The Northern sea bass stock is in a worse state than last year and will continue to worsen next year. Scientists have advised no bass catches next year would be the sensible thing to do. That was the baseline when a delegation from EFTTA and the EAA met recently with the European Commission.
“Therefore, the Commission cannot just roll over management measures from this year into 2017 and it certainly cannot allow any increase in landings,” said EFTTA’s Public Affairs Officer Jan Kappel, a member of the nine-people strong delegation, and continued “but to avoid catching bass is not possible neither for commercial fishers nor recreational anglers. The scientists also outlined alternative but, of course, slower pace strategies to rebuild the stock. I am prety sure the Member States won’t go for a total closure but discuss and choose among the alternatives. Therefore, it is important that we secure that recreational angling is not again the sector to be hit hardest by the catch reduction measures to come“.
The member states will decide finally in mid December. Before that there will be a number of working group meetings among national experts. The Commission has urged us to get involved at the national level. “The Commission agreed that recreational fishing has delivered – or been hit – more than any other métiers with regard to catch-limiting measures.” This year recreational fishing was allowed catch and release only for the first half of the year, and a bag limit of one fish per day for the rest of the year.
EFTTA and the EAA asked the Commission for more flexibility and submitted a proposal in writing before the meeting requesting more flexibility. It asked that anglers be allowed to choose between the zero/one fish bag limit and a monthly limit. In turn, anglers would fill in an electronic log book after each trip to provide the Commission with valuable catch data.
The current regulations, argued EFTTA and the EAA, discourage anglers from going fishing which has a dangerous knock-on effect on businesses and local communities reliant on angling. The Commission was open for looking into this suggestion. Jan Kappel was asked by the Commission to provide more details.
With regard to Southern Sea Bass (Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters), there are no EU bass measures currently in place due to lack of data and scientific evidence. The minimum landing size is 36cm compared to 42cm in northern sea bass fisheries, despite a suggestion from the Commission last year that southern sea bass also adhere to the 42cm measure.
The Commission had asked for renewed scientific evidence on southern stocks but that has not been forthcoming. The Commission can still act and member states could agree that southern bass fisheries also be managed properly, but nothing is certain.
EFTTA and the EAA urged the Commission to act now, warning that failure to do so would risk southern bass stocks suffering in the same way as northern bass.
Action points going forward:
- December’s Fisheries Council meeting 12-13 December will decide measures for 2017, following negotiations between the member States;
- Long term management plans will be drafted, with the Commission to publish a proposal in spring 2017;
- EFTTA and EAA have arranged a bass event at the European Parliament on October 11. The Commission has accepted an EFTTA/EAA proposal to present and speak at the event.
See the draft programme here