The EU Fishing Opps meeting finished at 2.00am this morning (19 December 2019).  It is a bitterly disappointing result for sea anglers who have supported our campaign for a law to stop fixed netters illegally targeting bass.  Our hopes were raised when the EU Commission included a 1% restriction on fixed netter’s daily catch in its original proposal.  We were encouraged yesterday, when the first draft compromise agreement still contained this proposal, although the percentage had been increased to the 10% that we advocated.  But late last night, the proposal was completely rejected by our Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, and Defra in the full knowledge that the current law is unenforceable and is being treated as a straightforward targeting allowance by both fixed netters and the MMO.  This doesn’t end here.  We will continue to push for this restriction and to highlight the disgraceful position the UK Government has taken.

Sea anglers’ bag limit was increased from 2017’s 6 months from July to December to 7 months from April to October inclusive for 2019. So, a small improvement, but it looks like sea anglers now have less than 17% of the total catch, which is a complete travesty – the stakeholder delivering the greatest social and economic benefits is being unfairly penalised with disproportionate measures that do not take account of the science.

For commercials, there have been similar small increases, reflecting the scientists’ prediction that the stock is about to start recovering, but also the EU Commission’s determination to keep the brakes on the bass fishery to avoid jeopardising a recovery:

  • Demersal trawlers’ unavoidable bycatch allowance – up from 100kg per month to 400kgs per two months, but still restricted to 1% of total catch per day.
  • Seiners’ unavoidable bycatch allowance – up from 180kg per month to 210kg per month, but still restricted to 1% of total catch per day.
  • Fixed netters’ “unavoidable” bycatch allowance – up from 1.2 tonnes per annum to 1.4 tonnes per annum, with no percentage of catch restriction.
  • Hook & liners’ targeting allowance – up from 5 tonnes per annum to 5.5 tonnes per annum.