Owners of the UK’s charter fishing boats have called on the fisheries minister, George Eustice, to give his full support to EU proposals which would mean a fairer deal for anglers when the 2017 bass fishing opportunities are agreed by ministers in December.
Last year Mr Eustice angered Britain's 800,000 sea anglers by caving into pressure and agreeing to restrict members of the public angling recreationally for publicly-owned bass stocks whilst increasing catching opportunities for those fishing commercially.
Charter boats are projected to lose approximately £2.8m in bookings over the course of 2016 – approximately 50 per cent of the value of all recorded bass landed commercially into the UK. Anglers spend up to £600 a day chartering specialist bass fishing trips but bookings have been down as a result of the disproportionately restrictive measures banning anglers from retaining any bass for the first six months of the year, and then limiting them to just one fish per day for the remainder of 2016.
Ian Noble, Chairman of the Professional Boatman’s Association (PBA), which represents many of the UK’s charter boat operators, has written to the Minister calling on him to support the livelihoods and businesses of charter boats by backing the European Commission’s proposals for bass fishing opportunities in 2017 including limiting commercial fishing to hooks and lines only, introducing a two-month closed period to protect spawning bass and agreeing a fairer and more flexible monthly bag limit for recreational fishing.
In his letter Mr Noble writes, “The UK’s charter fishing fleet contributes many millions of pounds to the UK economy and to many coastal communities by providing a service to recreational sea anglers. Businesses, like my own, are reliant on members of the public choosing to go angling recreationally for publicly-owned sea fish.
We are small businesses, just like the under10m fleet, whose livelihoods are reliant on fishing opportunities. However, we believe that no consideration was given to our sector when the 2016 EU fishing opportunities were agreed. It is essential that a fairer deal is reached for the recreational angling and charter boat sectors in 2017."
The decline in bookings has also affected other businesses in coastal communities who rely on visiting anglers. “Anglers may fish for leisure but it's a leisure activity that is highly valuable and one on which many small businesses and jobs depend.”
David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Head of Marine, said: “No one from government thought to consider how the very restrictive measures for recreational angling in 2016 were going to impact charter boats. Now that they are aware of the damaging impact it has had on the livelihoods of many people living in the UK’s coastal communities fairer and more flexible measures that support small business owners operating charter boats must be delivered by the fisheries minister for 2017.”
Angling organisations, who have been battling for a better deal for threatened bass stocks and for the introduction of sustainable forms of bass fishing, have today welcomed the announcement by the European Commission that should see the removal of damaging gillnets from the bass fishery in the North Sea, English Channel and North Atlantic.
If the proposals are adopted by the Council of Ministers at the forthcoming Fishing Opportunities meeting in December, commercial bass exploitation will be restricted to hook and line fishing only for ten months of the year in 2017, with a closure in February and March to protect spawning aggregations.
Recreational anglers will be allowed to retain ten fish a month during the ten month open season, as opposed to one fish a day for just six months as is currently the case.
A 40-year wait to catch a double-figure bass ended for Dave Grantham when he bagged this 14-pounder.
This big fish fell to a mackerel head and guts bait offered by Dave, of Sidlesham, West Sussex, while fishing from a friend’s boat out of Littlehampton.
“I’ve waited more than 40 years to catch my first double-figure bass,” said Dave.
Another double fell to Peter Lee (below), of Godalming, Surrey, who bagged a 12lb bass at Dungeness, Kent, on a black lug/squid cocktail.
After 10 years of trying to catch a double-figure bass an angler from Cardiff caught two, with the best weighing a superb 13lb 14oz.
John Fishlock, a member of the Cardiff-based South Wales Sea Anglers, was fishing with club colleague Robert Cole at a mark near Cardiff Foreshore where previously they had caught bass to 9lb.
“We think this bass ban has made a huge difference in the Bristol Channel with loads of reports coming into me about double-figure bass,” said Robert, who is also press officer of the Welsh FSA. “I decided to brush off the light gear and have a session to see if there was any early bass showing at a Cardiff mark.”
Robert and John headed for a local mark, where, about half hour before high water, John’s 175g barbel rod was almost pulled off his rod-rest. After 20 minutes he was able to net his first double-figure fish from the bottom of the steep mud bank. He caught the bass, which weighed 12lb 3oz, on small peeler crab baits on size 2/0 Sakuma Manta Extra hooks and 6lb mainline with 10lb snoods.
Two weeks later on a similar tide, the pair headed back to the same mark and John caught another bass of 13lb 14oz. Both fish were released.
Proposals have been put forward to ban the landing of bass by both commercial and recreational anglers in 2017.
The advisory body, the International Council for the Exploitation of the Seas, of which the UK and Ireland are members, suggest a zero catch in 2017 due to declining stocks of bass.
It says emergency measures in 2015 to protect bass did reduce pelagic trawl catches and also by-catches, and it is assumed this will be repeated due to the measures taken for 2016. For anglers, these included a ban of retaining bass for the first six months of the year and a one-fish bag limit from July 1.
The Angling Trust and the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society 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.
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, who see no case for further restrictions on recreational bass fishing, are seeking an urgent meeting with UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice. They want to discuss the Government's response to the ICES advice ahead of the European Council of Ministers meeting in December where the final decisions will be made.
Baiting up with a chicken drumstick for a joke produced a 5lb 8oz bass for Neil Griffiths while fishing at Sker Point, near Bridgend.
The angler from Newport, South Wales, explained: “The day had been going very slowly without a bite. Three hours in we broke for lunch and I brought out a pack of barbecue chicken drumsticks.
“As a joke and to liven the day, I lashed a drumstick to my hook and cast it out. Much to the hilarity of my fishing companions Gerrainth Hayes and Richie Williams., within minutes my rod was bouncing all over the place and I reeled in this beauty.”
Richie helped him land the fish which was returned.