The proposals include “a complete fishing ban for commercial vessels and recreational anglers in the first half of 2016”, and in the second half of 2016 “a monthly one tonne catch limit for vessels targeting sea bass and a one fish bag limit for recreational anglers”.
The Angling Trust’s response said: “Government figures show that recreational sea angling is enjoyed by more than 800,000 people in the UK and is worth £2bn to the economy. Bass is our most popular sport fish and a huge amount of bass caught by anglers are returned to live, breed and fight another day.
“Anglers have been warning about commercial fishing causing a decline in bass stocks for the last 20 years and it is only recently that the European Commission and the Member States have started taking the issue seriously. Whilst we welcome the proposals to further restrict the commercial harvesting of bass it is monstrously unfair to lump all forms of bass fishing together.
“There is absolutely no equivalence between a trawler dragging a huge net across the ocean and a group of anglers going out at the weekend with a rod and line and fishing sustainably within agreed size and bag limits. The Angling Trust intends to tell the Commission it is picking on the wrong target.”
The European Anglers Alliance (EAA), of which the Angling Trust is an active member, has already identified that the technical detail of the Commission’s proposals are unclear with regards to whether the ban on fishing in the first six months of 2016 refers to recreational fishing. The Angling Trust is currently waiting for a correction from the Commission in order to clarify this.
David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Marine Campaigns Manager, said: “Members of the public fishing recreationally for publically-owned fish stocks will find it very difficult to accept why they are being so severely restricted while it’s business as usual for many commercial fishermen in the second half of 2016.
“Over the next fortnight we will be liaising with our colleagues in the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) and our partner organisations in the European recreational fishing sector in producing a carefully worked response to the Commission’s proposals.
“This will focus on trying to ensure all sectors contribute to conservation of bass stocks in a more balanced and proportionate way. We intend to put this forward for consideration at the December meeting of the Council of Ministers where we expect the Commission’s original proposals to be substantially amended.”
Earlier this month the Angling Trust met with the UK Fisheries minister George Eustice and briefed him on the need for further restrictions on the commercial harvesting of threatened bass stocks.