KENT, U.K. -- With widespread and still growing public concern about over-fishing, and the terrible waste from fishery discards, most people would be horrified to realize that some fishermen are targeting the wild bass stocks before they have ever had a chance to spawn.
Despite the fact that such small fish are readily and cheaply available on the fish counter as farmed bass.
"Wild baby bass are just too valuable a resource to be wasted like this" said John Leballeur, Chairman of the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society's Restoration Team.
If these baby fish were allowed to grow for just a little longer, every wild bass now served up at merely plate-size would have the opportunity to grow and spawn, and to be served as fillets providing two or more good meals instead of just the one, reducing the need to kill so many wild fish to fill our plates.
"We really need to start taking the conservation of our marine resources seriously, rather than simply talking about doing so", he added. "And consumers can make a real difference by being more selective about what they buy and what they order when they dine out".
Responding to claims that increasing the legal size that bass may be taken would only lead to more discards, John Leballeur points out that young bass congregate in shallow inshore waters.
And that by allowing their exploitation at such a small size trawlers are encouraged to fish where small fish are gathered.
That only leads to already unacceptable discards of fish smaller than even the current legal size.
Around 65% of what should be the future stock is being destroyed by trawling in the Eastern Channel, and yet it was to defend this fishery that the Minister rejected all previous advice to increase the Minimum Landing size of bass.
And for every baby bass served on a plate, many other smaller fish will have died simply to be dumped back dead.
The ethical course of action, when demand for small fish can readily be met from fish farms, is to preserve our precious stocks of wild bass, by only taking fewer, larger, more valuable fish from the stock, and by avoiding fishing where the future stocks are growing.
"The Government backed down on its plans to increase the Minimum Landing Size for bass. They must now urgently deliver on their promises to protect these small fish by closing the areas where they gather to feed and grow, and introduce measures to protect the areas where breeding fish congregate, as well as introducing a close season leaving them to gather to breed in peace". He added.
"Successive governments have ignored warnings from fisheries scientists about the measures needed to restore fish-stocks, preferring to bow down and placate short-term commercial fishing interests with the predictable results now apparent for all to see".
Recent scientific evidence has raised concerns about collapsing recruitment levels in the UK bass fishery, the time to act is now.
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