UK skippers urge minister to support ‘fairer’ bass deal
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Owners of the UK’s charter fishing boats have called on the government’s fisheries minister to give his full support to EU proposals which will mean a fairer deal for anglers in 2017.
George Eustice has been urged to back proposals that will be considered by the EU at its all-important meeting next month that will decide its action plan for protecting the seriously declining bass population.
The minister angered Britain’s 800,000 sea fishermen last year by caving in to pressure and agreeing to restrict them from fishing for bass, while increasing catching opportunities for the commercial industry.
Charter skippers are projected to lose around £2.8 million in bookings over the course of 2016. Anglers spend up to £600 a day chartering specialist bass fishing trips, but bookings have been down as a result of the measures banning anglers from keeping any bass for the first six months of the year, then limiting them to just one fish per day for the remainder of 2016.
Ian Noble, Chairman of the Professional Boatman’s Association (PBA), which represents the UK’s charter boat operators, has written to Eustice calling on him to support the livelihoods and businesses by backing the European Commission’s proposals for 2017.
These include limiting commercial fishing to hooks and lines only, introducing a two-month closed period to protect spawning bass and agreeing a fairer and more flexible monthly bag limit for recreational fishing.
In his letter Noble says: “The UK’s charter fishing fleet contributes many millions of pounds to the UK economy and to many coastal communities by providing a service to recreational sea anglers. Businesses, like my own, are reliant on members of the public choosing to go angling for publicly-owned sea fish.
“We are small businesses whose livelihoods are reliant on fishing opportunities. However, we believe no consideration was given to our sector when the 2016 EU regulations were put into place. It is essential that a fairer deal is reached for the recreational fishing and charter boat sectors next year.”
The decline in bookings has also affected other businesses in coastal communities who rely on visiting fishermen. “Anglers may fish for leisure, but it’s a leisure activity that is highly valuable and one on which many small businesses and jobs depend,” added Noble.
David Mitchell, the Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, the representative body for the sport in England, said: “No one from government thought to consider how the very restrictive measures for recreational angling in 2016 were going to impact charter boats. Now that they are aware of the damaging part it has had on the livelihoods of many people living in the UK’s coastal communities, fairer and more flexible measures that support small business owners operating charter boats must be delivered by the Fisheries Minister in 2017.”