The recommendation by the EU for bass landings in 2016 have been announced today (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6016_en.htm?subweb=343&lang=en ).
In the Northern European area (containing the UK Ireland and Northern France) the proposal stated landings should be reduced from an estimated 2656 tonnes landed this year to 1449 tonnes in 2016 (a 46% reduction).
It proposed this reduction will be achieved by a:
- Complete ban on landings of bass (both commercial and recreational) from the beginning of January to the end of June
- 1 bass bag limit per day for anglers from July to December
- 1 Tonne per month limit on bass landings July to December for commercial boats.
Compared to the dark frustrating years of campaigning I experienced from the Millennium to 2014 when nothing was achieved, this represents further significant further and shows a continuned willingness by the EU to try and make some difference. Yet given the evidence on stock levels, the known economic and environmental costs of different means of fishing and the benefits to be gained by allocating the available landings to those who bring the greatest value from the resource, then todays announcement is BOTH too little AND disproportionately affects us anglers – the group who brings the greatest value from the stock. Or to put it another way; in this battle to save our bass, the EU proposals lack firepower and are aimed at the wrong target.
The EU scientists (ICES) statement on the bass stocks this year said we needed a reduction to 541 tonnes just to prevent further decline; so I fail to see how can the EU come up with these figures if it is serious about making stocks sustainable through emergency measures?
Additionally, the EU claims anglers take around 25% of the bass. Even if you believe this figure, we anglers are also the group who fish for bass most selectively and sustainably – and a vast number of us return our catch anyway. So why are anglers getting a reduction of two thirds (in the one half a year we can take bass), while for example inshore gill netters – who are relatively unselective in what they catch, catch birds and other marine life as by catch, and frequently have to throw back dead the undersized fish they net – still be able to still land 1 tonne per month?
Many including myself believe, that the only obvious way to achieve the 541 tonne figure without a complete ban on all bass landings is to raise the minimum landing size to 48 or 50cm (possibly with a maximum size around 65cm) and make the bass fishery hook and line only. This would maximise value at market, be the most selective means of catching and alow fish of the wrong size or species to be returned. It would also allow smaller fish to breed at least once and also preserve the big most fertile fish in the population).
Watch this space for the official BASS response and advice on who to email or write to. Contacting the fisheries EU decision makers to tell them our views is however going to be vital, as you can bet the commercial fishermen will also be equally be displeased! Past history suggests they will be compaining: laying claim that they should be allowed to overexploit our bass fishery in a more unsustainable and damaging way than these proposals permit them to do. Therefore a powerful response from anglers is crucial for our bass and our future bass fishing.
(The views of Matt Spence)