Sea anglers invite commercial fishermen to help petition the EU Commission over bass size and historic rights

With the Defra bass minimum landing size consultation now underway, it is becoming clear that UK commercial fishing interests believe that any benefits of producing more bigger bass in UK waters under this proposal, would be lost to historic rights fishing by other European Nations which can fish up to the 6 mile limit and legally take 36cm bass if landed on the continent.

Sea angling organizations have consulted CEFAS on this issue to see if such fears have any foundation. The most recent advice from CEFAS suggests that:

“It is probable that the potential benefits of unilateral management measures inside UK territorial waters will accrue mainly to UK exploiters. Our recent tagging study indicates that, whilst over 90% of the recaptures of bass tagged in the offshore fishery were made inshore, only 6 % of bass tagged inshore and recaptured after the first 6 weeks following release were reported from the offshore fishery. Our preliminary interpretation is that the offshore fishery accounts for some 10% of total fishing mortality on bass around England and Wales”.

This advice strongly indicates that any increase in numbers of bigger bass produced by an increase in the bass mls to 45cm would therefore largely benefit UK fishermen NOT European fishermen.

A simple analogy would be of the apple tree in your garden with a branch with apples hanging over into your neighbours garden. Your neighbour will get a few apples because of your hard efforts but surely this is not a good reason to not cultivate your tree to produce bigger apples given that you get the majority benefit?

Sea angling organizations like BASS want a better quality bass fishery in UK waters and are convinced that allowing all bass to reach 45 cm with all female fish spawning once will achieve this, producing benefits to anglers and commercial fishermen. The market for smaller bass is awash with thousands of tons of high quality plate sized farmed fish and the quality and grade of these fish is increasing all the time. This only serves to decrease the price for UK fish of the same size.

Although sea angling bodies do not believe that foreign vessels will take the benefits of a larger unilateral UK bass mls increase, they do believe that the ultimate solution would be for a European bass 45mls and a spawning closed season applicable to all countries in Western Europe.

With this in mind, BASS have negotiated and have been given an unprecedented opportunity to lay a petition for such measures before the EU Commission. Although BASS do not believe that UK commercial fishermen will do anything but benefit from a UK unilateral mls increase, they understand that commercial fishermen would feel more comfortable with a bass 45 mls, if it applied to all European nations.

BASS therefore lay an open invitation before commercial fishing organizations to work with them and jointly lay such a petition before the EU Commission.

Should any commercial fishing organization be willing to take up on this offer they should contact John Leballeur of BASS.

[Comment – a précis of this article appears in the ‘Fishing News’ (25 November 2005), a weekly newspaper serving the commercial fishing industry.]