Proposals by the European Commission to ban recreational fishing for bass in 2018 would criminalise hundreds of thousands of members of the public.
The proposals have stunned and infuriated anglers, who have had the lowest impact on bass stocks and have been calling for stronger conservation measures for decades. They would now be prevented from fishing for bass for the first six months of 2018 and prevented from keeping a single bass to eat throughout 2018.
Meanwhile, the Commission’s proposals would let commercial hook & line boats continue to catch up to four tonnes of bass each in 2018 – a measure that would only restrict one per cent of these UK boats.
Angling for bass has been valued at £200m in the UK and supports businesses and many thousands of jobs, which would be put at risk by the Commission’s proposals.
The Angling Trust and its partners, Save Our Sea Bass and the European Anglers Alliance, have called the proposals unfair and disproportionate and responded by launching a petition calling on UK Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, and other EU Fisheries Ministers to continue to allow the public to fish for bass throughout 2018 and keep up to one fish a day to eat from July until the end of 2018.
We have also launched a campaign ahead of the fisheries debate in the House of Commons next month calling on the public to email their MPs asking them to support the right of anglers to fish for and keep bass.
Last week, the Angling Trust and Save Our Sea Bass published a position paper setting out their proposals to limit commercial fishing in 2018 to give the seriously depleted bass stock a chance to recover.
Anglers have already had severe restrictions imposed on them since 2015, when a daily bag limit, a higher legal minimum size and a closed period of six months were introduced.
David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, said: ““Closing access for members of the public to fish for a publicly-owned fish stock such as bass is unacceptable while allowing commercial fishing operations to continue. It disregards both the rights of members of the public and the economic significance of businesses and jobs which rely on the money spent by anglers fishing for bass. The principle of fish stocks being publicly-owned is one we will defend to the hilt and we call on anyone who has ever fished for pleasure and eaten what they’ve caught to help us defend anglers' rights. Please sign the petition and join the Angling Trust today so that we can fight for the rights of anglers.”
David Curtis, from Save Our Sea Bass, said: “Angling is the most sustainable form of bass fishing, it delivers the greatest social and economic benefits by far, and it provides much needed income for many coastal communities. Excluding the public from the bass fishery whilst allowing commercial exploitation to continue would be an outrage and economic madness."
Malcolm Gilbert, consultant to the Angling Trust, said: “A total moratorium on the retention of bass by all user stakeholders would be a bitter pill to swallow but acceptable given the appalling failure of a succession of Fisheries Ministers to heed more than four decades of warnings from sea anglers. The stock must now become the absolute priority and should always have been so. What is not acceptable, however, is for public access to be ended whilst any commercial fishing is allowed to continue. What next, close the New Forest to public access and allow commercial loggers in?"