Government dumps its fishy problem overboard

jointly by Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) and the National
Federation of Sea Anglers

decision 14 months ago to ban the sale of immature sea bass caught by
British fishermen around the English coast was abandoned by the
government today.

The fisheries
minister (Jonathan Shaw) refused to implement a decision to raise the
minimum landing size for the fish made by his predecessor (Ben
Bradshaw) in August 2006.

The move followed
objections to the ban by the commercial fishing industry but strong
support for it by recreational sea anglers.

previous minister’s decision was to raise the minimum size for bass
from 36cm (weighing about 500gr or just over 1lb) to 40cm (weighing
about 685gr or 11/2lb).  The move was to have been the first
step in taking the minimum size up to 45cm by when female bass would
have spawned.

Sea anglers have campaigned for
three years to persuade the government that killing fish not big enough
to spawn was futile.

The anglers’ aim is to
increase the breeding stock, protect young fish and develop fisheries
containing more and bigger bass.  They say this will develop
valuable recreational sea fisheries around the English coast and
increase the £1 billion a year which sea angling already makes to the
national economy.

They say the breeding stock of
bass needs to be increased if the species is to recover from the
decimation of 30 years’ of commercial overfishing which will now be
allowed to continue.  

In a joint
statement John Leballeur and Richard Ferré, chairmen respectively of
the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society Restoration Project and the
National Federation of Sea Anglers, said: “Our members will be deeply
disappointed by this decision.”

“The minister
has failed by a huge margin to achieve the maximum socio-economic
benefits from the country’s wild bass resources.  We regret he
did not accept biological and economic advice which clearly showed
overwhelming benefits for commercial fishing and sea angling if the
sale of baby fish was banned.

“The public is
well aware that overfishing has ruined the breeding stocks of other
fish.  They will now be wary of buying small bass for the same
ethical reason.”

They said that putting up the
minimum size would have increased the value of bass caught commercially
as well as encouraging the growth of sea angling.

A 36cm four-year-old bass was worth about £3 to commercial
fishermen but a 48cm seven-year-old more than £9. “It is like drawing
capital out of a bank which is paying 50 per cent interest.”

Mr. Ferré said the argument for raising the minimum
landing size for bass applied equally to many other species.

He added: “We will continue to press the government to
prohibit the taking of any fish before they have spawned.”