The government has “flown in the face” of its own fisheries advisers, Cefas
(the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), in refusing
to increase the minimum landing size of bass.
The decision looked after the short-term interests of the inshore commercial
fishing fleet rather than the long-term interests of the species and the
environment, according to Martin Salter, the government’s own parliamentary
spokesman on angling.
He told the House of Commons (on November 22) that just two years ago Cefas
had recommended the size should be increased.
“It is incumbent on us to take the long-term view. The science shows that,
although increasing the minimum landing size for bass would mean a short-term
depletion in the fish available to be … caught by the commercial sector, there
would be a long-term increase.”
Thanking him for expressing the anger and dismay of sea anglers at the
decision, Richard Ferré, the chairman, of the NFSA said in a letter: “We are not
naïve enough to expect an immediate U-turn but hopefully it will encourage the
minister to take some other rapid actions to rebuild confidence.”
Mr. Salter said increasing the landing size to 45cm would double the weight
of sea bass which was a valuable recreational fishing species. “Just as people
spend a lot of money to catch quality salmon – far more than salmon would ever
fetch on a fishmonger’s slab – people will spend a lot of money to enjoy
quality recreational bass fishing.”
The optimum spawning size for female bass was 42cm. It was simple
conservation to give every species the opportunity to breed once to promote sustainable
Mr. Salter said he had tried to make a case for a sea angling licence but he
absolutely agreed with the National Federation of Sea Anglers that this could
only happen if there was a significant improvement in the sport available to
The minister’s decision had “driven a coach and horses” through the
government’s new strategy for recreational fishing and through any attempt to make a ca
se for a licence.