European Bass Stocks Under Threat

Decline Alarms Anglers

UK anglers will soon start to see a disastrous decline in both the number and size of bass available in the important and valuable Recreational Fishery.

That is the conclusion from studies that show an alarming reduction in the number of juvenile fish coming into Southern nursery areas indicating a collapse in recruitment in recent years.

And if that isn’t bad enough, this harsh winter could very well have wiped out most of the young fish expected to have recently entered the nursery areas

“Typically young bass will spend four or five years growing in protected shallow inshore areas” said John Leballeur, Chairman of the BASS Restoration Project team

“And it’s not until those fish leave the nursery areas and spread out around the coast that anglers and fishermen will notice that there are far fewer young fish joining the fishery to replace those now being taken as adults in the commercial fishery.”

Bass are a non-quota species and are not subject to any significant controls on the total amount that can be landed by the commercial fishing fleet. With fishermen struggling to operate within reduced quotas for other species, available stocks of mature fish are now being fished down.

“With little hope of strong replenishment, the future isn’t looking too positive” said John Leballeur.

Hopes that these problems are local to the UK have been dashed by reports that the same concerns are now being expressed by anglers in Europe.

An item posted on a French angling website illustrates their concerns.

Some news from last year with a decline in Bass landings of line caught fish of 40% on the Breton markets, “Peche au Bar” are questioning current evaluation of the stock (2000 & 2006), concerned about the exploitation and targeting of larger breeding stock, and the general malaise that is all too familiar to us. They propose a close season from February to March.

“In these conditions, the line fishermen require implementation of a stock assessment worthy of the name, and that they identify a number of parameters affecting that stock : catches of course, but also recruitment, disturbances in the coastal zone, impact of sonar emissions, degradation of the quality of water etc..…”
(Source: Pêche au Bar.com http://www.pointe-de-bretagne.fr/ )

In response to such concerns within Europe, John Leballeur was invited to address a meeting of European Anglers in Amsterdam last year on measures that can be implemented to protect the European Recreational Bass Fishery and is working with the European Anglers Alliance to convene a European-wide workshop to address the problems and consider the measures needed to restore the Bass Fishery.

“With generally warming seas, we should be seeing a significant increase in both the number and size of bass in our inshore waters, not a decline” said John Leballeur.

“The reason that isn’t happening is because of the wilful failure of fishery managers to address the issues simply because they find it politically difficult to do so when the commercial fleet is suffering from the consequences of over-capacity”

“That wilful neglect does nothing to address the long term health of our bass stocks, the important and valuable recreational bass fishery, or the future prospects of commercial fishermen who above all else need healthy fish stocks to survive”.

BASS are calling on DEFRA to take urgent action to address the problems of overexploitation of bass stocks and to reverse this alarming decline now, not when their failure to do so becomes obvious to all.