The minimum landing size for sea bass is to be increased to improve and sustain the fishery.

From April 6, 2007, fishermen and anglers will not be allowed to land bass any smaller than 40cm Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw announced today. The current limit is 36 cm.

Mr Bradshaw said: “I have listened very carefully to the representations made and have not taken this decision lightly. I have accepted the arguments for a bigger minimum landing size to help increase the quantity and size of bass. This will also give better protection for the stocks. There may be short term costs from this measure before we see future gains but it is vital that fisheries management takes a long term view.

“The recreational fishing sector makes a major contribution to our economy and it is important that their voice, as well as those of commercial fishermen, is taken into account in fisheries management.

“In the future, I intend to increase the landing size further to 45cm, but subject to the results of a review, in 2010, of the effectiveness of the measures I have announced today.”

The increase to 40cm will bring the minimum landing size closer to the average spawning size for bass (42cm). As a result, more juvenile fish will be protected and there would be increased recruitment to the spawning stock. This will in turn increase the number and size of bass available for capture to both the commercial and recreational sector.

The increase in the minimum landing size is the first in a wider package of measures being considered by Defra in relation to sea angling. Work is currently underway with anglers, commercial fishermen and other interested parties on the drafting of a recreational sea angling strategy for England, and provisions are being considered for the Marine Bill in relation to sea angling.

Further measures in relation to bass are also being considered, including ‘bag limit’ restrictions that would limit the number of fish individual sea anglers can take.