A journalist from Wales wanted to speak to a member of the BASS campaign team urgently today. The 2 best qualified BASS personnel were not available at short notice on a Bank Holiday, so in their absence I sought to help him.
I called with no idea as to what he wanted from BASS and as the conversation progressed he continued to keep his cards close to his chest. He said he’d had a call from an angler in his region complaining he could only catch 3 bass a day now, but as he didn’t expand on this I was left with a slight sense of unease. As things moved along I began to suspect the journalist wanted an “EU bureaucrats restricting local anglers: Foreign vessels continue without restriction” outrage angle to his story. This in my mind was not the headline I most wanted to see as it was far from the whole story.
All I could do was let the facts speak for themselves and hope the man down the line hadn’t already decided what to write regardless of the facts. So I explaining the history behind the 3 bag limit, how the stocks were collapsing and how the EU scientists said there must be an 80% reduction in landings. I then enlightened him that the minimum landing size was set below the size at which bass breed and also told him how the only restriction on commercials was on mid-water trawling on the pre-spawning aggregations, and how this had only occurred as an emergency measure (a UK initiative) after the different EU counties failed to reach any agreement between themselves.
The journalist asked one too many question as to whether it was the European trawlers fishing in our waters that took most of the fish etc. It was this and his sense of obvious disappointment that the statistics show it is local commercial fishing pressure that accounts for the greatest proportion of the overall bass landings that led me to sense he desired an anti EU angle to the story.
I finally explained that we have been led to understand that further measures are imminent. Yet despite the fact I told the journalist most would probably consider taking 3 bass in a day plenty, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the irate anglers view point. As things stand the stats claim anglers take AT MOST 25% of the bass (certainly a gross overstatement) yet the commercial sector who take AT LEAST three quarters of the bass are carrying on almost unrestricted.
I am very much from the school that few things in life are truly black and white HOWEVER without further measures VERY both from the EU AND the UK government soon to SIGNIFICANTLY reduce commercial bass landings, this is in danger of becoming a clear outrage.
The facts are:
- Angling for bass generates in excess 10 times more income than commercial bass fishing
- We need an 80% reduction in landings of our bass yet to date this year bass landings are UP in Europe!
- Anglers CATCH at most quarter of the bass and probably more like a tenth (this also does not even take account that many return most of the bass they catch nowadays!)
- The only measures introduced to date is emergency measures on mid water trawling up to the end of April 2015 and the imposition of a 3 bag limit on recreational anglers.
I got off the phone uncertain whether the journalists (a non-angler I am sure) was and wiser and still unclear as to what his slant would be on the story – but at least he now had the facts. Yet I was now fired up enough to write these words.
It really is time those who have agreed that that the evidence is compelling and things must change and finally walk to walk and introduce proportional changes to reduce ALL bass landings by 80%. Yes the EU politicians are still failing to agree anything significant, BUT the UK politicians are seemingly just using this as a smokescreen for their own inaction too. The story is not therefore an EU imposing unfair restrictions (or conversely failing to act) story: it is that politicians and fisheries scientists AT ALL levels are continuing to fail to act that is the headline!
I for one find it completely understandable that, the Swansea angler is disgruntled and contacting the press – It’s just a shame that all of us likeminded anglers are not also doing the same. He will in all likelihood continue to feel aggrieved unless the commercial fishermen are finally properly restricted and catching 3 bass in a day becomes a realistic prospect.
Given this shouldn’t we all be shouting to the press about what is happening to our bass?
Blogger: Matt Spence