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Angling Trust Slams EU Bass Shambles As Anything But A 'Fair Deal'

17.12.14

let our bass breed

Following the government’s failure at this week’s European Fisheries Council meeting to secure an agreement on threatened bass stocks, the Angling Trust has stepped up its campaign for urgent unilateral action to protect bass stocks in UK waters.  The Trust has written to UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice seeking an urgent meeting to discuss a timescale for the introduction of national bass conservation measures. 


The recreational sea angling sector, which is worth £2.1 billion and 23,600 jobs to the UK economy, feels badly let down by the government which has persistently refused to take unilateral action on the basis that an EU breakthrough was pending.  To make matters worse, Ministers are claiming to have secured "a fair deal for fisheries", despite the failure to take any measures on bass in response to the International  Council for the Exploration of the Seas’ (ICES) recent call for an immediate 80% reduction in bass landings to avoid a total stock collapse.

Since 2004 sea anglers have been calling for domestic measures in UK waters including:
  • Raising the minimum landing size for bass from 36cms to at least 45cms to allow fish to  breed at least once before harvesting
  • Strengthening and enforcing the UK's network of bass nursery areas and giving greater protection to estuaries.
  • Moving away from indiscriminate netting towards line-caught methods that are more selective and environmentally friendly.
  • Limiting the weekly catch per commercial boat.

Last month, Fisheries Minister George Eustice, in response to a Parliamentary question from his predecessor Richard Benyon MP, said:

"When it comes to bass, I can tell him that we expect to have an important breakthrough in December. We have always said that there should be technical measures. The stock has been fished unsustainably and there is a tentative proposal, which we expect to be raised at the December Council, that will look at both bag limits and catch limits, so that we can preserve this vital stock."

Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust said: 

"George Eustice was told time and time again that his strategy of leaving it to Europe to agree long overdue measures to rebuild bass stocks was fundamentally flawed. With ICES calling for an 80% reduction in bass landings we have to ask just how bad do things have to get before the government starts reducing unsustainable over fishing in UK territorial waters?

George Hollingbery MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group, has today tabled the following parliamentary question seeking action on UK bass stocks:

Following the failure of the December European Fisheries Council to agree any measures to protect sea bass stocks in line with the ICES recommendation of a 80% reduction in landings does the Secretary of State have any plans to unilaterally introduce domestic technical measures to reduce bass mortalities and allow stocks to rebuild?” 

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust added:

"This is very disappointing news but we feel that that the government has now run out of excuses for putting off introducing domestic measures on bass minimum landing sizes, more nursery areas and increased protection for estuaries. The Angling Trust will be working with supportive MPs in Westminster to step up our campaign for meaningful action to save British bass stocks on behalf of a million sea anglers.  Once again we have seen yet another example of politicians across Europe failing to do anything other than manage the continued decline of our precious fish stocks."



Bass Stocks Background 

  • The latest scientific advice issued by ICES in June 2014 recommends a 80 per cent cut in landings of bass across the EU for 2015. This follows advice for a 36 per cent cut in 2013 which was not acted upon.
  • The decline is the result of intensive overfishing, increasing fishing effort and successive years of recruitment failure. Successive Fisheries Ministers have been well aware of the current parlous state of sea bass numbers around the inshore waters of England and Wales and the long overdue need for the government to introduce measures to prevent a catastrophic stock collapse.
  • The results from this year’s Solent bass survey confirm five poor year classes in a row (2008 – 2012) which offers a bleak prospect for the future.


Blue Marine Foundation Report 
The BMF published a report on the relative economic importance of recreational and commercial bass fishing in Sussex last month which is available HERE on the Angling Trust bass campaign page along with other relevant information and documents.

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