To the majority of the population of the world the decline in fish stocks is just something they read about. They aren’t aware of what it really means . . . as there is no visible manifestation. But as anglers, or at least anglers not suffering from the phenomena of Shifting Baselines, we see the actuality.
Whilst it is understandable for fishers to resist what are perceived as restrictions that may impact their ability to retain fish, the simple but stark truth is that if we are to have any chance of restoring the structure of bass stocks to something approaching how they used to be, we will all have to accept modifications to existing restrictions on our activity for that to happen. If the MLS goes to 48 cm, the beach angler who will be denied the opportunity to keep a 45 cm bass today, needs to focus on the increased opportunity he will have to catch and keep larger bass in future years.
If a 48 cm MLS was introduced (with appropriate minimum mesh size), most of the bass that are currently caught and retained (by recreationals & commercials) between 36 and 47.9 cm will be provided the opportunity to remain in the sea for an additional 1-2 years until they are over breeding size. We will then have a significantly enhanced opportunity to take home a decent sized bass.
When considering the pros and cons of an increased MLS, bear in mind that the difference in weight between say a 41 cm bass and one of 49 cm is very significant. The 41 cm bass will weigh about 0.75 kilo and generate £4.50 to a commercial fisherman and 2 x 6 oz fillets for a recreational to consume. That same bass two years older at 49 cm weighs 1.2 kilo and generates £9 (combination of increased mass plus increased price per kilo for weighing over a kilo) for a commercial and 2 x 11 oz fillets for a recreational to consume.
A final thought is to ask the following question. It is clear that over the last three decades, the structure of bass stocks has dramatically altered. The frequency of catching 60+ cm bass has plummeted. It is an entirely valid observation that a 45 cm bass is now ‘reasonably rare’. If we choose not to accept necessary management changes, the 45 cm bass will become very rare, and a 40 cm fish will become ‘reasonably rare’. Eventually we end up regarding a 38 cm bass as rare and presumably, if the opportunity to take a fish home is guiding how we think, we will end up lobbying for a reduction in the MLS, so as to allow us to take a fish for the pot. Where does this lead us? Do we eventually exchange rods & reels for spoons so that we can scoop up the spawn to take home and eat?
We think that the increase is long overdue and whilst there is a short term impact . . . it is only short term (1-2yrs). To help this essential change which, remember, will eventually benefit all parties all we ask that you do is one thing. Write a letter, or send and email, to Richard Benyon and copy it to your local MP. All that you need to say in your letter/email is that you support increasing the MLS for bass to a point above the minimum spawning size of 42cms and that that this change needs to be made as quickly as possible. Thats it. If you wish to extend your letter, perhaps using some of the points above, then by all means do so; BUT the most important thing is that you write.
You can find how to contact your MP at: They Work For You
consider copying in:
Nigel Horsman . . . . nigel [dot] horsman [at] btinternet [dot] com
David Mitchell . . . . david [dot] mitchell [at] anglingtrust [dot] net
Ian Misselbrook . . . . ianmisselbrook_215 [at] fsmail [dot] net
Martin Salter . . . . martinreadingwest [at] googlemail [dot] com
Charles Walker MP
George Hollingbery MP
Thank you . . .