Sustainable Management of Sea Bass
The European sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax is a vulnerable species in a changing and dynamic climate. A combination of slow growth, late maturity, spawning aggregation, and strong site fidelity increases the vulnerability of bass to overexploitation and localized depletion.
The Institute of Fisheries Management has significant and varied experience in the management of estuarine and inshore species, and is actively engaged in the development of more sustainable bass fisheries, in collaboration with a broad range of bodies, for the common benefit of all.
We believe that with a robust mix of international and local measures set in place, there is no reason why a buoyant recreational angling sector cannot co-exist alongside high value low impact commercial fisheries targeting larger bass as set out below.
The evidence to support this statement is set out in a separate technical appendix which can be foud here
Additional information on Seabass from the European Commission can be found here
Looking at the international scene – We welcome the announcements from the Commission on 19th & 26th January, 2015 about the banning of pelagic trawling for bass during the current spawning season in the Channel, Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and southern North Sea, effective immediately until 30th April, as an emergency measure. We would strongly recommend that either the ban becomes permanent, or at the very least is subject to regular review based upon the latest scientific information available.
We welcome the commitment to support Member States put a package of further measures in place. In that vein, we endorse the proposals to consult over a three fish daily bag limit for anglers and the need for Member States to set a minimum size of 42cm, as set out on 26th January. We congratulate the UK authorities and other interests on the vigorous part they have played in securing these announcements.
- We strongly support the development of a bass management plan.
- We need to understand how bass distribution and behaviour continues to respond to a more dynamic environment. This will be vital if we are to develop the flexible adaptive management techniques required to achieve sustainable management under future climate scenarios.
At a local level, we recommend a number of measures which will produce important local benefits, and which fit within a wider European framework –
• Bass Nursery Areas – Current BNA regulations are flawed and need thorough review. Expansion in the numbers of juvenile bass since 1990 has produced many more areas which now act as vital nursery grounds. We need more nurseries and improved
regulation. There is a growing body of science demonstrating where those nurseries need to be. There are developing opportunities to gather more such data.
- Inshore Netting Controls – The IFCA Legacy Byelaw Review provides a major opportunity to draw together all inshore fisheries management (marine and freshwater migratory) within a simplified process, utilising existing best practices and best use of available resources.
- Minimum Legal Size – The Institute recommends the adoption of an MLS of 42cm to apply to all UK waters, as a matter of urgency. In that context, we welcome the Commission announcement of an intention to consult Member States on the adoption of an MLS of 42cm. We would strongly support the application of this MLS to both the recreational and commercial sectors.
- Mesh Size Implications on an increase in MLS – Mesh sizes may need to be altered in order to achieve any increase in MLS. Any changes will impact on marine fishermen and may impact on migratory salmonids. Early consultation with all users is vital to the success of any proposed measures.
- Catch limits and bag limits – We welcome the intention to consult over a daily three fish bag limit for anglers, which we believe is an appropriate and balanced measure. However, any bag limitation placed upon the anglers should be matched by effective and equitable catch limitations upon the commercial sector. The recent suite of reports on recreational sea angling and the December House of Commons bass debate all suggest at the very least that the recreational and commercial sectors both provide significant socio-economic benefits to UK plc. Against that background, future management should be clearly balanced and equitable, and should be seen to be delivered.
- Unlicensed unregistered illegal fishing – Changes need to be made to enforcement in inshore waters if we are to address this issue effectively. There is a clear link here to the IFCA Legacy Byelaw Review.
- A recreational species – We take a balanced view, given the socio-economic value of both sectors. If a robust mix of international and local measures can be driven forward, there is no reason why a buoyant recreational angling sector cannot co-exist alongside high value low impact local sustainable fisheries targeting larger bass.
- New nursery capacity – Much of the historic nursery capacity has been lost and is now a limiting factor. Further capacity is still being lost through coastal squeeze. We can build more capacity through effective linkage with new flood risk measures. New nursery habitats may attract contributory funding and should be fully protected.
Institute of Fisheries Management January 2015