Make no mistake, the bass is an iconic, highly predatory species which illustrates very well the simple fact that recreational sea fishing is worth much more to the UK economy than is commercial fishing. In the UK alone, Defra estimates that bass fishing is worth £200m per year.
Seen Europe-wide, the figures are even more impressive: recreational bass fishing adds €10.5bn to the European economy and creates almost 100,000 jobs.
And alongside these astounding figures, we need to consider one other astounding fact; that bass stocks are on the verge of collapse. The predicted stock for 2018, at 6,414 tonnes, is a mere third of that in 2010.
I will not bore you with a blow-by-blow account of how this has come about, except to say that the usual culprits, the politicians and bureaucrats, have consistently refused to heed warnings issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), anglers and other conservationists. ICES now has no option but to recommend a total moratorium on bass fishing for 2018. Not only that, but UK fisheries ministers have consistently failed to take on board the need for stock conservation over the past 40 years. The crunch has come; and it has come big time.
And the crunch has come in other ways as well: the EU Commission has decreed that the burden of rectifying this sorry state of affairs will fall on the shoulders of recreational anglers, who, if the powers-that-be have their way, will be banned from catching bass for the first 6 months of 2018, and from then on not allowed to take even a single fish per fishing day for the table. All this will be in addition to the severe restrictions which have already been placed on recreational bass fishing, which include a higher minimum retention size and a closed season lasting 6 months of the year. Not only that: commercial bass fishing will be allowed to carry on as before!
For years, angling organisations have warned EU Fisheries Ministers that unless commercial catch rates are reduced as per scientific evidence and advice, the crunch would come. Well, now it truly has. The measures being proposed will do next to nothing to conserve stocks, quite the reverse in fact. And all the while commercial exploitation of this species, including devastating gill netting, would be allowed to continue. And the economic consequences would be considerable.
There is no doubt that implementation of the EU proposals would mean the loss of an iconic species; it is also beyond doubt that the UK economy would lose out, and many would suffer unemployment as a consequence.
So I ask you to join with me in signing the petition to George Eustace which can be accessed from the following page on the Angling Trust website:
This petition asks for rod and line bass fishing to be allowed during 2018, with anglers permitted to keep 1 fish per fishing day for the table if required, a modest demand in the circumstances.
You will also find a button to enable you to e-mail your MP.
And please do not think that because you never fish for bass, this issue does not concern you. It does, because as sure as fate an issue will come along which does affect you, and then you will need the support of other anglers, just as I hope you will lend them your support on this one. By showing that anglers can present a strong case and lobby in their interests and those of the species they fish for, you can actually prevent crisis situations like this one arising.
And please do consider joining the Angling Trust, the organisation which fights on your behalf – for fish and fishing.
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*Rod began fishing in his local park lake at the age of twelve, and from there he graduated to chub and roach from the river Tees in North Yorkshire. He now lives in Surrey within striking distance of the river Mole, as well as the Medway and the Eden in Kent and does a lot of surface carp fishing on small waters in the area. Latterly he has enjoyed winter fishing on the Test in Hampshire. He has contributed numerous articles on various angling subjects and personalities to ‘Waterlog’ magazine, as well as many posts on environmental and political subjects in support of the work of the Angling Trust on the ‘Fishing Magic’ website (www.fishingmagic.com)
He remains a passionate angler as well as a member and promoter of the Angling Trust.
The Angling Trust deserves your support in its dealings with politicians and the media to defend and promote fishing. Find out all about the Angling Trust and its work atwww.anglingtrust.net or call us on 01568 620447. If you’re not already a member DO consider joining.