The Angling Trust has cranked up the pressure to save the UK's threatened bass stocks with a hard hitting briefing calling for immediate parliamentary action which is being sent to all MPs this week.
The Westminster Bass Briefing has been jointly produced by Angling Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter and Marine Campaigns Manager David Mitchell. It follows on from last week's letter to UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice calling on him to introduce a series of conservation measures to protect UK bass stocks in the face of latest scientific advice from ICES, which has recommended a staggering 80 per cent cut in catches in order to protect the future of the species.
The Trust is asking MPs to write to George Eustice, and his Welsh counterpart Rebecca Evans, pressing the case for bass conservation measures now in UK inshore waters rather than waiting for any action from Europe.
Last week Martin Salter held cross party talks on the plight of bass with MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group including Jon Cruddas (Lab), Charles Walker (Con) and group chairman George Hollingbery (Con). He also briefed Shadow Fisheries Minister Angela Smith MP and former minister Richard Benyon.
Conservation measures set out in the Trust's briefing to MPs include:
- Publishing the findings of the review, commissioned in 2012 by Richard Benyon, into the evidence supporting an increase in the minimum landing size for bass.
- Implementing an emergency increase in MLS to 45cm in order to protect the year classes upon which a stock recovery will have to be built.
- Strengthen and enforce the UK's network of bass nursery areas.
- Incentivise the line caught fishery to reduce unwanted mortality and improve selectivity.
- Re-profile the current exploitation pattern away from fishing methods that have biggest negative impacts on stocks towards methods that are most environmentally friendly, selective, and generate the best return from the fishery.
- Support the UK-wide voluntary code of conduct for recreational angling.
- Ensure that bass policies are formed on the basis of science and evidence and not commercial pressure.
MPs are also being encouraged to table parliamentary questions on bass conservation.
George Hollingbery MP said:
'These new figures should seriously worry anyone with a stake in the future of bass fishing in this country, Whether you're a commercial fisherman or just someone who fishes for fun, we all want the same thing: bass in the sea to catch. These figures paint a stark picture of a future without these fabulous fish in UK waters unless something changes and changes soon.
'We cannot sit on our hands any longer and pretend that these fish aren't disappearing. They are and we need to see action being taken, not in a year or two, not in six months but now.'
The Trust has been briefing national journalists on the issue and a strong comment piece from respected columnist Charles Clover was published in the Sunday Times this week. They are also encouraging anglers to contact their own MPs.
Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust added:
'We are calling on everyone who cares about the future of British bass stocks to help put pressure on our politicians to act now before it is too late. We would urge every bass angler to contact their MP and get them to crank up the pressure on the government who last year ignored the scientific advice from ICES for a 36 per cent cut in commercial landings and is now reaping the results of years of inaction and complacency.'
Details for individual MPs can be found at www.writetothem.com