Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Surely now is the time for anglers to actually come together and fight for their right to be able to go bass fishing next year

I have never subscribed to the age old thing that as anglers we have some sort of exclusive right to go fishing and take fish to eat, but as a group of people we are stakeholders in the marine environment, and we have as much right to go sport fishing as a surfer does to go surfing etc. As I am sure you have all seen up on Facebook especially, there is an EU proposal on the table which is calling for a ban on anglers fishing for bass from January to July 2018, and then the next six months would be fishing for bass on a catch and release basis only. And yes, whilst there are proposals to severely restrict commercial landings, by no means do these proposals propose stopping all commercial bass fishing activity like they propose no sport fishing for the first six months of 2018.

First off, please note that these are leaked EU proposals, so don’t go flying off the handle like far too many anglers have been doing on Facebook. Please, please read this blog post because it will help you understand exactly what is going on and also what we need to do as anglers who want to go fishing but also do what is right to help protect and improve bass stocks for the future. I would suggest that with what could happen here - and note the word could - if we as anglers don’t work together and get off our collective backsides then we never will.

This is going to be a long blog post because I am going to copy various easy to read and digest stuff in here that I would urge you to take the time to read. As a group of enthusiasts we UK and Irish saltwater anglers are at best apathetic in general, but surely even the merest hint that proposals like these are on government tables needs to be taken seriously and acted upon. Please, please don’t do what we usually do and bury our heads in the sand and hope it all goes away. Surely what has been going on over the last few years worries the hell out of you how we as anglers are facing more and more restrictions, whilst far too many bass are still being commercially harvested all around us. Which group will have fully paid up professionals in the ear of the government to work on protecting as much of their fishing as possible when the December meetings occur? Well considering we don’t pay anything to try and protect our fishing, I will let you work that one out……….

Anyway, first and foremost, I am going to copy and paste the SOS (Save Our Sea Bass) website campaign details in here - it’s so easy to digitally sign a petition, and I would urge you to do so right here, but in reality it is letters and emails from individual anglers that means far, far more. Please follow the instructions below and get on with sending those emails and letters. After that I am going to copy and paste an excellent blog post from the TopFisher.eu website that perfectly explains what exactly is going on here with these leaked proposals. We need reaction, but I urge you to read everything here and then react because you actually know what is going on, rather than simply reacting to numerous inflammatory Facebook posts.

Do you legally want to be doing this next year? If so (no brainer, surely!), please act now

Do you legally want to be doing this next year? If so (no brainer, surely!), please act now

From the SOS website:

"Fishing for Sea Bass Is Not A Crime – Don’t Let The EU Make It One!

The EU wants to make it illegal for the public to catch or keep any sea bass in 2018.  But they are only proposing to restrict 1% of commercial hook & line vessels targeting bass in the UK. This is unfair and disproportionate.

Members of the public who enjoy angling and eating some of the fish they catch have already suffered severe restrictions since 2015 in order to protect bass stocks. Now the right of the public to catch a bass for the table is about to be taken away from us.  Don’t let the EU remove a right that is part of everyday life for millions of people.

We urgently need you write to your MP, asking him or her to talk with George Eustice and Michael Gove and urge them to protect the public’s right to catch and eat bass.  It’s easy to do, just follow this link: (below are the details of what you need to do via that link)

Email Your MP Today

Please take a couple of minutes to ask your MP to protect the public’s historic right to fish for a bass to feed their family.

The EU Commission’s proposal is unfair, disproportionate and completely unenforceable. It would criminalise thousands of anglers whose activities have had the lowest impact on European Bass stocks.

We are calling for the EU Fisheries Ministers to defend our rights and to continue to allow anglers to catch bass throughout 2018 and keep one bass a day from July‐December.

  • Copy the ‘suggested wording’ text below (or even better, use your own words);
  • Enter your postcode in the box below;
  • Click on the ‘Connect’ button to goto to the Writetothem website;
  • Paste your text (or add your own words), enter your name, address, etc. and hit send!

Suggested Wording:

I’m writing to express my serious concerns over the recent proposal by the European Union Commission that that sea anglers should no longer be allowed to retain a single bass caught in 2018 and face a complete ban on even catch & release bass angling for 6 months of the year. This has sparked outrage amongst angling groups, tackle shops, fishing guides and charter boat skippers, particularly because the Commission is proposing that some forms of commercial fishing should continue and is clamping down hardest on the sector that has had the lowest impact on bass stocks.

Members of the public who enjoy fishing for bass from the shore or from pleasure or charter boats make a significant contribution to hard-pressed coastal economies – estimated by DEFRA to be as much as £200 million a year and far in excess of the value of the commercial fishery. Not only is it ridiculous and utterly unenforceable to suggest that anglers can stop a bass, rather than a pollock or a wrasse from biting on their bait or lure, it is monstrously unfair and completely unenforceable.

As my MP, I would like you to raise these matters in the House of Commons, if possible at the forthcoming Annual Fisheries Debate, and to write to Fisheries Minister George Eustice calling on him to:

  • Firmly reject, at the European Union Fisheries Council meeting, proposals by the EU Commission which seek to restrict anglers’ historic rights to the public Bass fishery, whilst allowing commercial exploitation to continue.
  • Make clear that this measure is unfair, disproportionate and completely unenforceable. It would ‘criminalise’ thousands of anglers whose activities have had the lowest impact on European Bass stocks.
  • Insist that there can be no justification for increasing the already severe restrictions on anglers who have borne a disproportionate burden of recent restrictions.
  • Continue to rebuild Bass stocks by limiting their commercial exploitation by restricting bass fishing to sustainable hook and line fishing only.

The sea angling community and those businesses which it sustains will be most grateful for your support."

(Henry here - if any of these links don't work properly, please just go to the SOS email campaign page here and do it there.)

If you require any further information please download the full Angling Trust briefing here


And now for a full and easy to read explanation about what exactly is going, please read the blog post below that I have copied and pasted from TopFisher.eu - with my profound thanks to them for allowing me to do so..

"Firstly to appreciate what is happening to bass you have to have some appreciation of the general politics that surround all fishing negotiations.

In this case the EU Fisheries Commission will put forward a position paper and the fisheries ministers will debate the proposals and will come to some sort of agreement based around the pressure applied by commercial lobbyists and the need to protect stocks as outlined by the scientists.

Technically speaking the EU commissions hands are tied. The EU has committed not to knowingly fish a species into oblivion. Where the politicos do not have sufficient information the “precautionary principle” applies. Decision making must be conservative at least until better information is gathered.

So, a discussion paper began to circulate in mid-November. This non-paper sets out the proposals for bass for 2018.

It advocates:

Recreational: Six months total ban on targeting bass. Six months catch and release.

Commercial: Netting of bass prohibited and no by catch allowance. No landing obligation (bass caught as a by catch must be thrown back to the sea). Limited hook and line commercial fishing is permitted to a max of 4ton per boat per year.

By any standards these are fairly draconian proposals. It is important to realise that these are just that, proposals. Nothing is set in stone until the December council. Between now and then the lobbying continues and countries will decide on their position. Most EU positions get somewhat diluted before a deal is reached.

There is one thing to remember about bass. The EU has been moving towards these type of measures slowly, as they do. Over the last few years they have made concessions to the commercial lobby to allow some bass fishing. It always obvious if the desired effect is not achieved then the commercial lobby runs out of room as the next set of measures are put in place.

It is simple really, if the commercial fishing people could have managed their catches then the status quo would have been achieved. Instead, commercial fishing took bycatch allowances to mean business as usual. Obviously the catches for the year did not match the planned allowances that would let stock recover. The EU are not fools! Is is the usual modus operandi of the EU the road will be narrowed further in terms of commercial fishing. The catch rate will be reduced. This should not come as a surprise to anybody.

The continued ban on commercial fishing in Irish waters continues. (Henry here - one can dream……..)

The UK situation

Since the publication of the non-paper on bass there has been somewhat of a frenzy on social media. Many look on the notion that bass cannot be retained by anglers to be a serious threat to their civil rights. Many look at the imposition of a six month “closed season” to be a threat to their way of life and the ability to earn a living where they are guides and charter skippers. Remember that these are still only proposals!

Some on social media blame the EU for imposing these rules and are looking forward to Brexit and the time when the UK control their waters. I have news for you, the UK already control their own waters inside the 12mile national limit. One has to wonder whether UK politicians would take the hard decisions needed to protect stocks of bass from a commercial industry that has shown itself unable to self-regulate. You would fear for bass in that situation.

Some on social media are blaming the UK angling organisations for the regulations that have been imposed. Many are pointing to apparently inflated figures for angling participation in the UK as being the reason for restrictions. The UK is not alone in this situation. The EU is taking stock of information from France (There are more bass anglers in France than the UK), The Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Spain. This is not a case of decisions in the EU penalising Uk anglers. This is an EU-wide subject.

Some on social media are reckoning that UK angling organisations are responsible for the spotlight falling on bass. Anecdotal evidence would say that sea anglers have been largely ignored as a lobby group. The spotlight is falling on bass because catch rates were increasing yet scientists are warning that the species is beyond the point where it can save itself without protection measures.

Some on social media are blaming UK angling organisations for over stating the numbers of participants in sea angling and as a consequence the amount of bass that are retained by the recreational sector. There is no doubt that participation levels were over estimated in various studies. The UK does not have the monopoly on this, a recent Irish study commissioned by Inland Fisheries Ireland has largely been swept under the carpet in terms of angler numbers as it is felt to have over estimated.

There is no doubt that recreational fishing has an impact on bass stock. Before the recent EU regulations there was no limit to the amount of bass that could be retained (Other than in Ireland). Without doubt the situation remains that anglings effect on retained fish numbers has to be seen as reducing mortality by a huge degree as compared to the free for all that existed.

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Angling mortality

Many would be concerned about the figures for post release mortality in bass. Many bass anglers were practicing catch and release before there were any rules. In Ireland we have largely a catch and release fishery since the 1990’s. In their advice for the stock International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) a figure of 20% post release mortality is used. This would seem excessively high. Consider the results of the ESB Bass Acoustic Tagging Programme in Cork Harbour – 100% Survivability of implanted bass over 30 days (After 30 days it was felt that any mortality could be for many reasons). The study was not a post release survivability study, but the results cannot be ignored nonetheless.

You can read more on the study here.

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Where do we think the future lies for bass?

I would take the same opinion since the first rules were brought in by the EU. The EU has made concessions to the commercial industry. The EU know well that the desired effect will not happen but political and economic considerations are important in decision making. As each year passes the EU will get to the position that they adopted at the very outset – Bass will be a species that will be commercially fished by rod and line commercials only – Artisan fishing that will benefit local communities. The methods are shown to be sustainable and undersized fish can be released with a high degree of survivability.

Anglers will have to contend with something like a one fish rule per 24hrs all year round.

We have been largely fishing to regulations such as these in Ireland for years now. We are accustomed to them and there is a degree of pride in our effort to conservation our bass stocks. You must remember that by the late 80’s bass were commercially extinct in Irish waters.

As bass stocks improve in areas where there have been traditionally good stocks you will find that commercial fishing will be given greater quota from time to time. Anglers will benefit from increased allowances too. Some countries, like Ireland, will maintain bass as an angling only species and hopefully will reap the benefit in terms of increased participation and a corresponding increase in tourism and other repeated revenues.

The furore at the present is based on a proposal. It will be December until we see what the final regulations will be. It might be an opportune time to contact your representatives and make your feelings known. If you still condone the work of UK groups like the Angling Trust and UK BASS it would be a good time to support them. Irish anglers can contact their local TD’s. Maybe it might be better to email Michael Creed the minister responsible for fish and fishing."

Excerpts from the EU Paper:

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