Defra has addressed issues raised by UK fishermen regarding new regulations on the ‘economic link’ licence' due to take effect on 1 April 2022. Photo: Tony Fitzsimmons

Video highlights the madness of fisheries regulation which forces dumping of dead sea bass overboard

Looe-based trawler owner, Andrew Giles highlighted the insanity of fisheries regulations that force fishermen to discard dead sea bass overboard.

On Thursday 06 January last, Andrew tweeted a video showing a deck full of sea bass on board a 10-metre inshore trawler. In his tweet he says “How right is this… a beautiful catch of Bass, caught as an accidental bycatch by a trawler off Plymouth yesterday, that all needs to be thrown away dead. Just crazy. This could of given the boys a much needed lift after a very hard winter.”

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He continued, “They are legal allowed to keep 5% of the bass weight of all the other fish on board. So, if they have 200kg of fish on board, they can keep 10kg (about 5 fish).”

The catch of sea bass, if they were allowed to keep it, would have made a huge financial difference for a boat that had been tied up for the three previous weeks of bad weather.

The video sparked outrage on Twitter with one tweeter calling saying, “such a tragic waste. Some of these fish look ready to spawn. Hopefully the trawler will avoid the same area for a while?”

To which Andrew answered, “Yes they will avoid it like the plague as they don’t want to be in this situation again. But the fish are that abundant in the whole area that they could move 12 miles away and catch them again. This is why we think the science is wrong.”

Many of those who took to commenting on the post clearly showed the general public’s lack of understanding about fishing with some claiming that the trawler owner had deliberately targeted the bass.

Adam Venn (@barteh) claimed, “This is a bit of a joke tbh. This isnt bycatch, it’s Bass being targeted and videos used as propaganda. Regardless of that, the laws are there to protect a species which is in decline. Personally I’d rather this than see trawlers permitted to decimate Bass in greater numbers.”

Gary Steer (@newtster) called for the banning of super-trawlers despite the catch being filmed on board a 10m fishing vessel. He said, “It is a huge waste …. However, we must have some rules in place to prevent the fishing industry destroying the fish stocks and ravaging the sea bed. Fish are only £ notes to some skippers with no regard to long term stocks (IMO) -And ‘super trawlers’ should be banned now!!!

Andrew replied, ““These are far from supertrawlers – a 33ft boat caught these.”

Another tweeter, YoungMark also suggested that the fish was deliberately targeted.

“Caught by accident …….. what?” he raged. “Like they were out for a pleasure cruise and a load of bass decided to jump inside the boat and knock themselves unconscious.”

Andrew Giles replied, “These fish obviously never read the sign on the trawl down at 240ft that said no bass allowed.”

Clearly, the ignorance of the general public regarding the fishing industry and the regulations they are faced with is down to a lack of education, and it shows that it is time for the government to intervene and re-educate people.

On the fishing front, there has been calls for the government to re-examine the regulations regarding sea bass.

Speaking to Carl Eve from Plymouth Live, Marine and fisheries consultant Terri Portmann said, “It is absolute madness to see these horrific practices of dead fish being thrown back in the sea continue, despite us leaving the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy [CFP].

“What was the point of taking back control if the Government is not going to use it to stop this type of wasteful practice?

“The reality is for small-scale fishermen in the Southwest at certain times of the year this stock is so prolific on the fishing grounds that its accidental capture is almost inevitable. When a fisherman hauls a net full of bass it is unlikely there is enough other fish to even pay their diesel bill for the day.

“Fishermen do all they can to avoid it, if they could, they would, because catching it means no pay.

“There are so many options now open to Government that would offer a wider community good for this public asset and help to get the struggling inshore boats earning a bit more money. For example – with so many in food poverty, Government could require all the dead Bass to be landed and require the boats to donate a percentage of catch to food banks or directly to those living in food poverty, or school and hospital catering. Wouldn’t it be great to pilot this in Plymouth?

“In addition, more and better science on stock assessment and study could be funded by requiring the fishermen to land dead Bass and sell with a percentage of the sale being ring-fenced for these types of projects instead of having to be funded by the taxpayer.

“The problem of accidental bycatch has long been a problem in the South West and so the Government should have been able to hit the ground running last year with some sensible, and pragmatic solutions to make good use of this fantastic protein resource now that it has the powers too.

“Feeding the crabs and seabed scavengers instead of people, seems a poor policy position, and urgent Government intervention is needed. “

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Video highlights madness of dumping dead sea bass overboard

by editor time to read: 7 min