House of Commons Debate 1 December 2016


Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)
I also hope that when the Minister goes to the Council in December, he will take a very tough line on bass. The state of bass around our waters is catastrophic, although that was completely avoidable. We have done far too little, too late. I cannot understand why we in this country do not adopt the policy that operates in the Republic of Ireland, where bass is treated solely as a recreational species. Many Members may not realise this, but if we look at the big picture, it is clear that recreational angling contributes more to our overall economy than the commercial catching sector. However, it does not have such a loud voice in the negotiations. The commercial sector will be breathing down the Minister’s neck when he is in Brussels, but I hope he will remember the words of the millions of anglers in the country—as well as those who run bed and breakfasts, and all the other services that anglers support—who say that they want a better deal on bass. We need a complete moratorium on commercial bass catching with no exemptions next year, with some allowance made for the recreational catching need.

Derek Thomas (St Ives)
Finally, sea bass fishing is once again a hot topic and affects sea anglers, the inshore fleet and the over-10s. All agree that we need to achieve a sustainable supply of bass. I know what the Commission is proposing and accept that hook and line fishing offers the best chance to allow fish stocks to recover. However, I urge it please to consider the broader commercial fishing fleet. The Commission’s proposals are misguided and harmful. As they stand, every bass caught in a net will be discarded dead, every bass caught in a beam trawl will be discarded dead and any bass caught in a trawl over the 1% catch will be discarded dead. It makes no sense to penalise fishing vessels in west Cornwall that pick up bass as a by-catch by forcing them to discard this valuable fish.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con)
I want to ask the Minister to raise two issues at the Council of Ministers meeting on 12 December. First, he needs to address the plight of sea bass. Last year’s disproportionate restrictions on anglers and increased commercial catch limits were bad for bass, bad for the charter boat fleet and bad for fishing tackle shops.

Scott Mann (North Cornwall)
I would like the Secretary of State and Ministers to take up several policies on the behalf of my residents in North Cornwall. Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be able to secure a debate in the Chamber on bass fishing, after which I was announced as parliamentary sea bass champion.

I came to the Chamber earlier this year to speak on behalf of recreational anglers, who fared badly in last year’s discussions with Ministers and EU officials. Disproportionate restrictions were placed on anglers and increases in commercial landings during specific months were announced. It is now time to act. I welcomed the comments of the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and believe that now is the time to follow the science on bass. All indications point to stocks being at a critical level. I have been on the record before to ask for hook-and-line commercial and recreational bass fisheries, and I speak again for that today.
I have received a number of letters this week from anglers, many of whom have signed the online petition, and the gist of those letters was virtually the same: “Dear Scott,”—we are obviously on first name terms—“I have grown up fishing for bass around Cornwall. I used to catch lots of school bass. Sometimes we would have competitions to see how many bass we could catch on the same worm. Over the last 10 years, I have caught fewer and fewer. I haven’t become a bad angler overnight. I am now lucky to catch at all if I go out. Please do something to protect the stocks. Best wishes, Concerned from North Cornwall.” In fact, a number of inshore fisheries and conservation authorities are putting proposals in place to remove gill nets from estuaries, and I welcome that. I say politely but forcefully to the Minister: please release the bag limits on anglers and support the proposals for sustainable fishing in 2017. (more follows –less directly relevant)

Sue Hayman (Workington) – for the Opposition
We must seek to preserve conservation measures established under EU law. The sustainability of fish stocks has to be a priority. I support the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) about sea bass. How can we have continued commercial netting of a stock that is below critical levels? The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) talked about recognising scientific advice when looking at long-term sustainable fishing. I implore the Minister to ensure that future policy does exactly that, taking advice from not only ICES but CEFAS. What key environmental protections will DEFRA ensure are upheld in the negotiation process? The future of sustainable European fish stocks and the long-term livelihoods of thousands of people depend on that.

George Eustice:
The right hon. Member for Exeter and my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) mentioned bass. We hope to make progress this year. They know that I have consistently made the case in the past two years. The science suggested that the measures that we took last year would get us to MSY by 2018. Since then, the science has deteriorated and there has been poor recruitment, so there are some challenging decisions to make and we have consistently argued for change.

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