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A Question of Trust

Jan 06,2008 SACN

Press Release

Information from the Bass Sportfishing Society (BASS)

6 January 2008 - For Immediate Release

A Question of Trust

“Labour is on course to lose the Angling Vote”

That is the conclusion that many are coming to in the aftermath of the recent decision by Jonathan Shaw to abandon previous government policy to protect the UK’s important and valuable Recreational Bass Fishery.

With local fishermen’s organisations protesting that reduced fish quotas for 2008 are likely to drive some smaller inshore boats out of business, it is becoming clearer why Jonathan Shaw, the newly appointed Fisheries Minister, has overturned previous Government promises and sacrificed the opportunity for building a first class UK saltwater sports fishery, providing many more business opportunities and livelihoods in the Recreational Sea Angling sector, by abandoning the previous Fishery Minister’s decision to increase the minimum landing size for bass.

Bass are a slow growing and late maturing species, capable of growing to over 20lbs, living some 25 years and capable of spawning up to 15 times.

But they are now harvested as baby fish at just 36cm (around just 1lb in weight) and before they have ever had the opportunity to spawn.

Bass have historically been a recreational species especially prized by anglers and second only to salmon in their status and value as a premier sportsfish.

The value of the Recreational Sea Fishery for bass is worth considerably more than the commercial fishery, supporting many businesses and livelihoods.

However, increased inshore netting, as well as the development of the controversial method of pair-trawling for spawning congregations, means that anglers now rarely encounter fish of the stamp and quality which anglers most prize.

The problem is that there is no commercial quota for bass, and only a meaningless 5 tonne per week per boat landing limit (an unimaginable number of fish) to ‘restrict’ catches.

The danger is that with falling quotas for other species, and no cap on the number of boats that can fish for bass, or the amount of gear that each boat can deploy, fishing effort on bass will increase significantly, as boats turn to bass to maintain their profits as the reduced quota for other species is used up.

It is now almost certain that bass of any size will soon become a much rarer catch for UK anglers and inshore fishermen alike.

No doubt Jonathan Shaw has followed the advice of his DEFRA fishery officials in the light of the problems of the inshore fishing fleet but unfamiliar with the opportunities and economic importance of the Recreational Sea Angling sector, it is likely that he has made a grave political and economic miscalculation which will cost his party dear when the Angling Vote is next cast at the polls.

John Leballeur, chairman of the BASS Restoration Team said “what he has done by handing bass, the most valuable recreational species, to the commercial sector for unrestrained exploitation, is to tear up the assurances given in the past by the Labour Party that “Angling is safe in Labour’s hands”, and ripped the heart from Labour’s ‘Angling Charter’.

That is unless Jonathan Shaw has other plans to restore the damage that his decision has bought about.

But it would appear that time is not now on his side to gain the trust of Britain’s millions of anglers, whether they fish for bass or not”.


Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS)
Conserving the UK’s Greatest Sportfish
Notes for Editors

- BASS is the society which promotes the interests of its members and bass anglers throughout the United Kingdom, seeking to influence Government policy to manage the UK’s valuable Recreational Bass Fishery to provide more and bigger fish.

- Following a public consultation which surprised DEFRA with the number of responses, mostly supporting an increase in the bass minimum landing size to 45cm (when every fish would have spawned at least once), the previous Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw, had announced that a new minimum landing size for bass of 40cm would apply as from 6th April 2007, but withdrew the measure for further consideration just weeks before it was put in place, following representations from commercial fishermen.  The new fisheries minister recently announced his decision to drop the proposed increase altogether.   

- Labour’s Angling Charter can be read in full at: http://www.martinsalter.com/pdf/charter.pdf

In the charter, Labour states:

Bass Management Plan

Labour recognises that there are some species of sea fish which could return Best Value
for the UK, and the overall marine environment, if designated and managed primarily as
recreational species.

Bass are a prime example of this and consideration should be given to their designation
as a Recreational Species, managed primarily for the development of Recreational Sea
Angling, in accordance with proposals put forward in the Bass Management Plan
prepared by the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society.

The Bass Management plan has suggested:

1. Bass Commercial Licences - for the retention of bass.

2. Bass Carcass Tags . to cap effort, increase traceability and improve enforcement.

3. Bass Bag Limits . to limit the retention of bass by unlicensed fishermen and anglers
and to aid detection and enforcement of illegal fishing.

4. Closed Season . to protect spawning bass when they are vulnerable.

5. Increases in Minimum Landing Size . to strengthen the brood stock.

6. Nursery Area additional measures and enforcement . to protect juveniles.

7. Near-Shore Netting Restrictions . to protect our fragile coastal zones.

As well as delivering an angling product that would provide anglers with more and bigger
fish, these measures will also allow the development of a sustainable inshore fishery
concentrated on producing a high quality, high value product.

Ben Bradshaw, the previous fisheries minister prefaced the charter with:

It was anglers concerns for the conservation status of sea bass that has persuaded me to agree to implement much of the excellent bass management plan put forward by the Bass Anglers Sport Fishing Society. 

- The announcement of the abandonment of the increase to the bass mls was the subject of a parliamentary debate where Labour MPs and those on the opposition benches combined to attack the decision.

See:  http://www.sacn.org.uk/Conservation-and-Political-News/Bass_MLS_in_Parliament.html

- Statistics on the value of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector, and the number of participants etc are available at:


- The Bass Management Plan is available at:



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