Bass anglers take note – December proposals 2018

The European sea bass as we know is particularly vulnerable to overfishing and local population depletion due to various aspects of its biology:

  • They are slow growing and do not mature until they are approximately 31-35 cm in length for males and 40-45 cm for females.
  • It can take from 4 to 7 years to reach this size (they have been recorded up to 28 years of age).
  • Such slow maturing species are vulnerable to over-fishing as individuals may be caught before they can spawn;
  • They concentrate into specific areas at particular times of the year, making them easier to catch. For example, juvenile bass occupy defined nursery areas in estuaries whilst adults return to the same offshore spawning sites each year;
  • Individuals return to the same sites each year, meaning that local populations can more easily be depleted by fishing
  • Periods of low sea temperatures can kill large numbers of juvenile sea bass, making them particularly vulnerable in northern parts of their range
  • There is insufficient information on the state of the stock to fully evaluate its health, although some evidence points to a recent decline in the Northeast Atlantic.

Ireland has been at the forefront of bass fishing conservation in Europe since 1989 with a complete ban on commercial fishing combined with stringent recreational catch limits. This was previously combined with a permanent closed period of four weeks during May and June.

The International Council for the Exploration ofthe Sea (ICES), a scientific body that independently reviews fish stocks, assessed all the available evidence in October 2012. This indicated that in the Northeast Atlantic:

  • Sea bass stock had increased from the early 1990s to mid-2000s, possibly because of climate change-related increases in sea temperature;
  • Numbers of adult sea bass started to decline in the mid 2000s. This coincided with increased fishing; and a number of cold winters since 2008 may have killed a significant
    proportion of juvenile sea bass.
  • There is insufficient information on the state of the stock to fully evaluate its health, although some evidence points to a recent decline in the Northeast Atlantic.

ICES noted that this scenario, of increased fishing with a declining population,

“..would lead to an expectation of further decline in the Northeast Atlantic. However, ICES said it would have to undertake additional analysis to be able to give advice on population trends for sea bass. ICES advised that in 2013 there needed to be a 20% cut in the amount of sea bass caught in the Northeast Atlantic. It stated that because of the lack of evidence about the state of the stock, it considers that a precautionary reduction of catches should be implemented, unless there is ancillary information clearly indicating that the current exploitation is appropriate for the stock”

In June 2014, ICES examined the available evidence on sea bass stocks in the North Sea and English Channel, advising that a sea bass management plan was urgently needed to reduce the fish mortality. ICES advised that the implied total landings (commercial and recreational) should be no more than 1155 tonnes in 2015. In June 2015, ICES once again warned of depleting bass stocks, and advised that total landings (commercial and recreational) in 2016 should be no more than 541 tonnes in Central and South North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea.

This is half the UK’s catch alone of 1,000 tonnes last year (2016).

There is no quota for sea bass set under the Common Fisheries Policy. There were unsuccessful negotiations to secure an agreement to tackle the decline in sea bass stocks at the 2014 Fisheries Council meeting. However, the UK Government did secure a commitment from the Commission to work with Member States to reduce fishing pressure at the start of the season in 2015.
Consequently, in 2015 a suite of emergency conservation measures were introduced to arrest the decline in sea bass stock.

2015 emergency sea bass conservation measures

A daily 3 fish bag limit per person for recreational anglers.
• Monthly catch limits for commercial fishing vessels.
• A ban on all EU commercial fishing in areas around Ireland, excluding the Bristol Channel and other areas inside the UK’s 12 mile zone.
• A minimum conservation reference size of 42cm to allow female fish to grow to spawning age

2016 further sea bass conservation measures

• A ban on commercial (pelagic) trawlers fishing for bass from 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2016 in
the English Channel and North Sea, except for:
─ Demersal trawls and seines are allowed to retain bycatches of sea bass that are not more than 1% of the weight of the total catches of marine organisms on board.
─ Hooks and lines and fixed gill nets which are permitted 1,300kg per vessel in January,
April, May and June (NB: this does not include drift net fisheries). The fishery is closed in February and March.
• From 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016 it shall be prohibited for vessels to fish quantities exceeding 1 tonne per any vessel per month of sea bass in the following areas:
─ ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIId, VIIe VIIf and VIIh;
─ waters within 12 nautical miles from baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg.

  • For recreational fishermen from 1 January to 30 June 2016 catch and release only permitted and
    from 1 July to 31 December 2016 one bass per fisherman per day in the English Channel, North
    Sea, Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean surrounding southern Ireland will be in place for 2016 (ICES
    divisions IVb, IVc, VIIa, VIId, VIIe, VIIf, VIIg, VIIh, VIIj and VIIk)

In case you haven’t heard the news, the EU Commission has proposed that the public should be banned from landing any bass  in 2018 and be restricted to Catch & Release only from July to December.  But at the same time, they are proposing that commercial hook & liners should be able to catch 4 tonnes a year – a “restriction” in name only, since it would only impact 1% of UK hook & line vessels (just 5 vessels).
Public anglers are the most sustainable stakeholders and deliver the greatest socio-economic benefits.  The EU Commission is proposing 900 tonnes of bass landings for 2018 – this should be allocated first to the public.
It is also disturbing that the EU Fisheries Ministers are considering “by-catch” allowances for commercial netters and bottom trawlers, despite the EU Commission proposing no by-catch allowances.  We have examined the UK landing data for 2017 and can see that many netters have been landing more than their legal limit and many have been having repeated catches with 90% – 100% bass.  So much for “by-catch only” for fixed netters in 2017!

Source – Saveourseabass 

If you want to get your voice heard and maintain the status of bass angling in this country that you want for 2018, please use the following and more, before Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th December, to express your opinions…

Josepha Madigan is Fine Gael Minister for Culture, Heritage & Gaeltacht. 




9 Braemor Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14

Michael Creed TD is the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Tel: (026) 41835

Fax: (026)41895



Shane Ross – Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport

Email: Minister@dttas or

Shane Ross, TD,
Leinster House,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2
D02 A272

Tel: 01 604 1039


References & Source material

MMO, “Monthly sea fisheries statistics December 2014”, 27 February 2015

Responsible Sourcing Guide: Seabass Version 3, Seafish, February 2011, viewed 26
March 2013 3 Bass Management Plan

Bass Management Plan, Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society

Report of the Inter-Benchmark Protocol on New Species (Turbot and Seabass), ICES
Advisory Committee, 1-5 October 2012

ICES Advice for 2013 for European seabass in the Northeast Atlantic,,
September 2012

CES Advice for 2015 Celtic Sea and West of Scotland + North Sea European sea
bass in Divisions IVbc, VIIa, and VIId–h (Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, English Channel, and
southern North Sea)

ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Celtic Seas and Greater North
Sea Ecoregions, 30 June 2015

Defra, “New protections for sea bass”, 5 August 2015

Bass pre-December update Nov 18 – TOPFISHER.EU


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