Reports Derek Evans in The Irish Times

Conservation of bass ( Dicentrarchus labrax ) stocks continues to remain intact which is aimed at preserving stocks in Irish coastal waters.

I was there in October 1987 when the then Minister for Marine, Brendan Daly, proposed a suite of tough measures to conserve bass stocks, which had dropped dramatically and were at a dangerously low level. Commercial fishing for the species was the main reason for the decline, the Minister said back then.

His measures included: a ban on commercial fishing and the use of nets for bass fishing; a ban on the sale of bass, except for imported bass; a minimum size limit of 40cm; a bag limit of two bass per person per 24- hour period and a close season from May 15th to June 15th.

I was also there in May 1990 when this decision was introduced as a bylaw by the Minister for Marine, John Wilson, who added: “Our indigenous population is slow growing and late maturing. Bass can be up to eight years old before spawning and over 20 years old at 4.5kg weight. The species is highly prized from an angling viewpoint and was formerly a major attraction for overseas anglers.”

I was there too in 2000 when the bylaw was split into two by the Minister for Marine, Frank Fahey, ie Bass (Restriction of Sale) Order SI 128 and Bass Fishing Conservation No. 769. Again the former prohibited the sale or offer for sale of bass (other than bass imported) and the latter restrictions applied for angling purposes.

In 2012, I was in Buswell’s Hotel when the then Minister, Simon Coveney, was asked about the ban on commercial fishing for bass. He replied that until such time as our marine scientists reported to him that the species had recovered sufficiently to allow commercial fishing, the ban would remain in place.

Today, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has established a National Bass Programme to collect data on bass in order to provide scientific advice to support management and conservation of the resource.

Bass is Ireland’s only marine fish species that is managed for angling. The programme is being developed to determine the status of stocks and also to improve understanding of their ecology and biology for the long-term sustainability of the species.

Any assistance with the programme would be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in collecting bass scale samples, IFI can provide a scale envelope pack. For details, see email bass@fisheriesireland.ie or call 01-8842600. All angling mark information will be kept strictly confidential.