Bass Measures are Failing to Protect the Species
The Angling Trust claim that bass measures are failing to protect spawning stocks in the south and east of England.
Source: Angling Trust
Changes made last year by Fisheries Minister George Eustice to water-down EU proposals to protect threatened stocks of sea bass have come under fire from angling organisations following the publication of upsetting pictures of captured fish.
They show bass secreting milt that were landed by fishing boats in the North Thames Estuary - six weeks after the premature end of the (Feb/March) commercial harvesting moratorium.
Similar scenes have been witnessed in Dorset leading anglers and conservationists to question why commercial gill netters and hook-and-line vessels were given a four month exemption from the original EU proposal for a full six month no-take ban for the first half of the year, which still applies to recreational fishing.
The male fish pictured above was landed by an angler on the 8th May 2016 on a mark east of Bradwell. It weighed around 3lb after excreting milt onto the deck. A second fish of the same size was landed within minutes of the first and also excreted milt. Both were immediately and successfully returned alive however evidence from commercial catches shows that many large spawning fish, fat with eggs, are being sold at the present time.
During April and May, bass found in the southern North Sea shoal up in large numbers off the Suffolk and Essex coast to spawn and have again been heavily exploited by commercial fishermen this year.
Angling Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter said:
"It is appalling that at a time when bass stocks are at critical levels the derogation negotiated by George Eustice for inshore commercial vessels has allowed the deliberate targeting of spawning aggregations of a threatened species.
This breaks every rule of good fishery management practice and is a conservation outrage. We are calling for a root and branch reform of the rules governing bass fishing not only to make them fairer for anglers but to enable valuable stocks to have a chance to spawn and for the fry to move into our rivers and estuaries to develop and grow."
Mick Sharp, a former member of the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, said:
"During my four year term serving on the Kent and Essex IFCA, I was bombarded by recreational sea anglers and charter skippers desperate to get something done about the slaughter of bass spawning aggregations inside the six mile limit off the Essex and Suffolk coasts.
You have only got to look at the landing data to see that the peak in bass landings by commercial netters based in Essex occurs during April and May. Many of these fish are the big spawning females, up to 6kg, that we need to preserve in order to replenish future stocks."
Nigel Horsman, from the Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society (BASS), said:
"The politically motivated derogation on landing bass by commercial fishermen in February and March was never about fully protecting bass whilst they were spawning, but more about appearing to do something by imposing a meaningless moratorium in the two months when commercial fishing for bass is at its lowest.
Eye witnesses now confirm that from Dorset to Essex bass are spawning in April and May, as they always have done, exposing the lie behind this derogation. It's high time politicians and fishery managers did the right thing and told the whole truth about their decisions, or better still, took the right decisions in the first place."
David Curtis, from the campaigning group Save Our Seabass, added:
"Had George Eustice and his French counterpart respected the EU Commission’s proposal for a full six-month moratorium, these spawning bass, that are so vital to saving the stock, would now be fully protected.
Instead we are forced to watch spawning bass being slaughtered in gill nets that we are told are 'sustainable' and 'low impact'. This madness needs to end - if a moratorium is required to rebuild stocks then it should apply to everyone, without exception.”
The Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society (BASS) has written to Defra to alert them to the situation and to press for an overhaul of the bass regulations.
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