Bringing Back Bigger Bass – Fishery Management Process Underway

Another step on the road to the UK’s new bass fishery management plan has been taken with the completion of the “collective intelligence debate” held by Policy Lab last week.

Policy Lab have been commissioned by Defra to conduct stakeholder analysis and engagement as part of the development of the bass fishery management plan. Last week the latest stage of the stakeholder engagement process took place – the collective intelligence debate – which saw c. 500 participants from across the bass fishery voting on a series of statements relating to current and future management. The ambition of the debate was to reach a consensus amongst stakeholders.

Recreational sea angling was well represented in the debate with many statements reflecting the sectors interests for more robust management that will deliver more and bigger bass. Thanks to all members of the recreational sea angling community who participated in the collective intelligence debate held by Policy Lab over the last week. 

The bass fishery management plan is one of the first to be developed – a so-called “frontrunner”. Bass is an important species to many recreational sea anglers, and bass angling is a valuable part of the social and economic contribution that sea angling makes to coastal communities. With bass stocks still in poor shape, the government must seize this opportunity to develop an ambitious fishery management plan that maximises socio-economic benefits, whilst securing the health of the stock for future generations.

Here’s what the Bass Sportfishing Society (BASS), Save Our Seabass and the Angling Trust are asking for:

  • A healthy functioning population of bass with plenty of protection
  • Effective and clear legislation, which is rigorously enforced
  • Fair and proportional access to the bass stock. In other words, as stakeholders, recreational anglers should have a decent chance of catching bass. (In 2018 UK commercial bass landings were less than £5 million compared to the c£200 million RSA expenditure on bass*.)
  • Protection of key habitats that support bass stocks
  • More data to be collected to fill knowledge gaps

The next stage of the Policy Lab process is the co-design workshops to be held in September/October. We will keep you updated as we learn more and the results from the collective intelligence debate are released.

Hannah Rudd, Policy & Advocacy Manager of the Angling Trust said “Bass stocks are a shadow of what they once were and the new UK bass fishery management plan offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and secure a sustainable and thriving future for British bass stocks. Support from the angling community has been fantastic to see throughout the Policy Lab process so far, but this is just one rung on the ladder and we must collectively continue to keep the momentum up and push Defra to design a bass fishery that delivers for all of society.”

Steve Pitts, Chairman of the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) said With the UK Bass Fishery Management Plan now being discussed, we believe we are at a crossroads with regard to bass management and exploitation. 

We can continue to exploit bass as we always have and suffer the wide ranging consequences when the stock collapses again, or we can evolve our management approach and thinking, whilst we still have fish to work with and recognise that both the recreational and commercial industry can have a sustainable future with healthy bass stocks – Surely the choice is not that difficult?”

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