WINTER trade is plummeting across Weymouth and Portland as bass restrictions in the recreational angling trade cause a ripple effect.

New statistics have revealed that coastal communities are losing several millions of pounds in tourism revenue as a result of tough new restrictions only allowing anglers to take one fish home.

Skippers across the country have seen revenues slashed by a fifth since the restrictions were introduced last January, dictating a six-month no-fish period for January to June, followed by a one fish per day limit for July to December.

The findings are the result of three separate surveys carried out among charter boat skippers, bass guides, and sea anglers to determine the socio-economic impact of conservation.

Paul Whittle, skipper of Weymouth’s Offshore Rebel, said: "The charter fleet were never consulted about the restriction, they just made the decision without asking the people who make a living from it.

“October to November is the prime time for bass fishing, but so far this year I’ve had 36 trips cancelled as a direct result of these measures. That amounts to £21,000 of potential income lost.

"We have the biggest charter fleet in the UK and the best reputation but this puts people off. In reality, it’s very hard for an angler to even catch a fish as most people that come aren’t fishermen, but if you remove that hope right from the word go it stops people coming.

"It's hard to justify the move in the spirit of conservation when the commercial fleet doesn't receive the same restrictions. The burden needs to be shared across the board, it's our livelihood too."

The Professional Boatman's Association (PBA) projects £2.87m to be lost by charter boats this year, 50 per cent of the total value of commercial bass landings in the UK.

A survey carried out by Southampton University estimated a further £3m will be lost in revenues to coastal businesses this year as a result.

The loss of such revenue proved too much for Clive Buller and his fiancée Lesley Andrews who sold their guesthouse in May after cancellations started to come in.

Clive said: "Charter boats gave us good bookings from anglers fishing for bass in October and November. Guesthouses struggle this time of year and it gave us a few months' reasonable income.

"When the restrictions came in, and the cancellations started to trickle in, it was the last straw so we sold up. Previous winters were okay, but having the income from November bass fishers taken away is just not viable.

"It is no secret that bass populations are declining but it's not down to small charter boats, it is because of the big trawlers"

Commercial fisherman Rod Thompson said: "I understand the position they’re in, but anglers are doing it for pleasure and, at the end of the day, we’re doing it to put food on the table.

“Charter boats make a living from taking people out for a sport, it shouldn’t put people off going just because they can't take the fish home to show their friends in the pub."

The PBA recently presented these findings to members of the European Parliament at Brussels, bringing together key stakeholder groups to discuss potential measures for the bass stocks of 2017.