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 or on Face­book or Twit­ter.

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