Anglers are ‘disgusted’ by strict new EU rules meaning they cannot keep any sea bass they catch until July.
The laws are to try and revive dwindling bass numbers but anglers believe they are being treated unfairly compared to commercial fishermen.
Fishermen claim anglers have brought the restrictions on themselves and should ‘play their part’ in conserving the sea bass.
Hastings Angling Centre director Martyn Kemp described the EU Commission’s attempts to save bass stocks as ‘shameful mismanagement’.
“Anglers are disgusted by new highly discriminatory EU bass fishing rules which do nothing for urgently needed bass conservation,” he said.
“The new regulations on bass fishing coming in force now are a travesty for bass conservation and highly discriminatory against recreational anglers and the angling industry.”
Until June 30, recreational anglers must return any bass they catch to the sea. From July 1, they can keep just one bass a day to bring ashore.
The next six months is the bass’ major spawning period and the European Commission decided to restrict fishing to allow stocks to replenish.
East Hastings Sea Angling Club member Graeme Furness said the changes threaten the entire industry, not just anglers. He said people could be put off angling as sea bass is so popular but tackle shops and fishing gear stores will also suffer.
Most commercial fishermen are barred from targeting sea bass until July, then they are limited to 1 tonne per vessel per month.
A petition to the UK Government against the decision had been signed by almost 8,000 people as the Observer went to press.
Paul Joy, Hastings Fishermen’s Association chairman, believes fishermen will be hit harder as they also have restrictions and it is their livelihood’s at stake.
“We need to protect bass stocks and a lot of the angling sector has brought this on themselves,” he said.
“These changes don’t effect their livelihood, only their sport.
“But it will affect the commercial sector very hard.
“They can’t have it both ways and they’ve got to play their part.”
The new laws were requested by the UK government in response to low sea bass stocks in the English Channel.
The latest changes were decided in November following a European Commission proposal based on scientific advice and a consultation including angling associations.
A European Commission spokesman said: “We understand that it will be frustrating for anglers in the short-term but this is about making sure there are still sea bass to catch in five, ten and twenty years’ time.
“Recreational anglers account for 25 per cent of sea bass catch so if conservation measures are to work, they need to apply to both commercial and recreational fishing.”
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