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Bass campaign goes viral as big names back national petition

22.11.16

Bass Fishing Opportunities 2017 Campaign Image

With scientists warning that bass stocks in northern Europe are now in deep trouble because of commercial overfishing, angling groups in the UK have launched a national campaign, backed by the angling trade and some of the biggest names in the sport, to persuade EU Fisheries Ministers to adopt proposals to end damaging gill netting in favour of sustainable commercial hook and line and recreational fishing only.

TV presenters and authors Matt Hayes and Henry Gilbey are amongst those urging Britain’s 800,000 recreational sea anglers to back a national petition in support of plans tabled by the EU Commission. The campaign is also supported by the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) and the UK's Angling Trades Association (ATA).

Thousands of anglers have already logged on to the special Save Our Sea Bass campaign page to add their names to the petition and to lobby their MPs and the Fisheries Minister George Eustice ahead of the EU Council meeting on December 12th. Over the weekend the bass petition was the second fastest moving of all the petitions on the Government's website.

Despite the clear scientific advice issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) in 2014 for an 80% cut in bass fishing mortality across the EU area, recorded bass landings by UK commercial vessels actually rose by 30% (from 772 tonnes to 1,004 tonnes). The current ICES advice is for a complete moratorium on all harvesting of bass. There is no doubt that inshore gill-netting has played a significant part in the decline of bass stocks. For example, in 2014, UK gill netters landed 646 tonnes of bass – more than the ICES 2016 Northern Stock advice of 541 tonnes for whole of the EU.

Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust said: “The Angling Trust and the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (B.A.S.S) have long pressed for a ban on bass netting and fully support the EU Commission’s proposals for 2017 for a recreational and commercial hook and line bass fishery.

We are paying the price for the repeated failure of politicians and fishery managers to follow scientific advice on bass conservation measures. Last year’s disproportionate restrictions on anglers and increased commercial catch limits were bad for bass, bad for coastal businesses and damaging to our sport. Now, at long last we could see an end to the dreadful gillnetting that has done so much damage to fish stocks, seabirds and cetaceans.”

The campaigners believe it is critical that at the Council meeting on December 12/13 the EU Fisheries Ministers - including Britain's George Eustice - implement the Commission's proposals in full, without any backsliding or watering-down as happened last year. The Angling Trust has set up a special bass campaign page with full briefings on the issues, available at www.anglingtrust.net/nomorebassnets

Professional fishing photographer and bass specialist Henry Gilbey said: "We have a chance here to do something significant for the future success of bass stocks, so please, please let's not bury our heads in the sand and hope that all these problems go away. Let's push hard for what needs to be done to give a fighting chance to these magnificent fish and their future stock levels. Sure, I am an angler and I would like more and bigger bass to catch, but above that is an angler's desire to do the right thing and give these fine fish the chance they deserve"

Angling TV presenter Matt Hayes said: "Our seas are fragile ecosystems and the indiscriminate damage meted out by gill nets clearly isn’t sustainable. We are purely custodians of our waters until we pass the baton to the next generation so failure to do the right thing now means we will have failed in our duty. That would be shameful. These new EU proposals on bass fishing, coupled with sensible bag limits, would give the species a chance to thrive and restore balance and sustainability."

The Angling Trust has been working with the tackle trade and with angler charter boat operators to highlight the economic impact of a declining bass fishery with limited opportunities for recreational bass fishing.

Robin Morley, President of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) added: “We are working hard with the ATA through the European Angler's Alliance on this very important issue concerning the Bass stocks and totally support the Bass conservation and sustainability initiatives taking place. We stand firmly behind the Angling Trust and BASS campaigns to ensure that our bass stocks are available for enjoyment by recreational anglers and the Commission’s proposals are fully implemented."

Naidre Werner, Chair of the Angling Trades Association UK said: “Diluted policies would jeopardise not just anglers’ sport; they would also affect the livelihoods of charter boat skippers, coastal hotels and B&B’s, tackle shops, tackle manufacturers and all the other industry sectors who rely on plentiful fish stocks and the freedom to catch them.”


Notes

1) The Angling Trust’s Briefing Paper on the 2017 Bass Fishing Opportunities is available HERE.

2) Charter Boat Survey:
The survey carried out by the Professional Boatman’s Association (PBA) showed that an estimated £2.87 million is projected to be lost by charter boat businesses, which take anglers to sea to fish recreationally for bass and other species. The losses amount to more than 50 per cent of the total value of commercial bass landings in the UK, with individual charter skippers reporting an average of 22 fewer bookings and losing more than £8,000 in revenues. Summary available HERE.

Press release links here:
• Bass charter fishing fleet calls on Minister to get rid of the bass nets and save livelihoods – www.anglingtrust.net/afairerdeal
•  Recreational angling trade struggles to make ends meet as bass restrictions bite – www.anglingtrust.net/bassrestrictionsbite

3) Watch the EAA's new short film, Sea bass – Crisis, Value, Solution, about the long-term management of bass.

4) The ICES advice for 2017 can be viewed HERE.

5) The petition is available HERE.

6) Sea Angling 2012, the study of Recreational Sea Angling carried out by CEFAS for Defra, shows:

• There are 884,000 sea anglers in England who directly pump £1.23 billion p.a. into the economy (£2.1 billion including induced and indirect impacts).
• 10,400 full time jobs are dependent on sea angling (23,600 jobs including induced and indirect impacts).
• The VAT alone which is collected from sea anglers dwarfs the entire value of all commercial fish landings in England.

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