or three times a week all year round. In the spring I would fish for rays and bass; summer would be bass, mullet, tope and smooth-hound and in the winter cod(ling). About fourteen years ago I stopped fishing in the winter . . . .the expenditure of time, money and effort for the cod fishing was simply not worth the return.
Now I just fish in the summer.
I have a theory.
The theory is that politicians think that the revenue generated from people like me, if my sport declines, will simply be displaced elsewhere – maybe you think I’ll take up football, badminton or rugby.
But I won’t, fishing is a pastime that has no equivalent – for me and probably many other anglers there is no replacement.
I’ll tell you what happened to the money I didn’t spend on my winter fishing.
I started saving it.
And in 1997 it paid for a trip to Lake Nasser in Egypt to fish for Nile Perch (it was so good that I returned in 1999 and spent two weeks there).
Both trips were with two other ‘disillusioned’ British sea anglers (rough average total cost £2,100 each).
In addition, every autumn since 1997, I have spent at least one week fishing in Ireland . . . . because they have had the foresight to put in place measure to protect their bass.
I’ll give you an example of what the fishing in Wales could be like if you had the guts to make the move to a proper mls for bass.
In 2003 I spent a week in Ireland with four friends. During the week we caught 135 bass.
The average weight was 4lb 6oz. The heaviest fish was 11lbs 7oz.
For further emphasis . . . we usually didn’t start fishing until about 10am and stopped at dusk. All the fish were caught on lures.
In comparison I can tell you that in Wales, the same five anglers, using the same methods and tactics (but expending more effort), haven’t caught that many fish in the last three years.
Of the bass we have caught there hasn’t been one over 9lbs 4oz.
Last year I didn’t go to Ireland.
My mortgage having been being paid off I decided that I could afford to go fishing for Striped bass (my wife is quite understanding).
I spent two weeks on the eastern seaboard of the USA at a place called Montauk – and it was a tremendous experience.
So much so that in two day’s time I’m heading back out for another two weeks – along with the same five anglers that I went with last year.
My expenditure on last year’s trip was in the order of £2,700. And before you label me as some high flying, well paid person – I’ll bring you to earth. I’m a postman, though I do work a fair bit of overtime.
There is another side to this, and this comes back to the value of RSA to the Welsh economy, I don’t spend any money on tackle in Wales anymore; why should I, the tackle in the ‘States’ is far cheaper than what I’d pay over here.
I’ll rephrase an earlier statement – don’t make the mistake of pigeonholing anglers as people who will, if their sport withers and dies, simply spend their money on another pastime.
Once an angler always an angler.
Your decision was gut-less, you sold out the right decision – to increase the mls to 45cm – in order to appease the commercial sector.
I think it’ll come back to haunt you because the commercial mindset is extremely short term – catch whatever is there before the other guy gets it; and if they destroy the fishery in the process, well, so be it, there’s always going to be something else to fish for; the trouble with that is that one day there won’t be something else to fish for.
But why should you worry, because by the time that day comes you’ll probably be in some other post somewhere else and it’ll be someone else’s problem.
Believing that commercial fishermen wouldn’t act for short term gain is akin to leaving the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.
Personally, I couldn’t sleep at night after selling myself and my soul for short term politics.
Yours ‘disgustedly’ (and now an ex-Labour voter)
30th October 2006
[photo – John Morgan releasing a 9lb 10oz bass caught in Ireland]