Questions in the House

Andrew George MP has recently asked some interesting questions of the Minister, Elliot Morley. On 23rd March 2000, he asked What discussions has he had with his counterparts in other EC fishing nations regarding sport angling and offshore trawling for bass in the English channel?

Elliot Morley replied My fisheries science advisers at CEFAS are working with their opposite numbers in IFREMER on studies on the movement of sea bass offshore. If this work indicates that there are threats to the long term sustainability of the bass stock, I shall seek to persuade the other countries with an interest in the bass fishery and the European Community of the need to act to protect the stock. Promotion of sport angling rests with my right honourable Friend, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

And again on the 28th March 2000, Andrew George asked What were the results of the recent consultation on bass trawling regulations in respect of (a) the number, (b) the percentage of respondents (i) agreeing and (ii) disagreeing with the proposed regulations, (c) the number and (d) the percentage of respondents in favour of (i) partial and (ii) complete closure of the offshore fishery for bass?

To which Elliot Morley replied There were a total of 174 responses to the consultation carried out last autumn about possible restrictions on landing bass from UK commercial vessels. Only 13 respondents (7.5%) were opposed to the proposals made. A total of 53 respondents (30.5%) wished to go further than the proposals and called for a complete closure of the fishery, The number of responses calling for a partial closure was not recorded.

Having seen these questions, Malcolm Gilbert (BASS) comments What are the most important points? Firstly, Sport Angling is specifically mentioned and I believe the more it is talked about the more likely it will achieve the recognition it is due. Secondly, Elliot Morley states quite clearly that responsibility for sport angling rests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Therefore we require some seriously robust debate with the DCMS to find out if and how they are promoting fish stock restoration for sport angling.

BASS have purchased copies of all responses to the consultation on the offshore bass fishery from MAFF; there is evidence that MAFF have chosen to interpret these responses in a light which strongly favours the commercial sector. Those who were present at the MCS Conference will remember the MAFF response that the contraversial 15 tonne allowance came out of discussions of a MAFF Conservation Group which only includes representatives from the commercial sector, anglers having been refused representation.

If MAFF were supporting farmers to plough up Wembley Stadium and The Oval – which they equally don’t own – to plant crops, one might expect the Department for Culture, Media and Sport along with Sport England to raise some sort of objection. Are we not in a similar position?