BASS and history of Conservation

BASS has always given priority to conservation since its foundation in 1973. Many of the early activities are, however, becoming lost in the mists of time. In an effort to redress this, we include a brief history, mostly compiled from old BASS magazines.

In the very first BASS Magazine in December 1974, Clive Gammon wrote we were very heartened in October (1974) to hear from MAFF that they were willing to meet a delegation from the Society to discuss the question of the minimum size limit for bass (along with the NAC, commercial interests and SFCs). Our proposal was 14″.

One factor in the situation which was outside the terms of reference of this meeting and which is more properly the concern of the Department of Trade and Industry, is the actual value of the bass catch to the country in economic terms. In Ireland this was a vital factor in persuading the Minister there to introduce legislation: they discovered that a bass alive in the surf – viewed in terms of tourism that is – was worth approximately twenty-five times as much as a dead bass in a fish box ?

Also in Issue 1, the late Trevor Housby wrote, Two years ago, commercial fishermen found it difficult to give bass away, now increased fish prices and a sudden awareness of the bass as a food fish, has led to a dramatic change in the general situation. In the London fish shops, bass are retailing at 85p per pound ? I know several highly efficient Cornish boatmen, who think nothing of taking eighty to one hundred bass during a morning’s trolling. Many of these fish are on or over the double figure mark, so the damage these men do to existing breeding stock is incalculable.

In Issue 2 (Winter 1975), the late Spencer Vibart wrote, It really all started during November ’74 when the trawlers fished for mackerel to the far-west of Plymouth off Falmouth ? Since November and right up to the end of December I saw landed on the Fish Market at Plymouth some 30,000lbs of fish ? All of these were very good fish ? the majority of bass at the cod-end are squashed, get very soft and, therefore, not landed as prime fish ? During December most of the bass were full of spawn and even hardened fishermen were aware of the dangers that exist in landing these fish in such condition and quantity.

Also in Issue 2 was the outcome of the negotiations about size limits, MAFF have included bass on their minimum size list. The size of 10″ is not a satisfactory one ?

In Issue 3 (Spring 1976), Clive Gammon wrote, we haven’t had the grace to say ‘Thank you’ to the Minister for graciously allowing us to have a 10′ size limit ? That’s not that way other angling bodies have reacted. Not a whimper of dissent from organisations purporting to represent the views of anglers nationwide ? and just the same reaction came from the weekly angling press ? Our target must be to have the bass recognised as a sport fish; it is essential that BASS sets its sights as high as possible – nothing new there!

Also in Issue 3, We hope to get the BASS Survey under way in the next newsletter and also a look at the possibilities of undertaking the creation of an artificial reef ?

By Issue 4 (Summer 1976), Clive had departed to America, and Jim Churchouse wrote, BASS has a great future ? There are, however, two major snags ? lack of capital and secondly a comparatively small membership (400) – again no change!

Also in Issue 4, Terry Burnell (BASS Conservation Officer) had been pursuing a rigorous campaign with government departments regarding the large numbers of bass being taken by trawlers, Is the Minister aware of the catches ? how many tonnes have been landed ? does the Minister consider that the bass stocks are sufficiently large to withstand these catches ? if so how does he arrive at this ? is he monitoring the situation ? is he going to introduce any conservation measures bearing in mind the value of this fish to thousands of anglers?

In Issue 5 (Spring 1977) it is recorded that, In 1976 we gained our first Patron, Lord Boothby. He will, I am sure be a great asset to the Society.

Some realistic advice was also given, I’m afraid that quick results are not the order of the day when dealing with government departments and I can only hope that we can steer things in the right direction before it is too late.

And a blunt message, You ask for ideas to improve the Society – in my opinion if we don’t take Draconian measures for conserving bass we won’t have any bass left and therefore no BASS.

Dave Cooling, Webmaster