Sea Bass Fishery – the Facts

Recent History – Commercial Over-Fishing has put the Sea Bass Stock at Risk

In 2009, commercial over-fishing caused the sea bass stock to start falling.  In 2014, the Spawning Stock Biomass (“SSB”) fell below Btrigger, the level where fishery managers are supposed to apply protective measures.

In November 2014, Save Our Sea Bass made its first trip to Brussels to lobby the EU Commission for cuts in commercial bass landings in order to save the sea bass stock.  The EU Commission explained that it had tried to persuade the EU Member States to reduce sea bass catches, but admitted it had failed and that we were facing an environmental disaster.

The December 2014 Fishing Opportunities meeting in Brussels was another failure, under pressure from commercial fishing lobbyists, the Member States would not agree any restrictions on sea bass catches.  However, between Christmas and the New Year, the UK applied to the EU Commission asking unilaterally for Emergency Measures to be applied and for the pair trawling for sea bass to be stopped.

In early 2015, the EU Commission enacted law stopping pair trawling for sea bass and this opened the floodgates for other measures to protect bass.  Since then, Save Our Sea Bass has continued to push hard for commercial fishing pressure to be reduced to sustainable levels.

Where are we now?

Currently, only recreational fishermen and commercial hook & line fishermen can legally target and land sea bass.  Recreational fishermen can land 2 bass per day for 9 months of the year (1st March to 30th November).

All other commercial fishermen are either banned from landing bass (pair trawlers and drift netters) or are only allowed to land low levels of unavoidable bycatch (seiners, bottom trawlers and fixed netters).

It is illegal to land bass under 42cm in length.

As a result of these restrictions, the decline in the stock has been halted, but the stock still remains at a dangerously low level.  It is vital that we continue to campaign to keep commercial fishing pressure low, so the stock has a chance to recover.  Even if commercial fishing pressure is kept low, it may take several years for the sea bass stock to recover to a safe level.  We desperately need a few years of excellent environmental conditions to enable juvenile bass to thrive and grow and join the spawning stock biomass.

This graph has been produced using estimates provided by scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an inter-governmental marine science organisation tasked with providing impartial evidence on the state and sustainable use of our seas and oceans.  You can read the most recent ICES sea bass stock assessment here.

The Future

Managing the sea bass fishery for commercial fishing has been catastrophic failure.  A slow growing, slow maturing and long-lived species like sea bass cannot withstand a high level of commercial fishing pressure.

Sea anglers have had to pay a bitter price for commercial over-fishing and we now want the sea bass fishery to be run to deliver what sea anglers want: “More and Bigger Sea Bass”. This will enable the sea bass fishery to deliver the maximum benefit to Society.

We want commercial fishing pressure kept low so that the stock can recover to a state of abundancy.  We reject the continuation of managing the sea bass stock to deliver the commercial fishing objective of maximising long term catches.