Widespread poaching of bass is threatening the existence of one of Britain’s most popular sea fish, Angling Times can reveal.
Designated no boat fishing spots around the South-West coastline – called bass nursery areas – were set up in the 1990s to protect the juvenile fish from overfishing.
But a recent BBC investigation has revealed that illegal netting is both blatant and rife – and that there have been few prosecutions around the country and none in the Portmouth area for 10 years.
The shocking news has helped the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) to secure assurances from Fisheries Minister Huw Irranca-Davies that he will look into improving effective conservation measures for the species.
“We were instrumental in the introduction of these nursery areas as a measure to help stabilise bass populations,” explained John Leballeur, who heads up BASS research.
“They help increase yield, provide better stability to year classes and provide more protection to the slow-growing juvenile bass. But the lack of enforcement is terrible and the poaching so bad that the minister needs to act by strengthening legislation and allowing cross-agency enforcement of the rules.
“Fortunately, he reassured us again at last week’s angling summit that he’ll look into the poaching problems and review the present 36cm minimum landing size when the timing is right,” added John.
Bass are one of the most important targets of recreational anglers in the South and a crucial generator of income for the South-West economy especially.
And with the region’s anglers catching fewer specimens and chartered skippers struggling to make a living out of the species, many others agree with John that its crucial conservation efforts are policed effectively and that offenders are prosecuted in the courts.
“Poaching in bass nursery areas is rife – I’ve witnessed it myself on numerous occasions,” said Mel Russ, editor of Sea Angler magazine.
“However, these conservation measures will work if they’re properly enforced. The Irish introduced a two-year moratorium on bass fishing in 1990, which eventually paid dividends in the form of more and bigger bass for rod and line anglers to catch.”