Civil servants have been told to start drafting legislation to save bass, Britain’s premier salt water sport fish, from relentless pursuit by commercial

fishing boats. 


The fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw gave the order the day the general

election was announced (April 5), after a meeting with invited recreational sea angling officials to discuss saving spawning fish from being killed and how the bass might be designated mainly for recreational anglers.


John Leballeur, chairman of the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS)

said the move was the first step towards legislation “which will at last

recognise the contribution recreational sea angling makes to the British economy and the urgent need to restore a healthy bass population to ensure that angling can develop still further.”


It would, he said, ensure that whoever the next fisheries minister is draft

legislation would be awaiting their attention.


The move is in line with recommendations from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit last year (March 2004) which said sea angling was worth more than £1

billion.  It said consideration should be given to redesignating some commercially caught species for wholly recreational angling, beginning with bass. 


“This was further encouraged last month (March) by an MPs’ select committee which supported the designation of certain species of fish for recreational



As a result of the meeting, also attended by the National Federation of Sea

Anglers (NFSA), proposals are expected to make it illegal if commercial f

ishermen or recreational anglers do not to return to the water any bass they catch which are not big enough to spawn. 


The present legal minimum landing length for bass is 36cm (14.25 inches),

well below the size at which female bass spawn.


A substantial increase in this minimum landing size is expected together with prohibition of gill netting within a mile of the shore, larger net meshes to

allow immature fish to escape and powers to stop fishing in areas where bass are spawning. 


Recreational anglers themselves are likely to be restricted in the number of

big bass they may keep.


After last year’s Net Benefits report by the Strategy Unit, BASS prepared a 

comprehensive management plan for bass*. 


Mr. Leballeur said:  “We are hopeful that all this will develop an excellent

British sport fishery to the benefit of coastal economies, including some of

those now suffering from dwindling commercial fishing.”


Commercial hook and line fishermen who target larger more valuable bass would also benefit under the expected new rules, he added.



* Proposals for revised management of the UK bass fishery

   is at