AnglingTrust The voice of Angling

Save our Bass Fishing

Steven Neely bass 550px

Since its conception in 2009 the Angling Trust, and the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) for many years before that, has been campaigning for greater protection for one of the UK’s premier sporting marine fish – the European bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).

This campaign has been a partnership between the Angling Trust and the Bass Angler’s Sportfishing Society (BASS, also encompassing Save our Sea Bass), and the European Anglers Alliance who have also long campaigned for increased bass conservation. Over recent years the scientific advice published annually by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has repeatedly shown a stock that is at serious risk of collapse, which is a result of commercial overfishing, successive years of poor recruitment and a lack of coordinated management and harvest control measures.

The key outcomes that the campaign to rebuild bass stocks has sought, and the progress towards these outcomes, are:

  • An increased Minimum Conservation Reference Size (Minimum Landing Size) – we have been successful in increasing this from 36 cm to 42 cm, allowing female bass the opportunity to have spawned before capture. 
  • An end to the midwater trawling of vulnerable spawning aggregations of bass.
  • Hook and line only targeted fishing for bass in 2017 (recreational and commercial) with limited bycatch allowances for unavoidable catches from demersal trawls, seines and gill nets 
  • Development of a Bass Long-term Management Plan – in 2015 our campaigning efforts forced the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to agree to work with the Angling Trust and BASS on a Long-term Management Plan for the species. This work is ongoing and we continue to work at an EU level with the European Angler’s Alliance to influence the European-wide management plans.



Campaign Timeline Since 2014

Emergency Measures
Ministers at both a UK and European level began to take the decline in bass stocks much more seriously following the publication of scientific advice calling for drastic reductions in catches. The European Commission reviewed the measures Member States has taken at national level and concluded that they had failed to conserve bass and that EU-wide measures were now necessary to protect the stock. 

However, The EU Council of Ministers failed to reach agreement on bass when they met to discuss the 2015 Fishing Opportunities. The French argued in favour of a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) while the UK and other countries were in favour of technical conservation measures to protect the stock. As a result of no agreement being reached by the EU Council, a number of very rarely used “emergency measures” were introduced for 2015 by the EU Commission following a request by the UK Government. These were introduced over the course of 2015 and included:

  • A ban on the winter pair trawling of spawning aggregations of bass
  • An increase in the Minimum Landing Size from 36 cm to 42 cm
  • Monthly vessel limits for all gear types
  • Restrictions on recreational anglers – an EU-wide daily bag limit of three fish.
For the first time recreational catches were now subject to catch restrictions and were being managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

Read more about the developments following the 2014 Fishing Opportunities meeting here.


Major changes in 2015
In the face of scientific advice for further reductions in bass landings in 2015, recreational anglers were prepared to play their part in what we expected to be a fair, effective and proportionate package of measures that would help rebuild bass stocks. However, the European Commission proposed disproportionate restrictions for recreational anglers, which comprised:

  • A complete fishing ban for commercial vessels and recreational anglers (including catch and release) in the first half of 2016
  • In the second half of 2016 a monthly one tonne catch limit for vessels targeting sea bass and a one fish per day bag limit for recreational anglers.
Anglers were disappointed and alarmed by these proposals and the Angling Trust lobbied strongly against the disproportionate restrictions proposed for bass anglers and for sustainable catch and release to be allowed during the proposed moratorium period.

The end result was that catch and release angling for bass was permitted during the first half of 2016. However, disappointment turned to anger when the organisations representing Britain's 800,000 sea anglers heard the news that EU Fisheries Ministers had caved in to pressure from commercial fishing interests and granted exemptions to commercial hook and line and the highly damaging bass gill net fishery, with the exception of drift netting, which he referred to as “low impact”.





Bass Campaign in 2016
Unsurprisingly following the lack of action to decrease commercial catches of bass, the 2016 scientific advice from ICES revealed that stocks of bass around the UK and North European coast were below the critical level at which recovery can be guaranteed. Following the publication of this advice, the European Commission proposed that drastic changes be made to the bass fishery in 2017:

  • A complete ban on all targeted netting of bass
  • A monthly bag limit for anglers, as opposed to the current daily bag limit
  • A bycatch allowance for demersal trawls and seines
  • A closed period during February and March to protect spawning bass
The Angling Trust and BASS were in full support of these proposals and campaigned strongly to see them implemented in full at the Fishing Opportunities meeting in December. Ministers agreed to a complete ban on all targeted netting of bass but failed to allocate by-catch allowances based on percentage of total weight. Instead, they gave commercial fishermen targeting other species a 250 kg per month bass by-catch allowance, which the Angling Trust has deemed a “political fix”.

The restrictions for recreational anglers failed to change, with a no-take period from January – June inclusive and a one-fish-per-day bag limit from July – December. 

Read more about the reaction from the Angling Trust following the outcome of the 2016 Fishing Opportunities meeting.


Bass Fishing Opportunities 2017 Campaign Image

Contact: Angling Trust Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ
Tel: 0343 5077006 (For Membership enquiries select Option 1) |
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Email: admin@anglingtrust.net
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