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MAFF Murder

Aug 03,2000 Chris Pledge

It's been called MAFF Murder; minimum commercial landing size limits were slashed or removed completely for some species from January 1st 2000, meaning they can now be openly trawled before even reaching sexual maturity.

If officers from any angling authorities read this item all I can say is if you think that having no minimum size limits for mullet, silver eels, lesser spotted dogfish, pouting, dab and flounder does anything for stock conservation you are sadly mistaken. Let alone the potential of wiping out conger, brill, turbot and black bream, plus the rarely seen species of red bream, shad, lemon sole and witch - all now open for greater exploitation without any size restriction.

Others commercial sizes announced are bass at 36cm or 14 1/8 inches, plaice 22cm/ 8 5/8 inches, mackerel 20cm/ 7 7/8 inches, ling 63cm/ 24 3/4 inches, sole, 24cm/ 9 3/8 inches, hake - virtually wiped out by commercial pressure anyway - 27cm/ 10 5/8 inches.

It needs to be quickly realised in the corridors of power that the socio-economic benefits of sustainable sea angling far outweigh those of commercial greed. These new limits are just an open licence for wholesale slaughter of immature fish stocks.

Apparently the theory is that mesh sizes will allow smaller fish to escape, and therefore undersize fish will not be landed - nothing has yet been published on changes to mesh sizes though? The success of this policy hinges on policing nets used, and how other methods of commercial fishing such as long lining and scallop dredging by-catches will be catered for.

Somehow I cant see commercial boats shelling out for new nets knowing full well that the chances of being caught, or dare I say it prosecuted, are virtually zero.

Trawlermen certainly aren't known for their conservation record. Black bream were on the verge of being wiped out just a few years ago by over-fishing, and it's sickening to think that a conger of just a few inches long will be legally acceptable, if only edible as part of a giant pot of bouillabaisse.

MAFF Murder indeed!

I have been openly critical of the current fisheries policy over the past year, but I was surprised when a commercial skipper contacted me and said how much he appreciated the coverage that I have given to the reduced MAFF minimum landing size limits in my newspaper articles. He tells me local trawlers are sticking to the current Southern Sea Fisheries sizes that are bigger.

He also added "it's impossible to sell sole and plaice at these new minimum sizes, the only market for them is in France!" Let's pass the bouillabaisse bowl round then shall we?


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