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Bass Carcass Tagging - An Alternative to Bag Limits?

Nov 16,2006 Plugger


Commercial bass fishermen are often heard to complain that anglers and unlicenced hobby netters are seriously affecting the market for bass.

Reports of bass going in the back doors of pubs and restaurants are common even now despite the introduction of the buyers and sellers legislation.

Carwyn Jones the Welsh Minister recently stated that the reduction in black fish selling was an important requirement and for him obviously over riding the need to protect immature bass through a sensible bass mls increase in Welsh waters.

One measure that could easily support the commercial market whilst making it harder for others to sell ‘back door’ bass would be the mandatory introduction and use of commercial bass carcass tags.

Only licenced commercial bass fishermen (any method) would have tags which could be issued each year free of charge by either defra, MFA, local Sea Fisheries Committees or Producer Organisations.

All bass offered for sale would have to be whole fish each with a tag which could not be removed until the fish was consumed or prepared for a meal.

Tags would be destroyed by removal rendering reuse impossible and retained as proof of origin.

Tags would be imprinted with each year.

The key would to also introduce legislation which would make it an offence for any wild bass to be sold or offered for sale without an appropriate tag with inspection powers granted to MFA, SFO and Environment Agency Officers.

Tags could easily be colour coded • one colour for netted fish another for premium line caught fish.

Yes it would add a bit of time for bass fishermen to add tags, but this would be compensated by a better market price through reduction of back door sales.

What criteria would be required for a commercial bass fishermen to be able to obtain tags?

Easy, a track record from sales dockets or other reliable evidence which showed the degree to which a dependence on bass was a core part of annual income.

A qualifying dependence of say 20% of annual income from sales of bass would be about right.

As most back door bass is cash in hand, bartered and of course tax free, I doubt there would be many non bona fide commercial fishermen who could provide such evidence.

Farmed bass I hear you cry?

Also easy, inspecting officers would require proof of purchase receipts to confirm farmed or place of origin.

This is not a far fetched, pie in the sky ideal.

Legislation akin to this already exists for salmon as encompassed by the Buyer Beware principle.

EA officers inspecting premises require the seller of wild salmon to quote a salmon licence number if the fish is angler provided or details of the licenced salmon netsmen, or receipts from a fish farm. Failure to do so can result in enforcement action against the seller.

Bona fide commercial bass fishermen want back door sales of bass stopped, so do bona fide bass anglers who return many fish or take a few home for the pot.

 Maybe this is something, for once, that both sides in unison could lobby the government to introduce?



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comment Comments (1 posted) 
  • The fact is that, for species where their is no quota, black fish landings are not a problem for RSA. Whether the market is being supplied legally or illegally makes no difference to the amount of non-quota fish that the market is taking. It merely means that bona fide licensed fishermen have a greater problem selling into an already well supplied market, and get a lower price for their product. Carwyn Jones seems to think that if the black market for bass is stopped that those fish will not then be taken out of the sea, so regards it as a conservation measure. However the market will still be there. By choking off the black market supply it will merely mean that it will be bona fide licensed fishermen supplying that market with those fish rather than unlicensed commercial fishermen (rod and liners as well as netters). So it's really about protecting the market and market price of licensed fishermen, rather than about conservation. And anglers will not benefit from that. Yet in order to protect that market, the intention is to take away the rights of bona fide Recreational Sea Anglers, because the perception is that will make supply to the black market more easy to enforce. If a cap was to be placed on the effort on bass then perhaps a cap on the Recreational catch would be acceptable. But the current bag limit proposals make no mention of a limit on total effort, licensed fishermen will still be able to put out as much netting as they possibly can, leave it in the water for as long as is practical, fish for as many hours as they can manage. And when the black market is quashed, and the price of fish goes up, there is no way that the supply of fish will fall, rather the licensed catching sector will gear up to take up the slack. And that is why the carcass tagging idea is preferable. It not only makes life difficult for those who supply black fish, but it enables a cap to be placed on total effort, increasing the market price and meaning that bona fide licensed fishermen will actually be able to fish less for the same level of income. Not only protecting the market and price of bona fide licensed fishermen, but delivering conservation benefits as well. And there is no need to place unnecesary restrictions on bone fida Recreational Sea Anglers taking home fish for their own use, and to feed their families, though with a cap on commercial effort perhaps an angling bag limit would be more acceptable and equitable . Win Win Win for everyone, and most importantly for the fish stocks themselves.
(Posted on November 18, 2006, 11:12 am Leon Roskilly)


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