Thanks for your contribution.
Galling as it is to see anyone breaking the law and getting away with it, we don't search everyone leaving a shop to see if they may be carrying goods for which they haven't paid.
There are laws that can be used to prosecute those commercially fishing without a licence (ie fishing with the intention of selling their catch).
And I fully appreciate that there are difficulties in obtaining the necessary proof to bring about a successful prosecution. But to change the law to assume that anyone in possession of an arbitrary number of bass is a criminal, is not the way to tackle the problem.
However, in some circumstances, bag limits for anglers can be a useful conservation tool for species in need of protection.
But with bass, any attempt to introduce further conservation measures is countered with the claim that bass is being fished 'sustainably' (albeit some of this effort is unlicensed).
Indeed there is no quota (apart from a 5 tonne per week per vessel landing limit!) or any cap on effort on the species.
i.e. there is no reasonable limit on the number of fish that can be landed by any vessel, and no limit to the number of licensed vessels that can choose to target bass, especially when struggling to find fish and quota for other species, a situation which is likely to increase even more.
So, a general bag limit on all anglers to make it easier to prosecute a relative few unlicensed commercials, when compared to the practically unlimited overall commercial effort on the species, is like **** in the wind, as far as conservation is concerned.
Introduction of regulations to prevent trawling at speeds likely to catch bass, in shallow areas where large quantities of undersized fish are probable, and increasing the mesh size of nets, would at a stroke do far more for bass conservation than any regulation to impose bag limits on bona fide recreational sea anglers.
(The current level of discarding of undersized bass by trawlers trawling in areas where they know that they will hit a large number of undersized fish must far exceed the catches of unlicensed rod and line fishermen)
And if the species is in such need of protection that bag limits for anglers is necessary for conservation reasons, then that MUST be accompanied by a meaningful cap on total effort, both commercially and recreationally, otherwise there is no point.
As part of an overall package of needed conservation measures, applied proportionately to both commercial and recreational catches, reasonable bag limits would be far more acceptable to many anglers.
But introduced as a stand alone measure simply to reserve catches and preserve the market of a practically unrestricted commercial fishery, such restrictions on the freedoms of the recreational sector would be scandalous.
(Remember even if introduced as a reasonable bag limit of say ten bass per angler, it would then be far easier to revise the limit downward later perhaps to 3, 2 1 zero fish perhaps by others with a different agenda).
Such a dangerous proposition shouldn't be readily accepted by anglers (or fishery managers) without some substantial quid pro quo conservation measures as part of an overall package to benefit the fishery for everyone.
Indeed, the Prime Ministers Strategy Unit Net Benefits Report strongly suggested that bass should be reserved as a recreational species.
Instead, bag limits for anglers simply to preserve the market of licensed commercial sellers of bass, without any overall cap on effort or market, or a substantial and worthwhile conservation package, would seem to turn the idea on its head and lead to bass becoming the first species reserved for commercials, with only strictly limited access granted to recreational sea anglers!
Yes, I can see where Chris is coming from simply from an enforcement perspective, and sympathise with his frustration, but surely he realises that in suggesting bag limits for anglers, there are more fundamental issues that need to be addressed, and an overall package promoted that could actually be welcomed by anglers and the many businesses that rely on the angling sector.
Could it be that he shies away from suggesting such an overall package in fear of reaction from the commercial sector?
Edited by Leon Roskilly, 02 September 2007 - 06:53 AM.