Our strategy focuses on both conservation and restoration.
Conservation – because part of what we aim to do is to defend and protect the bass fishing we have around the UK and in Ireland.
Restoration – because we believe, and can show, that the bass fishing we used to have was better than what we have now. It was better in terms of both the numbers of bass and the sizes of bass caught, by anglers. Our long term aim is to restore, at least in part, that situation.
Some examples of our conservation activities:
- Support and part funding for the Southern Irish campaign group www.irishbass.org in their efforts keep the current bass conservation legislation, through which there is a complete ban on commercial fishing for bass in the Irish Republic.
- Campaigning to get bass anglers in all parts of the UK to make a strong response to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARDNI) consultation on bass conservation and protection measures in the north of Ireland.
- Giving expert evidence in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment of the Bristol Channel Bass Trawl Fishery. The B.A.S.S. position being that we oppose this fishery and support the sea anglers and inshore commercials of South Wales in their opposition to the proposal.
- Opposing the North East Sea Fisheries Committee (NESFC) in their intention to introduce a byelaw that would allow increased gill netting for bass on the Yorkshire coast between Flamborough and Withernsea. This action has been taken to support Yorkshire bass anglers wanting to protect their sport and their stocks. It has been done in partnership and cooperation with local anglers.
In taking on bass conservation issues, B.A.S.S. will act both to protect bass stocks and anglers’ legitimate right pursue their sport. We will:
- Act when problems come directly to our attention (via the media, for example).
- Act when problems are drawn to our attention by members.
- Act when problems are drawn to our attention by partner organisations.
- Act when problems are drawn to our attention from any other source (for example, by anglers who are not members).
- Sometimes take the lead on an issue and at other times give advice so local anglers can take action.
- In every case work cooperatively with local anglers and partner organisations.
Some examples of our restoration activities:
- Developing the UK Bass Management Plan – This document embodies our vision of how bass could be managed within the UK for the benefit of both recreational sea anglers and inshore commercial fishermen. Unfortunately, despite much lobbying of Government by ourselves and our partners, we have not been able to get it implemented. However, within the document there are individual aspects, such as reviewing nursery areas, and an increase in the minimum landing size for bass, which continue to be pursued with Defra. The overall plan, however, remains largely aspirational at this stage.
- Campaign for closure of the Offshore Pair Trawl Fishery – For the years between 1999 and 2004 the main focus of our restoration activities was on the winter offshore pair trawl fishery in the Western Approaches. Much work was done on this because, at the time, we believed that this fishery was the main cause of the deterioration in our catches. We intended to restore our recreational catches to previous levels by a campaign to close this fishery. In mid decade that strategy was called into question by the results emerging from the 2000-2002 tagging studies (see below). However, it is probable that we will need to reinstate this campaign if, in coming years, a return to colder winter water temperatures increases the migration south and west of pre-spawning fish.
- 2000 -2002 Tagging Studies – Were undertaken by us in cooperation with Cefas. The results were highly influential in setting the agenda for our activities from 2004 onwards. Analysis of the data tends to show that the numbers of bass going offshore from the UK to the winter offshore fishery was significantly smaller than had previously been thought to be the case. Though this might not remain so if we see a return to colder winter water temperatures (see above).
- A European strategy for bass – Clearly any attempt to restore bass stocks on anything other than a purely UK basis will require work with our partners in Europe. We are currently working with the European Anglers Alliance to achieve the goal of an EU wide plan for the restoration of bass stocks. This work is in its early stages.
In developing our restoration work we will strive to make the case for bass being managed as a substantially recreational species. We will do this through:
- Helping to provide scientific evidence that supports the case.
- Helping to provide socio-economic evidence that supports the case.
- Challenging the political mindsets that stand in the way of progress.
In developing the work described above we place great importance on partnership working. We are committed to sharing knowledge and expertise with other organisations with which we have a common purpose. We also consider it unlikely that B.A.S.S. alone will be able to change the minds of Government and commercial fishing interests, however strong our arguments. We therefore seek active partners. Some examples are:
The Angling Trust – B.A.S.S. has taken an active role in helping the Angling Trust to get going. We believe that it is now becoming as strong a voice for sea anglers as it is for our colleagues in freshwater. Five of the eight current members of the Angling Trust Marine Conservation Group are B.A.S.S. members. We have contributed financially towards the appointment of a full-time Marine Conservation Campaigns Manager and work very closely with him on issues of common interest. It is our expectation that as the skills and experience of the Angling Trust, and their legal arm Fish-Legal, become fully focused on saltwater issues we will be able to tackle many more conservation and restoration issues together.
The Salmon & Trout Association – B.A.S.S. and S&TA have shared information and offered mutual support on a number of matters over recent years; mostly to do with estuary and coastal issues such as inshore netting. S&TA have also facilitated our recent attendances at the CLA Gamefair where we are able to put our message out to a larger audience. We would not have been able to afford to do this without their help. We are currently looking at ways that the two organisations can further develop our relationship.
The Angling Trade – We already have helpful working relationships with Veal’s Mail Order and with Snowbee. We are keen to develop other relationships with parts of the angling trade. Our focus is to understand where the interests of bass anglers and those of the trade find common purpose and to work together in pursuit of these.
Fieldwork, Data Collection and Cefas – The late Donovan Kelly MBE, and the late John Leballeur, along with other friends and helpers from B.A.S.S. have made an enormously helpful contribution to understanding bass biology and ecology. The knowledge they gathered, through years of patient fieldwork, alongside Cefas, has been of inestimable benefit in informing our conservation and restoration efforts. We are committed to keeping this fieldwork going through the efforts of a new generation of B.A.S.S. volunteers.
Academic Partnership – B.A.S.S. is in a position, from time to time, to part fund MSc or PhD students whose research is in an area relevant to our conservation and restoration aims.