Fishing restrictions could aid sea bass – Tighter restrictions on commercial fishermen could be brought in to safeguard future stocks of sea bass.
The nomadic fish, which appear around Norfolk’s coastline each spring, are popular with diners.
But anglers have been calling for size restrictions on bass which may be caught to be increased, to stop immature fish being killed for the table.
At present, 36 cm long bass can be landed. But at this size, the fish will not yet have spawned.
Anglers have been campaigning to have the limit raised to 45 cm. The National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) says the move would safeguard stocks, as most female fish will have spawned by the time they reach this length.
The Government today said it would begin consultation over size limits later this year.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also said a decision would be made by the end of the year on ways to modernise inshore fisheries management, which is currently carried out by 12 sea fisheries committees set up by Parliament nearly 120 years ago.
“At last the Government is listening to the million men, women and children who go sea angling each year and generate £1 billion for the UK economy,” said NFSA chairman Richard Ferre.
“We welcome the Government acting on the advice anglers gave earlier this year.”
Duane Kirk, proprietor of Hunstanton Tackle, said bass catches had shown a marked decline around North Norfolk.
“This year there has definitely been less of them about,” he said. “What has been about has been under-sized stuff. They aren’t there like they were.”
Sea anglers noticed an improvement in cod catches within a few years of tighter controls on commercial fishing, similar to those now being proposed for bass.
“If it turns around as quickly as the cod fishing did, we could see a marked improvement within four or five years,” said Mr Kirk.
Defra has also said it would identify the areas at greatest risk from illegal fishing and the location of the most vulnerable fish stocks, then concentrate its resources on protecting them.
Research will also be funded into minimising the quantity of undersized fish caught and thrown back dead into the sea – known as discards or by-catch – from commercial fishing vessels