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Nov 24,2007 sacn


“Tories perform U-Turn on Bass MLS”

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 said:

“… 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.

Martin 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”

In 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.”


More information:  Martin Salter MP
The full text of the debate can be found at: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2007-11-22a.1425.0


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