Commercial fishermen and recreational sea anglers will all benefit equally from the new landing size for bass from next April, Ben Bradshaw the fisheries minister told parliament last evening (Thursday).
Defending the new 40 cms minimum size he said that if female bass were allowed to grow to 42 cms at which size they began spawning, there would not only be more fish, there would be bigger fish.
“I think in the short term this will involve some pain for some fishermen, particularly inshore fishermen in the south west.
“In the medium to long-term they will benefit from the increased landing size and the increased numbers of bass in exactly the same way as the recreational fishermen will.”
The vast majority of the beneficiaries would be British fishermen “because the bass are moving within our own waters” where foreign fishermen did not have access.
Opening the annual fisheries debate Mr. Bradshaw announced that in 2005 the value of landings by British commercial fishing vessels increased for the sec ond year running to £571 million a rise of 11 per cent. Exports had risen by four per cent to £925 million.
He said recreational sea anglers also made a very significant contribution to the UK economy but in his view their interests had not always been sufficiently recognised in fisheries management.
“We have tried to make sure their interests are better represented, for example on inshore fisheries management bodies and we are currently working closely with recreational angling interests to take this approach forward with a recreational sea angling strategy for England in the New Year.”
Bill Wiggin, the Conservative fisheries spokesman, said recreational sea angling in the EU, including that in Britain, was worth up to €10 billion and that both angling and commercial fishing were entirely reliant on the same natural resource, the publicly-owned fish stocks in inshore waters.
The overarching issue confronting both sectors was the need to stop over exploiting fish stocks in inshore waters and develop conservation programmes to improve the quality and quantity of fish in the sea.
The fishing industry, he said, looked vulnerable and fragile as ever. The government and the EU had not yet struck the balance between the environment and the economic needs of British fishermen.
“An atmosphere of gloominess and pessimism has once again descended over our fishing communities as they await the outcome of the EU December fisheries council and their future for the next 12 months.”
Anthony Steen, MP for Totnes, said that while the picture might look rather gloomy in many parts of Britain, in Brixham fishermen were rather optimistic and were having “a booming trade with lobster and crabs in abundance.”