Maximise Benefits to Coastal Communities from the Bass Fisheries Management Plan

Our government has said it wants the UK’s fisheries to be “world class” and is bringing in Fishery Management Plans (“FMP”) to help achieve this.     The Bass FMP is a frontrunner FMP and is particularly interesting because the major stakeholder by participation and socio-economic value generated is recreational fishing, not commercial fishing. 

To deliver a world class bass fishery, we need the right goal.  What should that goal be?  In 2004, the government Cabinet Office published a paper called “Net Benefits”, which included the recommendation that  “The overarching aim of fisheries management should be ‘to maximise the return to the UK of the sustainable use of fisheries resources and protection of the marine environment’ and stated the government has a responsibility to manage marine activities “to ensure the best value is made of the UK’s marine resources and biodiversity is preserved”.

Looking at best practice overseas, in 2016 the Government of Queensland, Australia, said it will “Adopt harvest strategies that have the flexibility to maximise benefits, for both the community and the ecosystem” and also said “Our limited fisheries resources should be shared and allocated in a way that provides the greatest economic value, while ensuring ongoing sustainability and greater resilience.”

Our fisheries belong to all of us, and isn’t it blindingly obvious that they should be managed to deliver the best long-term benefits to our society as a whole?   Yet currently our government is managing the bass fishery primarily to deliver the maximum tonnage of bass that can be killed and has paid little or no attention to the question of how to get “best value” from the bass fishery.  This must change. The Bass FMP must have as its overarching goal the maximisation of benefits for our coastal communities.