[NB – Sea Fisheries Committees (SFC) are the bodies appointed by the Minister to protect and regulate the UK’s inshore fishery. They are required to be impartial and reflect the interests and concerns of ALL stakeholders. We quote from Defra’s information on the role of SFCs, “It is not appropriate for members to regard themselves as simply representing their own particular sectors. All local fishermen’s interests must be addressed by all members.”]

The recent consultation by Defra on the proposal to increase the minimum landing size (mls) of bass has provoked many claims from the commercial fishing industry, some constructive, but many pure fantasy.

At a recent meeting of the Cornish sea fisheries committee to discuss the bass mls increase, reported in the ‘Fishing News’, the following quotes are attributed to the commercial fishing industry representatives at that meeting:-

“We don’t catch many bass over 45cms”

“we hardly ever catch bass over that size. Even the commercial line fishermen catch few over that length nowadays”

One well known gill netter stated that he knows of very few anglers who catch bass of that size.

Recreational anglers would agree that the availability of 45cm (2lb) and larger bass is significantly less than used to be the case. This is one of the reasons why we want an increase in the mls of bass.

Having read the above comments, please now take a look at official Defra data of commercial bass landings for the port of Newlyn as provided by the Marine Fisheries Agency.

Bass landings into Newlyn (port 702) by E & W vessels in 2005

The landings of bass into Newlyn amounted to 13.9 tonnes based on official figures reported to Defra. Table 1 shows the annual landings split by vessel size and gear type. The length distribution of these landings based on port sampling is shown in Figure 1. It should be noted that the length distribution is based on 15 samples and 513 fish. Weights given are live weight.

image: graph of bass landings
image: pgraph of bass landings

Fact or fiction? We will leave you to make up your own minds, but before you do, you may wish to read this – in the same issue of ‘Fishing News’ in which the report of the Cornish Sea Fisheries Committee meeting was published (where commercials said there were hardly any bass over 45cm), it was also reported that a local gill netter, had landed 1 tonne of bass into Newlyn, two thirds of which were over 45cms!

[Comment – we thank the Editor of Fishing News, a weekly newspaper serving the commercial fishing industry, for allowing BASS to use quotes from the Fishing News in this article.]