[We quote below a letter written by David Pessel, Chairman of the Plymouth Trawler Agents. The letter appears in the latest edition of ‘Fishing News’, a weekly newspaper serving the commercial fishing industry. The letter is Mr Pessel’s response to comments made by Ben Bradshaw MP, Fisheries Minister, in a recent edition of ‘Fishing News’. Those comments, reported on this web site, appeared under the heading, ‘Fisheries Minister responds’. We thank the Editor of ‘Fishing News’ for giving us permission to post the letter on this web site.]

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Ben Bradshaw’s reply (FN 16 September) to my article ‘Democracy or dictatorship’ was such a masterpiece of spin that it will make Shane Warne look like a village cricketer. His reply was at best devious and at worst disingenuous.

By his own admission, he states clearly that he has agreed to ‘implement much of the excellent bass management plan put forward by the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society’. He adds further: ‘One of the elements of that plan was to increase the minimum landing size (MLS).’

It is disgraceful that a Parliamentary Under Secretary should take such a high-handed and dictatorial decision in favour of a minority stakeholder without any structured or serious consultation with the UK commercial fishing industry. Indeed the principle is even more important than the issue at stake.

Mr Bradshaw’s partiality and prejudice are totally at odds with the messages emanating from No.10, Defra and Brussels advocating stakeholder involvement, regional advisory councils with real input and other democratic ideals.

His stated surprise at my attack on his officials was an even bigger surprise to me. My only reference to his officials concerned their confusion and their inability to confirm that a proper consultation exercise would take place. That was hardly their fault.

Let me suggest to Mr Bradshaw that his ‘done deal’ with the anglers has caused his advisers and officials extreme embarrassment. There is now so much backtracking taking place in Whitehall, led by Mr Bradshaw’s belated announcement of a limited so-called consultation exercise, that anyone entering Defra in London SW1A should expect to find a struggling mass of civil servants at the foot of the main stairway with our beloved under secretary at the bottom.

Mr Bradshaw’s tardy recognition ‘that there had not been a very significant engagement of the fishing industry’ on the issue was a triumph of understatement. Despite attempting to pad out his defence by referring to three meetings where the bass issue was just part of an agenda, he forgot to mention that no meetings had taken place in many of the main bass ports in Wales, the South and South West.

Furthermore, I would be most interested to know what timetable it was that he changed to enable his officials to consult further with CEFAS and the SFI. We were never properly informed of the issue let alone a timetable governing it.

Unfortunately Mr Bradshaw still has not learned his lesson. Having been caught ‘flagrante delicto’, he still cannot bring himself to offer the industry the full and open minded consultation it deserves. There is a vast difference between an open ended consultation exercise and consulting on the terms of a draft Statutory Instrument as Mr Bradshaw knows full well. It is still his intention to stifle debate and debase democracy by having us consult on an important subject on his terms and conditions only. That is entirely unacceptable.

UK commercial fishermen, fish merchants and buyers still wish to know whether the under secretary has gained French approval for the proposed increase in the MLS of bass to 45cm or indeed whether he has broached the subject with the French at all? It looks like we are in for another round of backtracking. Look out those using the staircase.

David Pessel
Chairman
Plymouth Trawler Agents

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[BASS comment – The number of inaccurate statements in Mr Pessell’s letter, clearly indicate that he does not grasp even the basic principals of the Bass Management Plan. Nor for that matter, does he appear to understand the need to introduce fresh thinking into our management and use of the seas resources, if the very jobs that he claims to champion aren’t to disappear along with our dwindling fish stocks.
 
May we remind all ‘sea angling stakeholders’ that shortly you will be allowed your say when Defra announce the consultation into the proposed increase in bass MLS and net mesh sizes. Full details of the consultation and what to do, will be available on this web site, posted in the bass management plan section. Please tell your sea angling friends. Thank you.
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