Sea bass stocks have been dangerously low for some time and are at risk from falling below the level at which recovery can be guaranteed. Measures to protect them were needed. But despite commercial fisheries taking the bulk of the catch, the burden of measures to increase stock levels has fallen more often than not on recreational fishers.
Last year, when scientific advice recommended a total moratorium, they were given a retention ban, with no fishing at all allowed for the first half of the year. Yet commercial hook and line fisheries were allowed to continue.
However, in June this year, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) updated its recommendations for 2018. It found that the total catch of sea bass from recreational fishing was lower than previously thought, and that sea bass have a higher survival rate than estimated when released by anglers.
I and other UK Labour MEPs wrote to the European Commissioner for Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, as well as to the UK Fisheries Minister, George Eustice. I am happy to see that in light of this advice, the Commission has proposed, subject of course to the approval of the Council of Ministers, to allow anglers to catch one bass per day between October and December 2018.
I hope that ministers, including George Eustice, will approve this Commission proposal, and that future measures will also reflect this new information. Any measures taken must better reflect the fact that it is the impact of the commercial sector, not recreational anglers, which has the biggest effect on sea bass stocks, and have caused their decline.
Sea bass have traditionally been caught by recreational fishers, not commercial fisheries, and over 2 million sea anglers still target European bass. Across the whole of Europe, sea bass angling has a socio-economic value of €200 million each year. We must continue to protect their right to fish.
[For more information about sea bass management, see this previous blog post.]