ONE-FISH LIMIT SET TO RETURN
Having waited all summer for this news… it won’t happen until October
As I write this, we are close to having the one fish per person per day bass bag limit reinstated from October 1 to December 31. The EU Commission has put this forward as a formal proposal and, hopefully, by the time you read this it will have been passed into law.
Many bass anglers will have put away their rods by October, but getting the bag limit back in 2018 is vitally important because it means that:
1. The public, who own the stock, will again be able to take a bass for the table, rather than being forced to buy bass from commercial fishermen.
2. Sea angling is once again recognised as the most sustainable form of bass fishing and therefore sea anglers will again enjoy priority in the bass fishery (alongside commercial hook and liners) as the only people legally able to target and land bass.
Many people doubted sea anglers would get back the bag limit, so how did we achieve it?
When we saw the EU Commission’s proposal in November 2017 for a zero-bag limit during 2018, we launched the ‘Fishing for bass is not a crime” campaign ahead of the Fishing Opportunities meeting in December 2017. This prompted our Fisheries Minister to ask the EU Commission to agree to review the bag limit following the scientists’ bass benchmarking exercise in February 2018. So, a big thank-you to all of you who supported that campaign.
The October 2017 estimate of 1,627 tonnes of bass mortality from sea angling was wildly overstated. We worked with the ICES scientists in Copenhagen to find another approach that gave a more reliable estimate. As a result, in June the estimate for 2017 was revised down to just 216 tonnes, which makes much more sense
in view of the six-month closed period, 42cm minimum size and one fish limit we had in 2017.
As soon as that revised estimate for 2018 was released, we asked anglers to email the EU Commission asking it to reinstate the bag limit. At the end of August, EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella wrote to Save Our Sea Bass (the campaigning arm of BASS) thanking anglers for the many letters and emails they sent, and saying the EU Commission would make a proposal.
Winning back the bag limit shows:
■ People power – our campaigns have enabled many thousands of sea anglers to get their voices heard and acted on by the decision-makers (the EU Commission and Fisheries Ministers). It shows that sea anglers have significant political clout when they work together.
■ The benefits of trusting and working with the fisheries scientists.
■ Campaigning takes time and money. It is important that sea anglers support BASS, Save Our Sea Bass and the Angling Trust financially, so that they have the resources to stand up for sea anglers’ rights. You can do this by joining them or making a donation.
Looking ahead, the June ICES advice showed that although the bass stock is still in trouble, by 2020 it may be out of the worst danger – provided commercial fishing pressure remains low and the 2013 and 2014 year-classes survive to join the spawning stock in 2018 and 2019.
Now we must put pressure on our Fisheries Minister to ensure that going forward the bass fishery will be managed in a sustainable way, maximising the social and economic benefits by managing the fishery primarily for sea anglers. This means permanently excluding unsustainable fishing methods such as trawling and seining. And it means ditching the flawed Maximum Sustainable Yield approach that is used for commercial fisheries. Instead we need to target a large stock with a natural age/ size distribution, so there are plenty of bass
for anglers to catch and so that commercial fishermen can’t scoop up all the large bass.
It won’t be easy to get Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP to buy into our vision of a high-quality, high-value bass fishery managed primarily for anglers. But we will continue to help sea anglers apply political pressure get what they want and what they are entitled to.
Keep up to date with BASS through its blog on www.ukbass.com or on Facebook or Twitter.