The Angling Trades Association (ATA) has reacted strongly to the announcement by DEFRA that the minimum landing size (MLS) for bass is to be kept at 36cm. The decision reverses the decision by former fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw who, in August 2006, decided that the MLS would be increased to 40cm with the intention of raising this in future to 45cm.

In announcing the reversal of policy, Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw acknowledged that his decision was influenced by representations by commercial fishermen and the healthy state of bass stocks at present.

The ATA has been steadfast in its support for the MLS increases, which it believes will benefit the recreational angling and commercial fishing industries alike. It is now urging the Government to reconsider its decision, which will jeopardise the stocks of bass, the sport of sea anglers and the livelihoods of those in industries which rely of angling.

ATA Chairman Sean O’Driscoll said:

“It seems quite ridiculous that the Government is to continue to allow commercial exploitation of bass at sizes smaller than those which allow fish to spawn for the first time. This flies in the face of the principles of sustainability, and it undermines the campaign to ensure that our sea fish stocks are available for enjoyment by recreational anglers.

“DEFRA appears to have caved in to the lobbying of commercial fishermen, and that is simply not acceptable if it wants to maintain dialogue and co-operation with recreational angling. We need to see positive action, not broken promises.

“The move is also completely illogical from a financial viewpoint. Research into the value of those species captured both by angling and commercially shows that the economic activity associated with angling equals or exceeds that of commercial fleets. It is not just anglers’ sport that is now being jeopardised; it will also affect the livelihoods of  charter boat skippers, coastal hotels, tackle shops and all the other sectors which rely on plentiful fish stocks.”

The ATA has thrown its full support behind the anglers’ campaign for sustainable management of bass and other recreational species. It has pledged to stand alongside anglers in challenging the latest decision and maintaining pressure on Government to change its policy.