The following letter written by Ben Bradshaw MP, Fisheries Minister, appears in the ‘Fishing News’ (16 September), a weekly newspaper serving the commercial fishing industry. The Minister’s comments are in response to a letter by David Pessel, Chairman of the Plymouth Trawler Agents, published in ‘Fishing News’ (9 September), in which he criticised Defra in connection with proposals to raise the MLS of bass. We quote below the Minister’s letter and thank the Editor of ‘Fishing News’ for giving us permission to post the letter on this web site.

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I read with interest David Pessel’s article (Fishing News 9 September ‘Democracy or dictatorship?’) regarding the proposal to increase the bass minimum landing size (MLS)

Prior to the recent election, the labour party launched the Charter for Angling. In the foreword I said I had agreed “to implement much of the excellent bass management plan put forward by the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society”. One of the elements of that plan was to increase the MLS.

I am surprised by David’s attack on my officials as they have been making it clear for some months that it is our intention to consult on this. They have been preparing a draft statutory instrument, but there is nothing sinister in this; departments either consult on an idea or they consult on the terms of the instrument to deliver it.

We recognised that there had not been a very significant engagement of the commercial sector in developing these policies so we changed the timetable to allow my officials to further consult CEFAS and the SFI** on the likely benefits and implications of the measure.

They have also been taking the opportunity of meetings or visits with fishermen and organisations on other issues to gauge commercial fishermen’s reaction to the ideas being floated. Most recently it has been discussed at meetings in Fleetwood, Poole and with members of the Cornish FPO in Newlyn.

In the very near future we will be launching a formal consultation on the proposal to increase the bass MLS. The information collected firsthand from fishers, and provided in correspondence by David Pessel and others, will be addressed in the regulatory impact assessment which will be part of that consultation.

All interested parties will be invited to submit their views and evidence and I will take full account of the responses before I make a final decision on how we should proceed on the MLS.

I would urge all commercial fishermen and recreational sea anglers who will be affected by the proposals to take the time to respond to the formal consultation.

Ben Bradshaw
Fisheries Minister

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** Sea Fisheries Inspectorate