Bass stocks plummet in Channel Island waters

One of the Channel Islands’ most popular fish has plummeted in numbers this year.

Tamara Timothy reports:  Video

Nationally, stocks of sea bass are down 20% and some in the local industry say they are the lowest they have been in living memory.

A series of bad winters is believed to be the main cause of the decline and the UK is now looking at introducing quotas to try to boost stocks, but experts here say that is not the answer.

Fishermen have managed to keep up with local demand, but a decrease in exports has been been tough for those trying to pull in a profit.

Louis Jackson, Owner of Fresh Fish company told ITV News: “We only sell locally caught fish, but this year’s been the worst year that I can ever remember quantity wise.
“Guys that target bass to try and make a living have actually given up this year because it’s not been possible.”

The national decrease in the sea bass catch this year has led to some calls in the UK for quotas to be introduced.

Anything affecting British waters wouldn’t affect fishermen here and Guernsey’s sea fisheries say they have no quotas in place at the moment and no plans to bring any in. That’s something that fishermen here agree is the right decision.

Don Thompson, President of the Jersey Fisherman’s association said: “The problem with the quota system is the French will get the lion’s share.
“Our records of catching bass here are fairly good but the quantities are quite small, so for instance if you had a good year next year, the quota that would be allocated to the island would run out in the first couple of months.”

For Jersey chef Steve Smith, sea bass is a menu staple. He has had enough supply throughout the summer, but says long-term stock issues would be a real concern.
He said: “I think we’ve got to do whatever we can to help sustain our fish industry and the fish that we take from the sea.
“I think the fact that now we’re in the EU maybe a lot of the fish that’s actually been caught may not actually be being landed in the UK.”

With prices rising when supply drops, a serving of seabass may become a rarer treat for islanders.