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WAG Explains Bass MLS decision

Nov 09,2006 SACN

Replying to a letter from SACN Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government have sought to explain the reason that they are increasing the mls of bass to just 37.5cm, rather than the 45cm originally proposed, when every fish would have had the opportunity to spawn at least once before being taken.

Their explanation reads:

The Minister consulted widely with organisations across Wales, including angling representative bodies and individual clubs, and many individuals also responded to the consultation.

The Minister and officials have also met with and engaged in discussions with all the enforcement bodies in Wales.

Environment Agency Wales, in their consultation response indicated qualified support for an increase in MLS to 45cm, subject to review of mesh size requirements and ensuring that measures secure protection of salmon and sea trout.

The Agency expressed strong concerns about the potential implications for salmon and sea trout fisheries as a result of an increase in mesh size.

The Minister considered these along with all the other evidence and meetings with representatives from both commercial and recreational sectors before making his decision.

The scientific evidence from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) indicates that bass stocks are currently healthy and fished sustainably.

As such there is no justification, other than to favour one sector over another, to increase MLS.

Regarding your concern about English vessels coming into Welsh waters to fish for bass between 37.5 and 40cm, we do not feel that this will be a major concern.

Representative from commercial and recreational sectors have expressed to the Minister the view that the biggest threat to bass stocks comes from the illegal sale of bass by non commercially-licensed fishing boats.

That is why we are encouraging Sea Fisheries Committees and the Environment Agency to introduce limits to the number of bass non commercially-licensed fishing boats can take and land.

We are also looking to cross warrant officers legally entitled to enforce.

This will, we consider, have a greater positive impact on stock levels than increasing the MLS, hence benefiting both sectors.

This will also minimise the economic and social impact on the licensed commercial sector and the level of discards of undersized fish.

We have no plans to charge anglers for this enforcement.

Also, commercial fishermen are currently restricted, by licence conditions, to 5 tonne of bass per week, whereas non licensed fishermen face no such restrictions.


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