Labour’s Parliamentary Spokesman for Angling, Martin Salter MP, has expressed disappointment at the decision announced by DEFRA today not to proceed with an increase in the bass minimum landing size (MLS) as promised by the former Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw. Mr Salter has pledged to work with sea anglers to challenge the decision and to question the latest report from CEFAS which undermined the case for an increase in the bass MLS.

However Mr Salter did welcome the announcement by Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw to create new nursery areas to support juvenile populations of bass, a review of inshore netting restrictions in sensitive areas and a research project to consider managing bass, cod, tope and grey mullet for recreational fishing.

Martin Salter MP said:

“I am extremely disappointed that the government has chosen not to increase the bass minimum landing size and I will continue to work with sea anglers to campaign for an increase. I have agreed with the NFSA and the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society to host a seminar in the House of Commons where we can go through the latest CEFAS report and challenge the claims that the biomass of bass stocks has doubled in recent years. From the catch records I have seen this appears to be a somewhat incredible claim. Nonetheless the March 2007 CEFAS report has pulled the rug from under our feet which is why it is important to put their claims to the test.”

He added:

“Ben Bradshaw announced on 10th August 2006 that the bass minimum landing size would be increased to 40cm with the intention to go to 45cm following a review in 2010. Subsequently this decision was put on hold for further consultation following representations from the commercial sector. However I have seen no evidence to suggest that raising the bass MLS to 40 or 45cm would have a significant impact on the commercial fleet. The optimum spawning size for bass is 42cm and it is clear that the survival of any species is dependent on its ability to breed at least once.”

Mr Salter said:

“I remain of the view that an increase in the bass MLS would produce a better yield for both anglers and commercial fisherman and would be in the long term interests of the environment. Ministers should also be aware that this decision will arouse understandable hostility amongst sea anglers and now makes it much more difficult to gain acceptance for the case for a sea angling rod licence as proposed in the Marine Bill White Paper.”