Current 2018 regulations for trawling or seine nets prohibits fishermen from targeting bass but they are allowed to land unavoidable by catch of bass up to 1% of their total daily catch. 

At this time of year bass congregate in advance of spawning in areas that are well known to commercial fishermen. With modern electronic equipment, skippers can avoid such areas and avoid netting congregations of bass that they detect on their sounders. They have no excuse for large catches of bass. It is absolutely certain that if one large catch of bass were allowed to be landed, other skippers would intentionally do the same thing thereby driving a coach and horses through any efforts to restore bass stocks to sustainable levels. 

We must remember the regulations are in place for a reason. Bass stocks are in a dire state due to over exploitation in previous years. 

Recently, a commercial fishermen posted a video on social media showing a large catch of bass being dumped.  His commentary said it was an accidental catch and that regulations should be relaxed so that fishermen could land and sell such valuable catches.  He added that he could have sold the bass for £10,000.  Since his posting the video has featured on BBC Spotlight and in other parts of the media.

In the video, bass are the only species shown. There are no other species present either on deck or in boxes.  This all points to the skipper cynically targeting and catching bass, purely to obtain a propaganda video to influence politicians in advance of the December Fisheries Ministers meeting where allocations and regulations are established for the following year. 

Unfortunately, such videos have become a regular feature on social media, TV and other news media at this time of year in the build up to the annual fisheries negotiations. It is unfortunate that BBC Spotlight is not leading the way in providing a balanced report on this subject.  It is time to recognise that reporting the other side of the coin will be well received by viewers especially with the massive public interest in the environment and marine matters prompted by such programmes as Blue Planet.

In the context of the report linking the catches and discards of bass with Brexit, it is worth noting what Michael Gove said in Parliament on 4 July 2018: 

“Outside the CFP we can also be more ambitious environmentally; we can make sure that our future fishing policies are truly sustainable, and that they protect and enhance marine habitats, in line with the goals of our 25-year environment plan. Sustainability is key to a successful fisheries industry. We will continue to work under the principle of maximum sustainable yield, and we will use the best available science to create a policy that ensures profitability and resilience for decades to come.”

Such ambitions will only be achieved with tough regulation of our commercial fishing fleet as there are examples all around the world where lax and ineffective fisheries regulation has led to massive declines in fish stocks and the communities that depend on them.

Anglers can do their part by contributing to the various campaigns promoted by Save Our Sea Bass.  At the moment there is still time to send an email in support of the Get the Nets Out campaign.