Renewed bid to halt sea bass overfishing

Action to protect sea bass around the English coast from overfishing are expected to stem from a crucial meeting on Monday (October 1) between sea anglers, commercial fishermen and the fisheries minister, Jonathan Shaw.

Anglers will argue the present legal landing size is too small allowing large numbers of immature fish to be marketed commercially and threatening to reduce the size and quality of breeding stock in the future.     

In August they believed they had won a small concession from the former fisheries minister, Ben Bradshaw.   He said the size would be raised from 36cm (just over 14 inches) to 40cm (just under 16 inches) in April this year, and consideration given to raising it to 45cm (nearly 18 inches) in 2010.

But he reneged days before it was due to come into force, after an 11th hour plea from commercial fishermen.

“There is a clear moral responsibility on the fishing industry including recreational anglers to leave immature fish in the sea to grow and breed,” said Richard Ferré, chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers.  

“Plentiful fishstocks are the raw material for the industry and while the government cannot restock the sea it can legislate to allow fish to regenerate naturally and recover from years of overfishing which is still continuing.”

Government reports estimate a million sea anglers spend £1 billion a year and support 19,000 jobs.  

Mr. Ferré praised the Government for its recent high level of involvement with sea anglers but specific proposals remain on hold which “brings into question its commitment to develop sea angling despite earlier clear and specific promises to the contrary.”