BASS was founded in 1973 in response to concerns about stocks to campaign for our bass. Over the years a relatively small number of driven individuals have made huge personal efforts to try and achieve better protection for these fish while the rest of us have backed them up by many means including through our writing letters and emails.
As you may well be aware the more efforts of us all have been rewarded as the EU has finally rubber stamped the introduction emergency measures to prevent the targeting of pre-spawning aggregations of bass by midwater (“pair”) trawlers and has also stated an intention to also bring in other measures to back this up.
This victory is truly excellent news for our bass. Yes it might be “only” a single battle won and not by any means the winning of the war. Yet the very fact we have won this round suggests the culture has begun to change. The EU (pushed by the UK government) has finally demonstrated they are prepared to back up the acknowledged need for protection with proper action. In the future we can begin to expect (rather than hope) that it will be the benefits of the species and the long term economic benefits they might bring the whole economy that will drive decisions – not just the short term profits of the few. What is also certain however is that the commercials who inflict the major damage to the stocks will not shrug their shoulders, give up lobbying for their right to plunder the stocks and start running whale watching trips instead.
It seems likely that the EU will bring about an additional measures that will increase in the minimum landing size and impose a daily bag limits for anglers, so anglers too will make a contribution to the 80% reduction in the taking of bass that is needed. Further ongoing campaigning by BASS the Angling Trust and European Anglers Alliance etc will undoubtedly also be needed to ensure this ban on the targeting of our pre spawning bass shoals becomes a permanent fixture and other measures are added to include measures to restrict such activity in inshore areas too. Only then will other (as yet unclear) national measures our fisheries minister has stated will follow the EU measures have their desired effect.
But let’s not dwell on the future too much today! At this moment every one of us who has written so much as a single email on this matter can feel really proud of this breakthrough (and all at BASS thank you for your efforts). Speaking to several BASS members at a meeting yesterday it was clear we all shared a particular sense of gratitude to the few individuals in BASS without their huge efforts today’s victory would not have happened.
In recent years our ongoing campaign has been run with great intelligence, strategy and with massive dedication by Nigel Horsman. More recently he was joined by Dave Curtis who has brought bundles of energy and lateral thinking that has enabled other campaigning strategies to be used and who has also talked his way into meeting the crucial people at a European level. Yet this is not a standalone recent campaign, the efforts of BASS began in 1973 when a few individuals had the foresight to see the way things were going for the UKs premier saltwater sport fish and since then it has been an ongoing fight. People have come and gone as they have done their bit during different phases. They all know who they are and can rightly feel a glow of pride about todays leap forward.
There is however one man who arguably contributed more than anyone to laying the foundations that led to today’s announcement, but tragically he is not around to enjoy the victory. John Leballeur died suddenly in 2010 aged 60. He was one of the principle people behind a phase of our campaign that sought to get a minimum landing size (MLS) increase between 2000 and 2006. After underhand political manoeuvring at the last minute led to an overturning of our victory in a raising the MLS John picked up the pieces and single handedly continued to knock on the doors of the powers that be. Such was his energy and ability it hardly seemed like it was a one man band for a few years. Without him there would have been no BASS restoration campaign to speak of for Nigel to more recently take on. John truly kept things rolling singlehandedly in difficult times and I am sure many of us who have been involved long enough in our campaigning to have known him will be sparing him a thought at present.