Malcolm Gilbert and Bob Cox from the BASS Restoration Project, and Phil Marshall from CEFAS, travelled to St Malo in Brittany for a meeting with interested parties from France on 15 April 2000.
This was the second occasion that BASS had visited France to exchange ideas. Whereas the first meeting in the Spring of 1999 was a very informal affair with half a dozen bass enthusiasts from Brittany, this was a semi-formal affair that took place in the Chamber of Trade building in Saint Malo, and as well as the original Brittany bass anglers there were representatives from the Brittany liners (commercial artisanal fishermen) and Quintel Marc who was representing FFPM of which Marcel Ordan is the President.
Also present were the editors of both Le Surf Caster and Le Pecher de Mer as well as representation from the non-angling press, all in all, about twenty-five people. Hubert Guillois and Quintel Marc assisted with translations, but there were prolonged periods of debate (occasionally quite excited) between the French which were not translated.
The main objectives were to bring the French up to speed on the various initiatives that the UK had been involved with and to try and demonstrate our commitment for more and bigger bass without any nationalistic agendas.
I provided an overview of the UK situation, where BASS had worked through our National Governing body, the NFSA, who in turn were able to participate within the EAA.
We reported on the following:
1) how the UK offshore fishery this year had found far fewer fish and how none of the catch limitations had needed to be implemented
2) the failure of the application for a EU funded study between France, Ireland and the UK
3) how according to our information both IFREMER and CEFAS had managed to find sufficient funding for a reduced study
4) that 585 bass had been tagged by Phil and Matthew on the UK vessels, and also that we had heard from CEFAS that the French offshore boats had tagged 170 plus bass
5) the initiation of the ICES bass stock assessment by D.Armstrong, DG14.
We then debated the socio-economics of recreational angling, providing some information from the USA, some information on the world championships at Dover, and described how the EAA were involved with the socio-economic study of all angling disciplines in all EU states. I went to great pains to point out that for such a study to be credible it had to be conducted by a body recognised by the EU as having academic rigour. CEMARE, as part of the University of Portsmouth, had already had a great deal of experience with EU studies and they would be establishing links with similar institutions in the other EU countries.
Parts of MAFF/CEFAS Leaflet 75 (number of recreational anglers and their economic impact) were discussed which helped to alert the French to their own worth/value.
Discussion took place on our alternative tourism initiative and how this was linked to the socio-economic study.
We then conveyed to the French audience the concept and success of a letter writing campaign to MEPs. We went into some detail on this one because we felt that this is where a lot of potential lay for all the countries to achieve better recognition for recreational angling. We simply related how we had identified the seven MEPs who were represented on the Fisheries Commission in Brussels and how, by and large, they had been targeted by a letter writing campaign. This led to the meeting in DG14 and secured a response from most of the MEPs that suggested a significant interest in the points we made.
Phil Marshall showed a video of some of the pair trawling operation and I think they were genuinely surprised at the scale of the operation.
It was interesting to sense the different elements from French recreational angling working together, focusing on a common cause, and at the end of the meeting Hubert arranged for a final comment from everyone present, going around the table and without exception everybody thought that it had all been worthwhile and fairly positive. It goes without saying that at these affairs the language barrier is just that, and despite two good interpreters it was impossible for every French comment to be translated, and there were certainly moments when the French debated some issues quite excitedly and translation was not possible.
Whilst we can be reasonably confident that a lot of information was conveyed to those present from France, it is difficult for us to identify what BASS gained from the meeting. However, bearing in mind that the French activity in the offshore fishery far exceeds the UK level of effort, it is crucial that French anglers become effective in building opposition to this fishery within France. I believe this meeting certainly progressed things in that direction.