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Angling Trust calls on European Commission to drop ban on bass angling in 2016


Bass from David Mitchell x550px

The Angling Trust will tell the European Commission it is wrongly targeting sea anglers following the publication this week of the Commission’s proposals on bass fishing in 2016 "to halt the dramatic decline in this important stock".

The proposals include "a complete fishing ban for commercial vessels and recreational anglers in the first half of 2016", and in the second half of 2016 "a monthly one tonne catch limit for vessels targeting sea bass and a one fish bag limit for recreational anglers".

The Angling Trust's response said: "Government figures show that recreational sea angling is enjoyed by more than 800,000 people in the UK and is worth £2bn to the economy. Bass is our most popular sport fish and a huge amount of bass caught by anglers are returned to live, breed and fight another day.

“Anglers have been warning about commercial fishing causing a decline in bass stocks for the last 20 years and it is only recently that the European Commission and the Member States have started taking the issue seriously. Whilst we welcome the proposals to further restrict the commercial harvesting of bass it is monstrously unfair to lump all forms of bass fishing together.

“There is absolutely no equivalence between a trawler dragging a huge net across the ocean and a group of anglers going out at the weekend with a rod and line and fishing sustainably within agreed size and bag limits. The Angling Trust intends to tell the Commission it is picking on the wrong target."

The European Anglers Alliance (EAA), of which the Angling Trust is an active member, has already identified that the technical detail of the Commission’s proposals are unclear with regards to whether the ban on fishing in the first six months of 2016 refers to recreational fishing. The Angling Trust is currently waiting for a correction from the Commission in order to clarify this.

David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Marine Campaigns Manager, said: “Members of the public fishing recreationally for publically-owned fish stocks will find it very difficult to accept why they are being so severely restricted while it’s business as usual for many commercial fishermen in the second half of 2016.

“Over the next fortnight we will be liaising with our colleagues in the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) and our partner organisations in the European recreational fishing sector in producing a carefully worked response to the Commission's proposals.

“This will focus on trying to ensure all sectors contribute to conservation of bass stocks in a more balanced and proportionate way. We intend to put this forward for consideration at the December meeting of the Council of Ministers where we expect the Commission's original proposals to be substantially amended."

Earlier this month the Angling Trust met with the UK Fisheries minister George Eustice and briefed him on the need for further restrictions on the commercial harvesting of threatened bass stocks.

Additional notes:

European Commission Proposals on bass in 'Fishing Opportunities'

7) What about sea bass?
Sea bass is a special case: real management measures for sea bass were only put in place in January 2015 and catch limits were only put in place in June 2015. The Commission is therefore building on the measures taken in 2015 to halt the dramatic decline in this important stock. Today's proposal includes a complete fishing ban for commercial vessels and recreational anglers in the first half of 2016. For the second half of 2016, the Commission is proposing a monthly one tonne catch limit for vessels targeting sea bass, and a one fish bag limit for recreational anglers. It is also proposing to maintain the closure for commercial fishing around Ireland.

Angling Trust Bass Briefing for Ministers - October 2015:

Bass Conservation - Next Steps:
The UK achieved remarkable success in leading on the 2015 package of emergency measures to protect bass stocks. However, what was achieved has not been enough and unfortunately the situation has since deteriorated. ICES advice for 2016 recommends catches of 541t. This is effectively a 90 per cent reduction on 2014. Even if all targeted fisheries were closed by catch of bass would exceed 541t. The package of measures in 2015 is estimated to have reduced catches by only 36 per cent and the Commission has admitted that what was agreed, while considerable, simply didn't go far enough. We await the Commission's proposals which are due to be published later this month. However, we hope they include — and we encourage the UK to pursue:
  • Using the 2016 fishing opportunities negotiations in December Council, with other Member States, to agree continued closure of mid-water trawling for bass from January - April in order to protect the existing spawning stock biomass. We anticipate the Commission to propose the closure to apply to all towed gears. We support this as the existing measures continue to allow aggregating/spawning stocks to be targeted by demersal trawls in shallow water where pelagic mid-water trawls are not used. For instance, pair teams continue to use floated demersal trawls off the Sussex coast and are exempt from the ban on the use of 'mid-water' trawling.
  • Cut monthly vessel limits to levels that, as closely as possible, achieve the scientifically-advised catch limits. This may mean closing targeted fisheries and allowing limited landings from proven by-catch fisheries where catches cannot be avoided and would otherwise be discarded.
  • New requirements on catch data recording in order to establish real levels of catches and fishing mortality from commercial and recreational fisheries.
  • We support the continuation of the three fish per day bag limit for recreational catches  in order to reflect the proportionate contribution of fishing mortality from recreational fisheries.
  • At the very least we are looking to see the new bass minimum conservation reference size of 42cm to be maintained in order to continue the objective of increasing spawning stock biomass from juvenile fish reaching spawning size. We hope that ministers will keep an open mind about further increases in subsequent years to allow mature fish a greater opportunity to spawn before running the risk of harvesting.
Domestic measures:
We are awaiting progress with the high-level review of domestic, UK, bass management measures following a call for evidence earlier this year on the existing bass nursery areas in England and Wales. It is important that this review progresses without delay and includes:
  • Identification of new, and expansion of existing, bass nursery areas to reflect the expansion of the range of bass and year-round presence around much of the coast.
  • A review of the effectiveness of the existing measures including compliance and enforcement.
  • A review of existing landings data and exemptions/ loopholes with the objective of improving landings data and identifying sources of illegal, unregulated and unreported landings of bass — a request that the EU Commission has already made to Member States.
  • We would like to see the UK Government support a Cefas research project proposal (currently being considered by the Commission) to establish a better understanding of rates of post-release mortality of bass from recreational fishing.
Last month, the Fisheries Directorate on the Isle of Man launched a public consultation on its proposal to change the legislation covering sea bass to include:
  1. A ban on all commercial bass fishing within 12 miles of the island's coast;
  2. A new minimum landing size of 50cms (compared to 42cms in the EU);
  3. A maximum landing size of 60cms (to allow big breeders to survive);
  4. A catch limit of one fish per angler.We look forward to the UK taking similarly robust action to protect UK bass stocks and the £200m that recreational bass fishing delivers to the UK economy.

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