Key Facts

‘‘Sea Bass – an Environmental Disaster’’

Spawning Population is Dangerously Low, Due to Commercial Over-Fishing

EU scientists said in April 2015: “The spawning stock biomass is declining towards the lowest historically observed level.” Sadly, in 2016, we have indeed reached an all-time low for the spawning stock biomass: 7,320 tonnes.

Spawning Stock Biomass

The sea bass spawning biomass estimate for 2017 is even worse, just 6,219 tonnes. That represents just one and a half years of commercial landings (2010-13 average commercial landings = 4,136 tonnes).

These current estimates are well below Blim, which is 8,075 tonnes. This means the scientists now think there is a high probability that the stock’s ability to regenerate itself will be impaired due to insufficient egg production. The risk now is that, even if fishing is much reduced, the stock fails to recover as expected and remains depleted for extended periods.

Accordingly, the scientists have now recommended zero landings in 2017. But the risk is that the politicians will fail to respect this advice and once again cave in to the commercial fishing lobby.

Fishing Pressure

EU scientists said in April 2015: “The current fishing mortality is unsustainable and almost three times higher than FMSY” (FMSY is the maximum amount that can be fished sustainably).

Commercial Fishing Pressure

But it gets worse: in 2014 ICES scientists said that in some cases (e.g. UK fixed and drift nets) actual landings are 3 times higher than official figures. And the book “Advances in Fisheries Science” states that “the official statistics may record as little as 20% of actual landings”1.

Fishing pressure on Sea Bass has reduced in 2015 as a result of initiatives by the EU Commission, but not by enough, given the critical condition of the stock.

Recorded commercial landings in 2015 were 2,080 tonnes, almost double what is sustainable (ICES recommendation: 1,155 tonnes).

For 2016, UK and EU Fisheries Ministers are targeting 1,510 tonnes of recorded commercial landings, nearly 3 times more than is sustainable, before we even consider unrecorded landings (ICES recommendation for total commercial and recreational landings: 541 tonnes).

Sources:
STECF April 2015 Plenary
STECF April 2014 Plenary
ICES Advice June 2016
ICES Advice June 2015
ICES Advice June 2014
ICES IBP Bass Report 2014

1Andy Payne, John Cotter, Ted Potter, ‪John Wiley & Sons, 22 Jan 2009‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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