Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Urgent - bass fishing being debated in the House of Commons on Thursday, so please, please email your local MP to get them to speak up for us

If ever proof was needed that bass anglers’ increased willingness to get more involved in trying to secure a better future for bass stocks is having an effect, then ladies and gentlemen, I draw your attention to this press release from the Angling Trust right here, and I quote: “North Cornwall MP and keen angler Scott Mann has successfully secured a three-hour backbench debate in the House of Commons to highlight the unfairness of the current measures on recreational sea anglers.” Make no mistake though, for all that it’s the politician’s name in there, there are a number of people who work tirelessly on our behalf who have helped no end here, and for little thanks and in fact often copping a fair amount of uninformed flak.

So there you have it. The subject of the recent measures that have been brought in and are in force right now are actually going to be debated in our elected house of power so to speak, and once again we as anglers who are directly affected by so much of this need to get off our arses and send an email to our local politicians asking them to speak up on our behalf at this House of Commons debate on Thursday this week at 2.15pm. Yes, time is of the essence, and yes, it’s hardly as if sending an email constitutes much effort on our behalf - but it is working. Emails, petitions etc., crumbs, they do get heard, and this is the proof. Scott Mann rang me a few weeks ago to speak to me about this stuff, and he said that he was going to push hard for a House of Commons debate, so let’s use this chance to be heard.

The work is not done. A debate has been secured, indeed the fact that recreational bass anglers are actually going to be spoken about in the House of Commons is quite something, but do not let up. Here is what we need to do rather urgently, and as before, it involves little more than clicking on a couple of websites and sending some emails. Please do this and give us recreational sea anglers the best chance to be heard.

Click here to find out who your local MP is - simply enter your postcode and quite magically the politician elected to represent your part of the UK pops up like a ray of warm sunshine on a wild winter’s day. Bless their cotton socks if you ask me.

You will notice that when this little ray of sunshine pops up on the website, below him or her is a button that says “Send a Message”. Please do so. Send him or her a message imploring them to get behind Scott Mann at this Thursday’s debate in the House of Commons. Below is some text that you can copy and paste. Simple.


Please speak up for sea bass in Parliament on February 11th - we need your help

You are probably aware that there are an estimated three million people in the UK who enjoy recreational fishing but you might not know that the Sea Angling 2012 study commissioned by the government concluded that recreational sea angling alone was directly responsible for 10,400 jobs and some £1.23 billion in economic benefit. By far the most popular fish for sea anglers is the bass, the numbers of which have declined to near unsustainable levels as a result of more than 20 years of commercial overfishing. The government has quoted sea bass as having a recreational value of £200m to the economy, vastly more than the first sale value of all commercial bass landings.

Scientific advice issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) in June 2014 recommended an 80% cut in bass mortality across the EU area for 2015. This followed the 2013 advice for a 36% cut which was ignored. In 2014 bass landings by UK vessels actually rose by 30% (from 772 tonnes to 1,004 tonnes).

The UK secured some success in leading on the EU-wide introduction of the 2015 package of emergency measures to protect bass stocks with a ban on offshore pelagic trawling. However, the situation has continued to deteriorate. ICES advice for 2016 recommended catches of no more than 541 tonnes - effectively a 90% reduction on 2014. The 2015 measures are estimated to have reduced catches by only 36% and the European Commission accepted that they simply didn't go far enough. As anglers we were braced for further changes.

The original proposals from the Commission for 2016 included a complete bass 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 per day bag limit for recreational anglers down from no limit in 2014 and a three fish limit last year.

Anglers were angered when EU Fisheries Ministers caved in to pressure from commercial fishing interests and granted four month exemptions to commercial hook and line and the highly damaging bass fixed gill net fishery – responsible for 50% of landings – wrongly referred to as “low impact”. Worse still the monthly vessel catch limits for the commercials were actually increased to 1.3 tonnes at the same time as anglers faced draconian restrictions.

Thousands of anglers are now at risk of criminalisation if they try to keep the self-same bass that a netsman is free to kill during the moratorium.

As recreational anglers, we were prepared to play our part in what we expected to be a fair, effective and proportionate package of measures that would help rebuild bass stocks but instead we have been singled out for over regulation while the commercial nets will continue to take vast quantities of fish, much of which is unrecorded.

The current situation cannot endure. The recreational bag limits are grossly unfair, they make a mockery of the law and fail to acknowledge that recreational sea angling is the most sustainable form of bass fishing which delivers the best economic return.

On Thursday, February 11th at 2.15pm, North Cornwall MP Scott Mann will be leading a three hour backbench debate in the House of Commons to highlight the unfairness of the current measures on recreational sea anglers. The debate is entitled: "Conservation of sea bass and the effect of related EU measures on the UK recreational fishing industry.”

Scott will be moving the following motion:

“That this House believes that the recent EU restrictions on recreational sea bass fishing are unfair and fail to address the real threat to the future viability of UK sea bass stocks; and calls on the Government to make representations within the Council of the EU on the reconsideration of the imposition of those restrictions.”

As my MP I'm asking if you would please attend this important parliamentary debate to speak in support of introducing revised measures that reduce bass mortality by restricting rather than increasing harmful commercial harvesting methods such as gill netting and instead promote sustainable methods such as hook & line fishing for both the commercial and recreational sectors.

The Angling Trust have produced this helpful briefing which you can find here: http://ow.ly/XWzUD

I would be most grateful for your support on this issue and look forward to hearing from you.

Best Wishes


Please, please send this email immediately. We need our local MPs to speak up for us on Thursday afternoon. We have a chance to further help bass stocks and we can make a difference, indeed I would argue that it has never been easier to get our collective voices heard, so let’s not waste that ability. I will keep you updated on this blog of course, and thanks for doing this.