AnglingTrust The voice of Angling

Juvenile sea bass

Letter to Fisheries Minister on Bass Read our letter to the George Eustice on fishing opportunities for bass in 2019. We want a bigger bag limit!

Malcolm Gilbert Bass

Sea Bass Back In The Bag Campaign success! Anglers' bag limit reinstated from 1st October 2018.

Bass

New Science Shows Real Impact of RSA ICES releases new scientific advice showing an 87% reduction in the contribution of RSA to bass mortality compared to their previous estimates, which resulted in the removal of the bag limit.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella

Joint Letter to Commissioner Karmenu Vella Read our joint EAA letter to the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries demanding the reinstatement of the RSA bass bag limit.

Save our Bass Fishing

Steven Neely bass 550px


Campaign update - October 2018

The UK angling public is finally able to keep sea bass caught recreationally from October 1st until the end of 2018. 

One bass per day will be able to be legally retained by anglers and other recreational fishers after a proposal was made by the European Commission which was adopted by the EU Council on September 27th and came into force on October 1st.

The Angling Trust has been campaigning heavily for a bag limit for recreational catches to be reinstated after a ban was introduced in January this year following flawed scientific advice which dramatically overestimated the impact recreational catches were having on the stock.



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. 

Bass Fishing Opportunities 2017 Campaign Image


Bass campaign in 2017
Proposals by the European Commission to ban recreational fishing for bass in 2018 would have criminalised hundreds of thousands of members of the public. Under these proposals, commercial hook & line boats would be allowed to continue to catch up to four tonnes of bass each in 2018 – a measure that would only restrict one per cent of these UK boats.

The Angling Trust and its partners, Save Our Sea Bass and the European Anglers Alliance, called the proposals unfair and disproportionate and responded by launching a petition calling on UK Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, and other EU Fisheries Ministers to continue to allow the public to fish for bass throughout 2018 and keep up to one fish a day to eat from July until the end of 2018. 

We also launched a campaign ahead of the fisheries debate in the House of Commons in December calling on the public to email their MPs asking them to support the right of anglers to fish for and keep bass.


The result: In late December 2017, Ministers announced that catch and release angling for bass all year round can continue with the prospect of a recreational bag limit in the second half of 2018 depending on a data review of the updated ICES advice in March. (This was specifically pushed for by the UK delegation in response to our representations). You can find out more here.

There are now further limits on commercial bass fishing as follows:

  • Fixed nets: 1.2t provision over 10 months (Feb-March closed).
- reduction of approx. 50 per cent on 2017 BUT now a provision rather than by-catch.   Therefore likely to be more enforceable as the by catch allowance was being widely     abused.

  • Demersal trawls and seines: Bycatch down to 1 per cent of catch capped at 100kg for trawls and 180kg for seines per month over 12 months.
– reduction from 5 per cent and reduction of cap on 2017

  • Commercial Hooks & Lines: 5t per vessel per year over 10 months (Feb-March closed)
– reduction of 50 per cent on 2017.

Bass Campaign in 2018
Since the unjust decision made by EU Fisheries Ministers meaning that recreational sea anglers could not retain a single bass in 2018, the Angling Trust, Save our Sea Bass and the European Anglers Alliance have been working closely with the European Commission and ICES to develop better science to calculate the impact of sea angling and reinstate the bag limit. ICES released new advice in June, using a revised methodology to come up with a figure that represents an 87% decrease in the estimated impact of recreational fishing in 2016 compared to the figures published last year. Scientists are now estimating recreational removals from 2016 were only 212t, compared to a previously estimated 1627t.

In light of this new evidence, we worked hard to ensure that the anglers' bag limit is reinstated ASAP for the remainder of 2018, and on the 27th September we finally received confirmation that this had happened. Success! As of 1st October 2018, anglers can retain one bass of over 42cm per day for the remainder of the year.

As we move towards the 2019 Fishing Opportunities meeting to be held in Brussels in December, we will be lobbying hard for a fairer bag limit for anglers in 2019: more fish and a longer season.

Contact: Angling Trust Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ
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