John Leballeur

It is with great shock and sadness we report that John Leballeur, the leading campaigner for bass conservation and restoration, died suddenly last Saturday 10th April 2010. He was 60 years old.

John worked tirelessly in the campaign to protect and restore bass stocks.

John had been a keen member of the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (B.A.S.S.) for some years. Just an ordinary angler enjoying his sport and being part of one of the best fishing clubs around. Then, in 1999, he decided it was time to put something back into the sport he loved. Initially he took on the role of Fish Recorder. How could any of us have known then just how much important and vital work he would go on to do for B.A.S.S. the society, bass the fish, and for the wider world of sea angling?

Very soon after becoming a fish recorder John made links with the great Donovan Kelley MBE and worked alongside him in the research activities that have added so much to our knowledge of bass. Perhaps the major contribution that John made at that time was his input to the joint CEFAS/IFREMER/B.A.S.S. tagging programme that yielded much new information about bass migrations in and around UK waters. John’s articles in the B.A.S.S. magazine (later reprinted in the book Bass & B.A.S.S[1].) Bass Tagging 2000-2003, and his contribution to the scientific article Migrations, fishery interactions, and management units of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) in Northwest Europe[2] give a good idea of his level of commitment and involvement at that time. When in 2004 Donovan finally retired, John took over the work.

Alongside the many hours of netting and sampling tiny bass and the collation and presentation of the data provided by this work, John became a leading part of the B.A.S.S. Restoration Project as well as being chairman of B.A.S.S. itself. His tireless efforts alongside the likes of Malcolm Gilbert, Bob Cox, Steve Pitts and others in producing, presenting, and fighting for the introduction of the Bass Management Plan which, if adopted, would have given the kind of protection bass stocks really need and would have returned to the recreational sea angler the quality of bass fishing they had been used to until the commercial fishing industry began their gross over-exploitation of the species in the latter part of the twentieth century. John’s dedication to this campaign never faltered. Even when others became disheartened he carried on. Recently he championed a formal working arrangement between B.A.S.S. and the Salmon & Trout Association and in his last week he met with the Fisheries Minister to press, once again for an increase in the minimum landing size for bass. At the end of April he was due to meet again with the European Anglers’ Alliance to help develop a European-wide plan to protect bass from commercial over-fishing.

At the moment it seems inconceivable that we shall be able to replace him. With his passing, the world of bass angling and bass conservation suffers an irreplaceable loss.

In his non-fishing life John had been a policeman, a fisheries officer, and a self-employed businessman. He had many friends and associates who will miss him greatly, but more than anything he was a family man who leaves behind a wife Gina, and two grown up children. At this time our thoughts go out to them and we offer our sincere condolences.

[1]Bass & B.A.S.S. compiled and edited by Geoff Gonella, published by Angler’s Bookcase
[2]Pawson, M.G., Pickett, G.D., Leballeur, J., Brown, M., Fritch, M., Migrations, fishery interactions, and management units of sea bass in Northwest Europe -ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 332-345.