New government rules meant to improve and develop stocks of sea bass in English coastal waters will fail to restore them and only slightly lessen the danger they will instead be destroyed by overfishing, sea anglers said today


Raising the size for landing bass from next April though by only 4 cm to 40 cm, was a welcome move in the right direction, said Richard Ferré, chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA).


“But it will not stop the depletion of one of the country’s finest natural renewable marine resources and is unlikely to achieve the government’s objective to increase the number and size of bass. 


“Bass of 40 cm are small immature fish which should not be caught and sold.”


Female bass do not spawn until they are 42 cm (weighing about 750 grams) and anglers say the legal landing size should be 45 cm (about 950 grams) by when most will have spawned.


Mr Ferré said:  “This small increase in size though a step in the right direction, still permits large numbers of immature fish to be caught and shoals depleted on an industrial scale.


“It only slightly lessens the danger that, like other species which supported fishing for centuries bass could disappear through overfishing.”


Bass have historically been an angling sportfish of virtually no interest to commercial fishing until the mid 1990s.  Anglers want the government to help develop the fishery and with it the growth of recreational sea angling, already worth £1 billion a year supporting 19,000 jobs in England and Wales. 


They believe commercial fishing would benefit, too, from the higher prices larger fish would bring.


Mr. Ferré said a bold move to a size of 45 cm would have  substantially increased the breeding stock essential to sustain the shoals for the long term benefit of all sea fishing.


“With global warming increasing water temperatures there should be more and bigger spawnings.  The reverse is happening, possibly an early indication that bass stocks are entering the first stages of collapse.”


He acknowledged that Ben Bradshaw, the fisheries minister, made a difficult decision to increase the landing size, trying to balance the needs of recreational and commercial fishing.


“We are disappointed he did not go further and will continue to press for a minimum size of 45 cm as soon as possible.”