European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)
Dicentrachus labrax is a beautiful, bristling predator with a distinctive biology and has long been regarded as a premier marine sport fish in the United Kingdom. Independent surveys conducted in 1992 (Pickett et al 1995) concluded that there were 361,000 UK sea anglers fishing primarily for bass.
The European sea bass is aptly named because it is found along the coast of nearly every country that makes up the European land mass. Bass range from the waters of the Mediterranean and Aegean, along the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Northern Spain and Western France, throughout the English Channel and on into the North Sea. They are also found on the west side of the United Kingdom (UK) in the Bristol Channel, the Irish Sea and throughout Ireland.
The experiences of anglers in the UK and records of commercial capture have, until recently, defined the northern limit of the species’ range as primarily within the southern half of the UK with relatively few captures occurring in the north of the UK or from Scandinavian countries. This was generally attributed to the species’ requirement for warmer waters. Within the past few years, however, the number of bass being reported from more northerly latitudes has steadily increased (NB – there is now an active bass fishery in Norway). This phenomenon is doubtless linked to the gradual increase in summer temperatures of the North Sea as a result of successive mild winters and possibly the effects of global warming.