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Island wins award for fish conservation

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Isle of Man Government has won an award for its efforts to assist the conservation of threatened sea bass. 

The Bass Angler’s Sportsfishing Society (BASS) has awarded the Island the John Leballeur Restoration Award, named after a leading campaigner for the fish’s conservation, who died in 2010. 

The announcement was made at BASS’s annual general meeting, held in Gloucester last night (Sunday). 

The award reflects the Island’s status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 

The recognition comes after the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) last year restricted bass fishing in Manx waters solely to recreational anglers and limited the number and size of fish anglers can retain. 

DEFA received widespread praise for the measures from on and off the Island when it consulted over them in 2015. 

BASS local representative Nigel Fairclough said:

‘The Isle of Man Government has always been proactive and at the forefront of fisheries and particularly bass conservation issues. A ban on what is known as pair trawling in Manx waters and a minimum take size of 43cm for bass had been in place for many years. 

‘However there was no bag limit in place for pleasure anglers. This issue has been addressed in the new regulations.’ 

Mr Fairclough said:

‘Bass are vulnerable because of their slow growth rate and their habit of spawning in mass aggregations. This means that they can be caught in massive numbers by trawlers targeting shoals in these spawning grounds. 

‘The biggest threat is from commercial fishing (this isn’t practised in Manx waters) and illegal netters. But pleasure anglers can cause similar devastation by keeping too many bass. 

‘Bass have a homing instinct and once spawning aggregations break up, they tend to return to their home territory. This habit makes them vulnerable locally and once local populations are depleted, it can take many years for them to recover, if at all.’

 Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said:

‘My Department is proud of the Island’s status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is keen to play its part in conservation of this important species and it is heartening that our efforts have been recognised by this leading body.’ 

BASS was formed in 1973 by forward-thinking UK anglers concerned about the over exploitation of the species. 

Mr Fairclough will present the award to DEFA shortly.

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