New Fisheries Minister George Eustice has pleased anglers in his first communication to the Angling Trust with a confirmation that he intends to proceed with the hard fought for review of the bass minimum landing size (MLS) instigated by his predecessor Richard Benyon.
Mr Eustice was responding to a call from Angling Trust campaign chief Martin Salter for the government to clarify its position regarding bass conservation measures following the ministerial reshuffle and the announcement from the European Commission of an EU wide initiative on bass stocks.
Stocks of bass have crashed to their lowest in two decades, according to figures from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and conservationists are calling for catches of wild bass in European waters to be cut by more than a third next year. The current assessment of the bass stocks shows a declining population, with a drop of more than 20 per cent when compared with previous years. The situation is even grimmer for juvenile bass with a recent Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Agriculture Science (Cefas) survey showing very low survival rates in the Solent fishery and the lowest numbers of 2 to 4 year old bass for nearly 25 years.
In his letter to Martin Salter Mr Eustice says:
“I can confirm the Government’s commitment to review the current MLS in territorial waters.
While this is important to meet our responsibilities to protect bass in our waters for the benefit of all interested parties, we must also take into account that the bass annual lifecycle includes the spawning period, which takes place mostly outside of our exclusive territorial waters. The EU measures under consideration therefore have the most potential to protect the spawning population in the main bass spawning aggregation areas….
We are considering the need for domestic management of bass in context of these discussions. We will notify any proposals following the conclusion of the EU discussions, which is expected shortly. Defra officials will notify the Angling Trust and other key stakeholders of any developments directly as soon as possible after that.”
Martin Salter said:
‘‘I still shudder when I think back to how we lost the battle over bass MLS back in 2006 when the Fisheries Minister changed at the reshuffle. This is why the Angling Trust quickly called for confirmation from the new guy at Defra and it is pleasing to see that he plans to continue where Richard Benyon left off and take seriously the need for bass conservation measures. I just hope that we see some action soon whilst we’ve still got some bass left to conserve!”
Nigel Horsman from the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society added:
“Government has clearly listened to the concerns of anglers and reviewed the science for themselves, as well as commissioning new science. That evidence, together with the evidence that will be published with the results of Sea Angling 2012 at the end of November adds up to an utterly compelling case for a whole new approach to bass management in UK waters, to conserve stocks and maximise economic returns from their exploitation. I am now hopeful that our new Fisheries Minister will do the right thing for the long term health of bass stocks and for all those that benefit from this wonderful fish.”
David Mitchell, Angling Trust Marine Campaigns Manager said:
“Bass stocks are in dire straits at the moment. The future looks bleak unless something is done now to prevent a crisis turning into a disaster. We need immediate short term measures to prevent this from happening and a long-term management plan for bass that prevents the widespread decimation of the species in the future. That’s why the Fisheries Minister’s commitment to continue with the review of the minimum landing size in UK waters is so important.
Link: BASS Website – Grim Reading