The closing date for responses to the Defra and Welsh Assembly Government consultations concerning the proposal to raise the minimum landing size of bass (mls), is fast approaching. [Defra, closing date is 8 february 2006 and that of the Welsh Assembly Government is 14 february 2006]

In case you have not yet responded, or are a little unsure whether you should, we repeat below the argument, why we and others, consider that, if the UK is to have a sustainable inshore bass fishery, it is essential for the first phase of the Bass Management Plan be implemented i.e. to increase the bass mls to 45cms and the associated commercial net mesh size to 110mms.

Why do we need a 45cm minimum size for bass

The proposal is that the mls should go from 36cms (just over 14 inches) to 45cms (just under 18 inches), so an increase of 9cms or little more than 3.5 inches. Proposals to increase commercial net mesh sizes to reduce accidental capture of bass below 45cm will also be part of this consultation, to ensure that most bass will be given the chance to spawn at least once.

The consultation, on raising the mls, will be the first of a series of consultations, which will later include,

  • proposals for inshore gill net restrictions within 1 mile of the shore
  • a closed season – to protect bass when they are ready to spawn and
  • Stronger laws for nursery areas to further protect immature bass.
  • The introduction of COMMERCIAL licencing and the use of carcass tags, to reduce the current high level of illegal netting and sale of ‘illegal’ bass.

All of these conservation proposals will be designed to increase the number and size of bass in our coastal waters, and will have a knock-on effect, which will help improve the quality of sea angling for all.

Still not convinced?

For some anglers, the reasons behind a proposal to increase the minimum size for bass may still not be clear. After all, many of us currently do not catch many bass bigger than 36cm (1lb) – so why is a 45cm (2lb) limit being proposed?

At the current time most anglers in the UK mainly catch small bass – because that’s all there is to catch. The bigger fish have been seriously reduced in numbers, by years of over-fishing. It’s true that some lucky or skilful anglers catch a few bigger bass, but there are nowhere near as many big bass as there used to be.

There are however, lots of small bass around – due to favourable climatic conditions the bass nursery areas are producing record numbers and our warmer winters are increasing the survival of these little bass. But, before those small bass become big enough to put a decent bend in your rod, they are taken by the commercial fishery when they are between 36-45 cms (mostly by British vessels fishing within our own 6-mile limit) and very few bass now survive to become adults – fish worth angling for.

How much better would it be to have a good chance of catching the same numbers of bass – but two or three times as big!

If the minimum size for bass was increased to 45cm it would mean the following for anglers:-

  • A short period (12-18 months) during which any 36-45cm bass caught, could not be retained. During this period, commercial fishermen will not be able to retain any fish below 45cm either and the proposal to significantly increase mesh sizes at the same time will reduce accidental captures of smaller fish.
  • After that initial 12-18 months, there would be not only be a year on year increase in the number of bass caught by the average angler, but also a year on year increase in the size of those bass, caught by sea anglers.
  • A lot more bass would be able to spawn. This would help ensure that breeding was maximized each year and keep spawning success high.

It is common sense really –
1. Reduce the number of immature fish being taken by fishermen
2. leaving more fish to spawn
3. helping to produce more fish for anglers.

This approach has already produced staggering increases in the numbers and size of striped bass for anglers in the USA – why should we not have the same in the UK? After years of campaigning, sea angling representatives are at last being taken very seriously and this is our first chance at driving through changes designed to benefit our fisheries and our sport.

Won’t EU Member states catch all the bigger bass?

Many UK commercial fishermen argue that because our European Partners are not also increasing the bass mls, then the minute all the larger bass swim out of the UK’s territorial waters they will be caught by other member states, to the cost of the UK commercial fishermen. WRONG.

Cefas, the Government fisheries scientific agency, has established through tagging [NB.BASS helped Cefas in the tagging program] that most mature bass, because of milder winters in recent years, spend most of their life within UK inshore waters. Until a few years ago it was thought that ALL mature bass moved offshore into the Western Approaches to spawn and were immediately targeted by the winter offshore pair trawler fishery. However, according to the Cefas scientists, that is NOT the case. Cefas argue that 90% of the UK bass population remain within the UK’s territorial waters.[read Bass mls- a scientific view]

May we remind you that many in the commercial fishing industry are vehemently opposed to any change and are currently lobbying to have these proposals thrown out. Remember, for too long now, the commercial fishing industry has regarded the seas around our shores as theirs. They have overfished, without any thought of conservation or future sustainability. Please do not just sit back and let them continue to destroy what is left.

The seas around are shores belong to us all, we are all stakeholders and should have our say in the management. If the proposals outlined in the BASS Management Plan, are implemented in full, a rosy future for the UK’s inshore bass fishery is virtually guaranteed, not only for you, but future generations of both recreational anglers and licensed commercial fishermen.

Please send in your response now

If you require any help concerning your response please visit the how you can help web page, or read the post on the BASS web site homepage.

Please tell your sea angling friends about the consultation, as it is vitally important, that as many sea anglers as possible submit a response. Thank you.