Minister’s "heartbreak" over cod – and over bass, too!

The fisheries minister (Jonathan Shaw) today described on BBC Breakfast
as “heartbreaking” that EU rules were forcing fishermen catching cod in
the North Sea to throw them back dead.

Ferré, chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers, said today
that a month ago Mr. Shaw himself in a scarcely publicised move,
committed an equally heartbreaking act telling fishermen that they were
free to go on slaughtering in the sea and then selling, huge numbers of
small “plate size” immature bass.

“It is ironic
that at the first sign that cod stocks may be recovering the first
thing the minister wants to do is to take more fish out of the sea,” he

“The same philosophy no doubt guided his
decision to allow the bass slaughter to continue.  In the
longer term such actions threaten fishstocks and the livelihoods of
commercial fishermen and the 19,000 people employed in the sea angling
The bass fishermen are now allowed to kill are
only 36cm (14 inches) long and not big enough to spawn.

“He completely reversed a decision by his predecessor
(Ben Bradshaw) who after months of deliberation had agreed to protect
baby bass from overfishing and raise the landing size to 40cm (nearly
16 inches), ” said Mr. Ferré. “It was part of a plan to raise the size
to 45cm (nearly 18 inches) by 2010 by which time the fish caught would
all have spawned.”

It was to have been part of a
programme to regenerate bass stocks, allowing them to grow much bigger
and develop valuable fisheries for both commercial fishermen and sea
anglers.  The recreational sea angling industry is worth £1
billion a year and there are a million sea anglers.

But Mr. Shaw said he could not back the measure because the brunt
would have been borne by the inshore fishing fleet, “given its current
pressures and the present healthy state of the stock.”

His short sighted action has been condemned by the
government’s own parliamentary spokesman on angling (Martin Salter MP)
who said he had seen nothing to suggest, as the minister did, that
raising the size limit would have a “significant impact” on commercial
fishermen.  Mr. Salter added that the survival of any species
was dependent on its ability to breed at least once.