Issued jointly by Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) and the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA), dated 25 October 2007
Government dumps a fishy problem overboard
A decision 14 months ago to ban the sale of immature sea bass caught by British fishermen around the English coast, was abandoned by the government today.
The fisheries minister (Jonathan Shaw) refused to implement a decision to raise the minimum landing size for the fish made by his predecessor (Ben Bradshaw) in August 2006.
The move followed objections to the ban by the commercial fishing industry but strong support for it by recreational sea anglers.
The previous minister’s decision was to raise the minimum size for bass from 36cm (weighing about 500gr or just over 1lb) to 40cm (weighing about 685gr or 1.5lb). The move was to have been the first step in taking the minimum size up to 45cm by when female bass would have spawned.
Sea anglers have campaigned for three years to persuade the government that killing fish not big enough to spawn was futile.
The anglers’ aim is to increase the breeding stock, protect young fish and develop fisheries containing more and bigger bass. They say this will develop valuable recreational sea fisheries around the English coast and increase the £1 billion a year which sea angling already makes to the national economy.
They say the breeding stock of bass needs to be increased if the species is to recover from the decimation of 30 years of commercial overfishing which will now be allowed to continue.
In a joint statement, John Leballeur, chairman of the BASS Restoration Project and Richard Ferré, chairman of the NFSA, said: “Our members will be deeply disappointed by this decision.”
“The minister has failed by a huge margin to achieve the maximum socio-economic benefits from the country’s wild bass resources. We regret he did not accept biological and economic advice which clearly showed overwhelming benefits for commercial fishing and sea angling if the sale of baby fish was banned.”
“The public is well aware that overfishing has ruined the breeding stocks of other fish. They will now be wary of buying small bass for the same ethical reason.”
They said that putting up the minimum size would have increased the value of bass caught commercially as well as encouraging the growth of sea angling.
A 36cm four-year-old bass was worth about £3 to commercial fishermen but a 48cm seven-year-old more than £9. “It is like drawing capital out of a bank which is paying 50 per cent interest.”
Mr. Ferré said the argument for raising the minimum landing size for bass applied equally to many other species. He added: “We will continue to press the government to prohibit the taking of any fish before they have spawned.”
[Comment – Fishing Focus, Number 8, the Defra & Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA) newsletter carries the full story about the UK Government’s decision not to increase the bass mls size limit.]