BASS – bass MLS comment

Bass MLS to be raised to 40cm from April 2007

Following a lengthy delay, Defra announced yesterday, that the minimum landing size for bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is to be increased.

From April 6, 2007, commercial fishermen and anglers will not be allowed to land bass any smaller than 40cm. The current limit is 36 cm (37.5cm in Cornwall).

Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw is quoted as saying “I have listened very carefully to the representations made and have not taken this decision lightly. I have accepted the arguments for a bigger minimum landing size to help increase the quantity and size of bass. This will also give better protection for the stocks. There may be short term costs from this measure before we see future gains but it is vital that fisheries management takes a long term view.

“The recreational fishing sector makes a major contribution to our economy and it is important that their voice, as well as that of commercial fishermen, is taken into account in fisheries management.

“In the future, I intend to increase the landing size further, to 45cm, but subject to the results of a review in 2010, of the effectiveness of the measures I have announced today.”

In their press release, Defra state that, the increase to 40cm will bring the minimum landing size closer to the average spawning size for bass (42cm). As a result, more juvenile fish will be protected and there will be increased recruitment to the spawning stock. This will in turn increase the number and size of bass available for capture, to both the commercial and recreational sectors.

BASS is very disappointed that Option 2 of the consultation proposals was not adopted by the Minister.

This would have seen an increase in the MLS to 45cm, and would have ensured that most female bass would have survived long enough to have spawned at least once, before becoming a legitimate target for those wishing to take bass on a commercial basis or for personal consumption.

BASS, SACN, NFSA, other sea angling organisations, including a wide cross-section of the sea angling sector, NGO’s and MPs pressed for the adoption of Option 2. Whilst the consultation response summary reveals that most of the commercial sector, favoured Option 1 – do nothing.

BASS is pleased that the MLS has been increased (all be it by a derisory 4cms) and acknowledges the Minister’s pledge to review again in 2010. However, BASS considers that Defra and the Minister have yet again placed the short-term profits of the commercial sector, above the long-term viability of the UK’s bass stocks.

The revised MLS of 40cm is still set below the age of maturity for female bass and as such, is a token gesture. It is aimed at appeasing the commercial sector on the one hand and at the same time, offering the recreational sector some solace with a minor and mainly ineffective increase.

To accompany the increased minimum landing size, the Minister has also announced an increase in the mesh size for fixed gear for targeted bass fisheries from the current 90mm to 100mm, in order to reduce potential discards.

Having reviewed the full Regulatory Impact Assessment, which accompanies the announcement, it appears that the MLS been set to ‘best fit’ the mesh size of 100mm, already commonly in use, in order to minimise the cost to the commercial sector.

BASS considers that this decision is a compromise, which will please neither sector, nor will it provide the benefits, as outlined in the Bass Management Plan.

Personally, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the CBE, SACN, NFSA and especially the BASS Restoration Project team and each and every one of you for your support, enthusiasm and commitment. We have come a long way over recent years but still have some way to go!

John Leballeur
BASS Chairman.