Who decides whose ‘livelihood’ is more important than that of another EU citizen?

The European Commission’s proposals for bass measures in 2018 (available here) are extreme to say the least. In summary, they’re proposing:

  • A total ban on all recreational fishing for bass for the first six months of the year and catch & release only bass angling from July – December
  • A reduction in the annual allowance for commercial Hook & Line (H&L) vessels to 4 tonnes
  • Removal of the by-catch allowances for netters

These raise some fundamentally interesting questions.

Bass march

Priority is now being given to hook & line fishing – but only commercial!

By allowing commercial hook & line commercial fishing vessels to retain 4 tonnes annually and simultaneously denying those members of the public who also use H&L an opportunity to even fish for bass for first half of the year and then to deny those members of the public any retention opportunity whatsoever, the Commission effectively is saying that they regard the livelihood of a H&L commercial fisherman as superior to that of a bass angling guide or bass angling charter operator. The livelihood of a citizen whose livelihood is a tackle business specialising exclusively in bass tackle (there are some) is also being disregarded as of lesser importance to that of a commercial fisherman.

The very notion that wild marine fishery resources are indeed ‘public’ and ‘societal’ resources is apparently off the Commission’s radar screen, despite previous commissioner statements confirming that fish are a common property.

Doug Kidd used to be Fisheries Minister of New Zealand – find out more about him here. I believe his Ministerial period was 1992 – 1996.  He is celebrated for turning New Zealand fisheries management around from one of failure to one where many resources were rebuilt. He was in London some years ago and was interviewed on BBC Radio 5. I have a recording on an old cassette tape of the interview.

The very notion that wild marine fishery resources are indeed ‘public’ and ‘societal’ resources is apparently off the Commission’s radar screen

When asked how New Zealand allocated resources between their three user groups – indigenous Maoris, commercial fishers and recreationals –   he stated that every citizen – the owners of the resource –  who wished to catch their own dinner should have a “fair chance to do so” and after scientists had calculated mortality from recreationals a further allocation was made to the Maoris. Finally, IF additional mortality was possible and would not compromise sustainability, a further allocation was made to commercials.

Pity he isn’t the EU Commissioner!

A management measure that denies EVERYONE the right to take a bass because such a measure is required in order to allow the resource to rebuild is acceptable to me. But one that allocates any part of a public fishery resource to commercial fishers who fish for profit (in the UK, when Free of Charge licenses were given out, they were described by Government as a license to “fish for profit”) and simultaneously denies all and any access to that resource from the public is wholly unacceptable.

The very last user group who should be denied retaining any bass are those members of the public who have equipped themselves with the gear and knowledge to catch their dinner.

If the cumulative level of mortality from the public is a threat to rebuilding the bass stocks, public exploitation can be reduced with seasonal closures, increased Minimum Landing Sizes and bag limits. The very last user group who should be denied retaining any bass are those members of the public who have equipped themselves with the gear and knowledge to catch their dinner.

What next?  Will the public be denied access to the New Forest and Forest of Dean whilst commercial loggers are given free licenses to log all the trees?

Fortunately, our representative organisation, the Angling Trust, and their pan-European counterparts, the European Angler’s Alliance, are already lobbying hard to prevent the Commission’s ludicrous proposals being implemented. They’ve launched this petition, which needs huge support to ensure that the freedom of anglers isn’t restricted any further. Please sign and share it widely!

This article comparing fish to blackberries was way ahead of its time.

malcolm-gilbertMalcolm Gilbert

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