Angling groups have welcomed clarification by the UK and Welsh Governments over the new rules agreed in December by EU fisheries ministers covering the netting of threatened bass stocks by commercial fishermen.
It was decided, in response to a strong campaign by anglers and conservationists which included an 11,000 signature petition, that there would be no more targeted netting for bass in 2017 and that it would become a hook and line and recreational only species. In order to minimise discards, an allowance was made for "unavoidable by-catches of sea bass not exceeding 250 kilograms per month."
Unfortunately both administrations incorrectly publicly referred to the new rules as a reduced 'provision' for bass netting rather than a 'by-catch' allowance.
Anglers were rightly concerned that this could have led to business as usual for the netsmen and that bass stocks would gain little benefit from the changes.
The Angling Trust wrote to the EU Commission to clarify this point and received confirmation on January 18th that the 250 kg for fixed gill nets is for unavoidable by-catches only. The subsequent publication of Article 9 of the TAC and Quota regulations for 2017 by the Commission reaffirmed that targeted bass netting is now illegal and nothing like the 'provision' claimed in the official response to the public petition on the government website and in press statements from Lesley Griffiths – Cabinet Member in the Welsh Assembly Government.
Last month the Angling Trust wrote to fisheries ministers in London and Cardiff to ask that they publicly correct the misleading statements put out by both the UK and Welsh Governments following the Fishing Opportunities meeting in Brussels
In the last few days, both Governments have conceded the point and clarifications have been issued accepting that fixed netters cannot target bass and that fixed netters can only land bass if they were 'unavoidable by-catch'.
Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter welcomed the clarification saying:
"The public statements from both Defra and the Welsh Government were simply incorrect and frankly irresponsible. There is now no provision for targeted bass netting whatsoever and we understand the Marine Management Organisation are already drawing up enforcement protocols to clamp down on attempts by the commercials to deliberately target bass with gill nets. There was a real danger that misleading guidance from both Governments would have been used as an excuse to see the deliberate targeting of threatened bass stocks to the detriment of both the fishery and to the thousands of anglers who fish responsibly and sustainably."
1) UK government clarification issued Jan 31st:
You recently signed the petition “Save our Bass: do not water down the proposal to ban nets.”:
The Government has changed its response to this petition.
The change is in the first bullet point of the list of measures agreed at December Council. The new version reads:
- "The limit tightened for bass catches by fixed gill nets from 1.3 tonnes to 250kg per vessel per month, for unavoidable by-catch, representing an 80% cut from this year's provision, and for all forms of netting at UK level an estimated 88% cut from the former 2011-2013 baseline annual average;”
The original response said:
- "The limit tightened for bass catches by fixed gill nets from 1.3 tonnes to 250kg per vessel per month, with a closed season of February-March, representing an 80% cut from this year's provision, and for all forms of netting at UK level an estimated 88% cut from the former 2011-2013 baseline annual average;”
This change was made on 31 January 2017 as the department wants to bring the Government response into line to reflect the new EU legislation now undergoing adoption.
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament
2) Angling Trust Press Notice