Links to the ICES advice, Chris Williams’ latest blog and the MCS response. It will be interesting to see the practical ramifications of these changes to the EU policy for this very important commercial species.

1. Bass blog – Chris Williams – NEF

New blog (15th July)

Anyone following the fate of sea bass in the EU will have been filled with hope that the future of this iconic species can be turned around at European level. The final installation of an EU package of measures was announced on July 2nd, which increased the minimum size at which bass be landed from 36cm to 42 cm from September 1st 2015. This is a fisheries management approach to allow more fish to spawn successfully to rebuild the stock. In conjunction with the pelagic trawl ban on spawning aggregations, the monthly catch limits and 3 bass limit for recreational anglers and a closed area around Ireland, the politics has triumphed and reached agreement which mirrors to a large extend what we put forward in our 7 steps to bass stock recovery.

The politics has succeeded in bringing about agreement – but now making the decision a reality begins. We need to look to those tasked with the management and enforcement of these new regulations and need to ensure that Government makes resources available (both in human and financial form) to ensure that these regulations can be enforced and so that all stakeholders (including future generations of fishers and anglers) can reap the benefits once the stock is rebuilt. The increased minimum size in combination with the catch limits is an essential fisheries management tool to bring the stock back into a condition where it could be fished at its Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) – which is a legal requirement for all stocks by 2020 but is especially pertinent to bass as this could be a reality, with all those benefits, if the regulators are adequately resourced to do what they need to.

These changes will impact inshore fishers in a substantial way, and the impacts will be felt widely from Wales around the southern coast to Suffolk – where the vast majority of small scale fishers operate. Those involved in the fishery will have to adapt to the minimum sizes, which mean a large percentage of their catch (36cm bass) will be illegal to land. This truly is a problem caused by cumulative effort, and individuals will feel they have done nothing wrong – but if these measures aren’t enforced the fishery will not survive for large, small and recreational fishers.

ICES advice came out on June 30th. This eagerly awaited document stated that when following and MSY approach – that total landings (commercial + recreational) for bass in the northern range (the area of the southern North sea, Channel and Irish sea / Bristol Channel) should be no more than 541 tonnes for 2016 (In 2014 ICES advice for the same areas was 1155 tonnes). This limit applies to the UK, France, Belgium and Holland combined! (Which landed 4136 tonnes in 2013 and 2683 in 2014 – and this doesn’t include the recreational catch (1210 tonnes and 908 tonnes respectively). ICES notes the stock is likely to decrease further in the short term due to low recruitment, which is why these measures are so essential and need to be followed through.

ICES have been advising no increases in fishing effort or catch since 2002! So this will not come as a shock. Advised reductions in catches were ignored for the past 3 years. ICES also advised that a management plan is urgently needed to reduce fishing mortality (f) throughout the bass’ range.

Following scientific advice could mean an effective end to the bass fishery.  The very real prospects of a ‘by catch only fishery’ or total closure for Bass still exists. Many small scale fishermen moved to Bass as a result of the ongoing reductions in quota for other main commercial species.  It’s crucial that in the short term any continued access to the bass fishery should follow the criteria laid out in Article 17, to those elements of the fleet that provide the greatest benefits to society as a whole.

2. EU measures don’t go far enough to meet ICES recommendation

Samuel Stone, Fisheries Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, says that not enough is being done to reverse the fortunes of seabass: “Lack of agreement between EU member states over how to manage this valuable stock leaves the fish and its fishermen facing a very uncertain future. Fishery management measures that sufficiently reduce catches are urgently needed to reverse the fortunes of this fish; if such measures cannot be agreed and implemented quickly, a complete moratorium on fishing for seabass may well be necessary in the foreseeable future”. While much of the seabass sold in the UK comes from farmed sources, a significant amount is wild caught. Last year ICES, the scientific body which provides advice on seabass in the EU, recommended total catches of both recreational and commercial fisheries be decreased by a massive 80% to prevent further decline of the stock.   To read more go to:

3.ICES Advice The latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is available at:

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