Well done the Angling Trust and BASS with their response to the ICES advice for bass stocks in 2017

I had an interesting email from the Angling Trust a few days ago - did you know as an angler know that the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) advice is this: “ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catch (commercial and recreational) in 2017”? Moan all you like about the various recreational fishing organisations not magically and instantly getting you more and bigger fish to catch, but I choose to take my hat off to the various people who are fighting the anglers’ corner and so often go unnoticed and unappreciated. Below is the Angling Trust email I received:

“The Angling Trust and the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) warned UK and EU fisheries ministers last year that their failure to take heed of the scientific advice and begin radically reducing the commercial catch limits would eventually mean more pain in the long run as solutions proposed by ICES would get ever more draconian.

They made it clear that they have no expectation that EU ministers will implement in full the ICES advice with regard to bass as "no scientifically advised moratorium has ever been introduced by the EU Council in the history of the CFP."

Both organisations have issued a joint statement setting out a call for all bass netting to cease and for bass to become a recreational and sustainable commercial hook and line species only. They want to see the introduction of a slot size for both hook and liners and anglers to allow the larger, most fecund individuals to be returned to contribute to stock recovery. Both the Angling Trust and BASS have made it clear that they see no case for further restrictions on recreational bass fishing given the strict bag limits that were introduced for anglers last year resulting in a zero take from January to June and a one fish per day limit for the remaining six months.

Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust said: " The politicians have only themselves to blame and their blatantly political decision taken last year, in contravention of clear scientific advice, to grant a four-month exemption and larger vessel catch limits to inshore gill netters and hook and liners from the proposed six month bass moratorium, which was unfair, irresponsible and inflicted further damage on already threatened bass stocks. Recreational bass fishing, which now has a tiny impact on bass fishing mortality, bore a disproportionate burden of last year's catch restrictions and it is time that politicians finally grasped the nettle and end the unsustainable netting of this popular sporting fish before it is driven to extinction. "

Both the Angling Trust and BASS are seeking an urgent meeting with UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice to discuss the government's response to the ICES advice on sea bass ahead of the European Council of Ministers meeting in December where the final decisions will be made.

Nigel Horsman from BASS said :"This is a sad day for bass stocks and for all those thousands of anglers who take so much pleasure from catching bass. We can only hope that our fishery managers and politicians learn from their mistakes and heed the lessons from other countries, such as the USA, who have faced similar situations. It is imperative that no risks are taken with the ability of the remaining bass stock to mount a recovery. But, provided we do that now, I am hopeful that bass stocks will recover. But we must also fix the underlying cause of the current problem which is commercial overfishing on a grand scale."

David Curtis from the campaign group 'Save Our Seabass' added: "It is now confirmed that commercial fishing has put the very survival of the sea bass stock in jeopardy.  If the politicians do not now restrict the bass fishery to recreational angling and sustainable commercial hook & line fishing, we and future generations will hold them accountable for the disappearance of bass from our seas."

And here is that Angling Trust and BASS official statement on the ICES advice:

“The ICES advice for 2017 reveals a severe situation and a moratorium on commercial bass landings is now essential to allow bass stock recovery. Recreational angling bodies are not in the least surprised that ICES is now recommending a total moratorium on all bass landings in 2017. For several years we have warned that unless EU Fisheries ministers started taking heed of the scientific advice and began radically reducing the commercial catch limits then the solutions proposed by ICES would get evermore draconian. Politicians have only themselves to blame and their political decision last year to grant this year a four-month exemption and larger vessel catch limits to inshore gill netters and hook and liners from the bass moratorium was unfair, irresponsible and inflicted further damage on threatened bass stocks.

The Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) sector, which has least impact on bass fishing mortality, bear a disproportionate burden of this year's catch restrictions with a zero (Jan - June) and one fish bag limit (July - Dec). We believe the impact of RSA on bass landings was minimal last year and will be negligible this year, which expectedly will be confirmed by ICES advice next year. Further restrictions if needed must be sought within the commercial fisheries and not recreational angling.  

There has been strong criticism in Parliament and thousands of anglers have petitioned and demonstrated against these exemptions and the unfair treatment by comparison of recreational bass fishing. Both UK and EU Fisheries ministers should be aware that we will not accept a repeat of this unfairness in 2017.

We believe the following key points should be central to any strategy to rebuild bass stocks:

* If a moratorium is applied, it must be applied to all forms of commercial bass fishing.

* There must be no exceptions of commercial gill netting of any description.

* At the very least all bass netting should cease and bass should become a recreational and sustainable commercial hook and line species only.

*  Consideration should be given to the introduction of a slot size for both hook and liners and anglers to allow the larger, most fecund individuals to be returned to contribute to stock recovery.

*   We see no case for further restrictions on recreational bass fishing given the bag limits that are already in place.

* The government should speed up progress in coming forward with its promised Long Term Management Plan for bass, particularly in the light of the Brexit vote and the likely withdrawal of the UK from the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

It is with regret that we have no expectation that EU ministers will implement in full the ICES advice with regard to bass; no scientifically advised moratorium has ever been introduced by the EU Council in the history of the Common Fisheries Policy. Bass is caught in mixed fisheries as by-catch. This alone will be used as an argument to not introduce a moratorium. In light of the fact that Ministers will not follow the scientific advice and close the fishery we therefore recognise the need to secure fishing opportunities for members of the public fishing recreationally for the publicly owned bass stocks. We are in discussions with our European colleagues about coordinating a response from the recreational sector (whose economic value is worth over 30 times that of the commercial bass fishery) ahead of the Fisheries Council meeting at the end of the year.”

So there you go. I am flying over to the US this afternoon to help Fiiish at the massive iCast show in Orlando, so the blog might not be quite so regular until I get back in just over a week. In relation to the above, it’s interesting to note how serious somewhere like Florida is about their recreational saltwater fishery, indeed you don’t think about casting anything out there until you have bought a fishing license. Interesting as well to note how healthy their fishery is. Need I say more? Our fisheries and the recent EU vote bear parallels if you ask me - increasingly we stand divided in the UK these days, and I wonder where it’s actually going to get us in the long run? Anyway, here comes a week of 2am starts as per usual when I go to the US because I just can’t get on their clock! And of course a terrible case of bouncing fishing brain with all that gear at iCast and of course somewhere like a BassPro shop. Me? Never!