News Release From Martin Salter,

“Tories perform U-Turn on Bass

Labour’s Angling Spokesman Martin Salter didn’t let party politics
stop him from mounting a robust challenge to the decision by new
Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw not to increase the minimum landing
size for bass from 36cms as recommended by his predecessor Ben Bradshaw
last year.

On Thursday (22nd November) Mr Salter
secured an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons in which he

“… Sadly, as a result of his decision to
go back on the commitment made by his predecessor to increase, in the
interests of conservation, the minimum landing size of bass, I am not
here to praise the Minister but to challenge him—which is, after all,
the purpose of this House. His announcement of 25 October on retaining
the minimum landing size for bass at 36 cm rather than increasing it to
40 cm and then to 45 cm by 2010, as recommended by the Centre for
Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science just two years ago,
flies in the face of scientific evidence and has been greeted with
understandable anger and dismay by hundreds of thousands of sea
anglers, as well as by conservationists. He himself admitted that his
decision was based on looking after the short-term interests of the
inshore fleet rather than the long-term interests of the species and
the environment … Everybody suffers when a fishery collapses, as we saw
in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and in the American striped bass
fishery, or as was nearly the case in respect of North sea cod stocks.
Future generations will not remember kindly those politicians who duck
the challenge of creating the sustainable harvesting of the resources
of our planet … The optimum spawning size for female bass is 42 cm. It
is a simple act of conservation science that every species should be
given the opportunity to breed once. Not to do so does not promote
sustainable fishing policy. Not to do so would not be in the interests
of the environment, or in the interests of the oceans.”

Ever since the prospect of raising the bass MLS was
suggested the Conservative Front Bench has attacked the suggestion,
preferring to side with commercial fisherman. However during the debate
Mr Salter noticed the Shadow Fisheries Minister Bill Wiggin indicating
support for his arguments in favour of an increase in the size limit
and the following exchange illustrates a welcome change of heart from
the official Opposition.

“Martin Salter: …It is
difficult to establish exactly why the Government have reversed that
decision. It is also difficult to understand why the hon. Member for
Leominster (Bill Wiggin) is nodding at every phrase that I say. During
a recent fisheries debate, he chastised me for supporting a minimum
landing size for bass. I have quotations from him that query the wisdom
of the Government’s going down that road in the first place. Perhaps I
should let him speak so that he can explain his absurd attitude.

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): As we have until half
past six, I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. What
has changed is that the Government have not responded with an
alternative. My difficulty was with the minimum landing size as a
stand-alone measure was that the purpose is surely to get professional
fishermen to change the sort of gear that they use. As a stand-alone
measure, the minimum landing size does not achieve that, but as part of
the bass management plan it does. That is why I am nodding, why I am
pleased that he secured the debate and why I am disappointed that we
are not seeing the joined-up thinking on fishing that we were promised
by the Government. That is a great shame.

Salter: At the risk of sounding churlish, those political gymnastics
are worthy of the Liberal Democrats, who, of course, are not here. One
must welcome support wherever it comes from—be it from the
Conservatives, or from other sources”

conclusion Mr Salter said:

“The Under-Secretary
is more than capable of speaking for himself, but I believe that he has
taken note of representations from the National Federation of
Fishermen’s Organisations, which is a well funded and effective lobby,
as, indeed, it should be on behalf of its members. The Under-Secretary
has shown concern, especially for the small boat fleets off the south
and south-west. Many fishermen are frustrated by their inability to get
more of the cod quota. That hit the headlines in recent days … That
does not negate my point that it is incumbent on us to take the
long-term view. The science shows that, although the minimum landing
size for bass would mean a short-term depletion in the fish available
to be … caught by the commercial sector, there would be a long-term
increase. The Under-Secretary must recognise that. We are considering
centimetres—the difference between 36 and 45 cm. That difference means
doubling the weight of the sea bass, which is a valuable species for
recreational fishing. Just as people spend a lot of money to catch
quality salmon—far more than salmon would ever fetch on a fishmonger’s
slab—people will spend a lot of money to enjoy quality recreational
bass fishing on the fly, by bait or by using lures, plugs and spinners
… The Under-Secretary has published the recreational sea angling
strategy, which promises more and bigger fish while at the same time
not raising the minimum landing size for bass—the most important fish
for recreational sea fishing … Here and in meetings throughout the
country, I have tried to make the Government’s case for a sea licence.
There is an argument for a sea licence, although I absolutely agree
with the National Federation of Sea Anglers that it could be
implemented only if sea anglers see a significant improvement in the
sport available to them. The decision that has been taken—this
extraordinary U-turn—drives a coach and horses not only through the
recreational sea angling strategy, but through any attempt that I or
others could make to create a consensus on a sea rod licence.”

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