Analysis – Offshore Consultation

In the House of Commons on 28th March 2000, Andrew George MP asked:

What were the results of the recent consultation on bass trawling regulations in respect of (a) the number, (b) the percentage of respondents (i) agreeing and (ii) disagreeing with the proposed regulations, (c) the number and (d) the percentage of respondents in favour of (i) partial and (ii) complete closure of the offshore fishery for bass?

To which Elliot Morley replied There were a total of 174 responses to the consultation carried out last autumn about possible restrictions on landing bass from UK commercial vessels. Only 13 respondents (7.5%) were opposed to the proposals made. A total of 53 respondents (30.5%) wished to go further than the proposals and called for a complete closure of the fishery, The number of responses calling for a partial closure was not recorded.

BASS purchased a copy of all the responses from MAFF, and would seek to present the results in a different light. Where responses are sought to a general proposal like this, exact consistency in the evaluation of results is rarely possible – people give answers in their own terms. We would not wish to suggest that MAFF treated the results unfairly or incorrectly, just that they chose statistics which favoured their own interests; we have the right to do the same.

We found a total of 179 responses; some were clearly duplicate responses from individuals, though it was not obvious which ones MAFF had treated as duplicates, so we express percentages derived from that figure of 179.

One response was in the form of a petition with 109 signatures; this was treated as a single response, so there is obviously no mileage in adopting this process. Conversely, letters which were obviously duplicates but signed and sent in by individuals were all treated as responses in their own right.

36 (20%) of the respondents identified themselves as commercial fishermen, and 123 (69 %) as recreational anglers; 20 did not indicate their role, or identified a neutral role in this context.

Only 76 (42%) of the respondents indicated a willingness to accept the 5 tonnes per week restriction on trawling, though another 18 (10%) were willing to accept any measures to protect the fishery. Of these 76, 34 (45%) requested additional measures be imposed, and 46 (61%) identified a clear preference for partial or complete closure of the fishery.

Altogether, 126 (70%) of the respondents requested a partial or complete closure of this fishery; even 9 (25%) of the identified commercial fishermen requested that this offshore fishery be closed.

Only 3 respondents supported the alternative proposal of a monthly limit, and 7 recorded opposition to it. This is hardly surprising as MAFF did not raise the possibility in the consultation paper, and only discussed it in private with the commercial interests. We believe that the recreational sector would have overwhelmingly rejected this option had they been aware it was under consideration.