(latest update: 28 Jan 2016; 19:35h) 

Concerning fishing opportunities for sea bass 2016

The bass measures for 2016 were published 28 January 2016 with effect the day after. In 23 languages here:

"Council Regulation (EU) 2016/72 of 22 January 2016 fixing for 2016 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union fishing vessels, in certain non-Union waters, and amending Regulation (EU) 2015/104"

- Please take note, that the provisions apply retroactively - from the 1st of January. However, it is evident that Member States did not issue new bass provisions on or before the 1st of January and also that a number of commercial fishers from various countries, who should not fish for bass in January did so. So, the January bass fishing mortality rate will be much higher than anticipated. French trawler skippers have openly challenged the authorities. They openly admit that they are 'exploiting a legal vacuum', they claim. See news article by 'Le Marin', 27 January 2016: "Bar : les chalutiers de fond ignorent le moratoire et l’assument"  It is at present unclear how these and other commercial fishers' landings of 'over-quota bass' will be corrected.

Pre-texts 2015:

10 November 2015 the Commission published its first proposal:

  • COM(2015) 559 final of 10.11.2015 - "Proposal for a COUNCIL REGULATION - fixing for 2016 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks,
    applicable in Union waters and, for Union vessels, in certain non-Union waters"

  • Later, the Commission has amended the proposal with regard to recreational fisheries. We received a copy 4 December, which is here

  • EAA and EFTTA worked out a response to the amended version of 4 December 2015, which is here

Below, we have copied in the provisions, which concern commercial and recreational fishing for 'Northern' bass in 2016. We raise and discuss some issues along the legal text. We have worked out some maps to ease the understanding of the legal text. The maps are copied in below. Read also our position paper (link above).

English text version (html; pdf):

Council Regulation (EU) 2016/72 of 22 January 2016 fixing for 2016 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union fishing vessels, in certain non-Union waters, and amending Regulation (EU) 2015/104

Recital 7:
[PS: Generally about recitals “The purpose of the recitals is to set out concise reasons for the chief provisions of the enacting terms, without reproducing or paraphrasing them. They shall not contain normative provisions or political exhortations.”; http://eur-lex.europa.eu/content/techleg/KB0213228ENN.pdf ; more about recitals on p. 20 ff.]

(7) According to scientific advice, sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) in the Celtic Sea, Channel, Irish Sea and southern North Sea (ICES divisions IVb, IVc and VIIa, VIId–VIIh) is in a perilous state and stock continues to decline. The conservation actions to prohibit fishing for sea bass in ICES divisions VIIb, VIIc, VIIj and VIIk should be maintained and should include ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg, with the exception of the waters within 12 nautical miles of the baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Spawning aggregations of sea bass should be protected and no catches should be allowed in the entire distribution area of the stock for the first six months of the year. Due to incidental and unavoidable by-catches of sea bass by vessels using demersal trawls and seines, such by-catches should be limited to 1 % of the weight of the total catch of marine organisms on board. Further restrictions of catches are needed to protect sea bass outside the spawning periods, therefore monthly catch limits should apply in ICES divisions IVb and IVc, as well as VIId, VIIe, VIIf and VIIh, and in the UK territorial sea in ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg. Catches of recreational fishermen should be limited further.

[EAA comment: Recital 8 and 17 copied in below do not mention bass, but we have copied them in here to show the difference between “a zero TAC” vs. “prohibit the fishing of..” and “fully restricted through a general prohibition on fishing those species.”. That difference could have grave consequences for anglers’ access to bass fishing first half of next year as Article 10(4) reads (Art 10 is copied in further below): “From 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2016, it shall be prohibited in recreational fisheries to fish for sea bass..” We urge this provision to be reworded! We insist there is no need to prohibit recreational angling for bass, as the survival rate of released bass is “high”. Instead of a closure, or fishing prohibition, all what is needed is a “no-retention” or a “zero bag limit” clause.

EU’s fisheries policy (the CFP) was developed to regulate commercial fisheries only. Some terms like “target species”, “by-catch species” and “discards” are not common terms with regard to recreational angling and other kinds of recreational fishing (e.g. spear fishing, traps and pots) and should be used with care or not at all, as often they are not needed, or don’t make much sense, or mean something slightly different out of their commercial fisheries context. EU needs to make use of terms from the recreational fisheries vocabulary when managing recreational fisheries (which EU will do increasingly in the years to come, we believe)].

Recital (8): "For some years, certain TACs for stocks of elasmobranchs (skates, sharks, rays) have been set at 0, with a linked provision establishing an obligation to immediately release accidental catches. The reason for this specific treatment is that the conservation status of those stocks is poor and, because of their high survival rates, discards will not raise fishing mortality rates for them, but are deemed as beneficial for the conservation of these species. As of 1 January 2015, however, catches of those species in pelagic fisheries have to be landed, unless they are covered by any of the derogations from the landing obligation foreseen in Article 15 of Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013. Article 15(4)(a) of that Regulation allows such derogations for species in respect of which fishing is prohibited and which are identified as such in a Union legal act adopted in the area of the Common Fisheries Policy. Therefore, it is appropriate to prohibit the fishing of those species in the areas concerned."

Recital (17): "For certain species, such as certain species of sharks, even a limited fishing activity could result in a serious risk to their conservation. Fishing opportunities for such species should therefore be fully restricted through a general prohibition on fishing those species."


Article 2
Scope
This Regulation shall apply to the following vessels:
(a) Union fishing vessels;
(b) third-country vessels in Union waters;.
This Regulation shall also apply to recreational fisheries where they are expressly referred to in the relevant provisions.


Article 3
Definitions
(..)
(b) 'recreational fisheries' means non-commercial fishing activities exploiting marine living aquatic resources such as for recreation, tourism or sport.
(..)


Article 10
Measures on Sea bass fisheries

1. It shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to fish for sea bass in ICES divisions VIIb, VIIc, VIIj and VIIk, as well as in the waters of ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg that are more than 12 nautical miles from the baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. It shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to retain on board, tranship, relocate or land sea bass caught in that area. 

2. From 1 January to 30 June 2016, it shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to fish for sea bass and to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land sea bass caught in the following areas:
(a) ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIId, VIIe, VIIf and VIIh;
(b) waters within 12 nautical miles from baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg.
 
By derogation from the first subparagraph, the following measures shall apply in the areas referred to in that subparagraph:
(a) a Union fishing vessel deploying demersal trawls and seines [2] may retain on board catches of sea bass that do not exceed 1 % of the weight of the total catches of marine organisms on board;
(b) in January 2016 and from 1 April to 30 June 2016, Union fishing vessels using hooks and lines, and fixed gillnets [3] may fish for sea bass and retain on board, relocate, tranship or land sea bass caught in that area not exceeding 1 300 kilograms per any vessel per month. 
[2: All types of demersal trawls including Danish/Scottish seines, including OTB, OTT, PTB, TBB, SSC, SDN, SPR, SV, SB, SX, TBN, TBS, TB.]
[3: All long lines or pole and line or rod and line fisheries, including LHP, LHM, LLD, LL, LTL, LX and LLS, all fixed gillnets and traps, including GTR, GNS, FYK, FPN and FIX.]
EAA note: These gear codes follows FAO's INTERNATIONAL STANDARD STATISTICAL CLASSIFICATION OF FISHING GEAR (ISSCFG) (29 July 1980)

3. From 1 July to 31 December 2016 it shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels using hooks, lines and fixed gillnets to fish for sea bass in quantities exceeding 1 300 kilograms per any vessel per month and for Union fishing vessels using other gears to fish for sea bass in quantities exceeding 1 000 kilograms per any vessel per month in the
following areas:
(a) ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIId, VIIe, VIIf and VIIh;
(b) waters within 12 nautical miles from baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg.
During that period, it shall also be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land quantities of sea bass exceeding the quantities set in the first subparagraph caught in those areas.

4. The catch limits set in paragraphs 2 and 3 shall not be transferable from one month to another or between vessels. Member States shall report to the Commission catches of sea bass per type of gear not later than 20 days after the end of each month.
For Union fishing vessels using more than one gear in a single calendar month, the lowest catch limit set in paragraph 3 for either gear shall apply.

5. From 1 January to 30 June 2016 in recreational fisheries in ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIIa and from VIId to VIIh, only catch-and-release fishing for sea bass, including from shore, shall be allowed. During this period, it shall be prohibited to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land sea bass caught in that area.

6. In recreational fisheries, including from shore, not more than one specimen of sea bass may be retained per fisherman per day during the following periods and in the following areas:
(a) from 1 July to 31 December 2016 in ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIIa and from VIId to VIIh;
(b) from 1 January to 31 December 2016 in ICES divisions VIIj and VIIk.


EAA comment:
The maps below are done by us to portray the contents of the Article 10 provisions

Article 10(1) – (concerns the area closed for commercial fishing all year):
- "It shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to fish for sea bass in ICES divisions VIIb, VIIc, VIIj and VIIk, as well as in the waters of ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg that are more than 12 nautical miles from the baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. It shall be prohibited for Union vessels to retain on board, tranship, relocate or land sea bass caught in that area."


EAA comment:
The closure is all year round. It is worth noticing, that even though commercial fishing for bass is prohibited in this area still it is anticipated that some bass will be caught as by-catches. These by-catches have to be discarded, as: “It shall be prohibited for Union vessels to retain on board, tranship, relocate or land sea bass caught in that area.”


Art 10(2) – (concerns the area closed for commercial fishing first half of 2016):

- "From 1 January to 30 June 2016, it shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to fish for sea bass and to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land sea bass caught in the following areas:
(a) ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIId, VIIe, VIIf and VIIh;
(b) waters within 12 nautical miles from baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg.

By derogation from the first subparagraph, the following measures shall apply in the areas referred to in that subparagraph:
(a) a Union fishing vessel deploying demersal trawls and seines [2] may retain on board catches of sea bass that do not exceed 1 % of the weight of the total catches of marine organisms on board;
(b) in January 2016 and from 1 April to 30 June 2016, Union fishing vessels using hooks and lines, and fixed gillnets [3] may fish for sea bass and retain on board, relocate, tranship or land sea bass caught in that area not exceeding 1 300 kilograms per any vessel per month. 
[2: All types of demersal trawls including Danish/Scottish seines, including OTB, OTT, PTB, TBB, SSC, SDN, SPR, SV, SB, SX, TBN, TBS, TB.]
[3: All long lines or pole and line or rod and line fisheries, including LHP, LHM, LLD, LL, LTL, LX and LLS, all fixed gillnets and traps, including GTR, GNS, FYK, FPN and FIX.]

EAA comment: This article concerns first half of 2016 in the light blue area. Vessels using demersal trawls and seines are permitted to keep by-catches of bass of up to “1% of the weight of the total catches of marine organisms on board”. We wonder how many tonnes of bass this translates into? Time will tell. We also are puzzled if the skippers have a free choice between landing/selling and discarding? Another question is, whether this provision is fully complaint with the new discards/landing obligations for these waters: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/fishing_rules/discards/index_en.htm

PS: We have been told that the landing obligation concerns not only TAC fisheries but any fishery operating under landing restrictions like the bass fishery. But is it obligatory for all to report all by-catches and discards? Maybe the catches and discards with regard to demersal trawls and seines shall be reported (due to other legislation concerning the landing obligation)? But what about discards by other vessels? See the reporting obligation mentioned in Art 10(4).

PS: Concerning by-catches: It is worth noticing that the Commission’s scientific adviser ‘STECF’ previously has informed that by-catches of sea bass accounted to 41% of the total sea bass catches, but in STECF’s latest report from November it is now said, that: "STECF notes that with the exception of pelagic midwater trawl fishery and line fisheries, the current catch statistics are of an insufficient granularity to categorise bass as being either caught in targeted or non-target fisheries." We are happy that STECF recognises the great uncertainty as to what can and should be deemed targeted sea bass fishing vs. by-catch of sea bass, and we would like to warn against introducing management measures, which depends too much on separation between the two “fishing motivations”, which could lead to unwelcome loopholes in the management scheme.


Art 10(3) and Art 10(4) – (concerns the catch limitations set for commercial fisheries second half of 2016):

Art 10(3):
- From 1 July to 31 December 2016 it shall be prohibited for Union fishing vessels using hooks, lines and fixed gillnets to fish for sea bass in quantities exceeding 1 300 kilograms per any vessel per month and for Union fishing vessels using other gears to fish for sea bass in quantities exceeding 1 000 kilograms per any vessel per month in the
following areas:
 
(a) ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIId, VIIe, VIIf and VIIh;
(b) waters within 12 nautical miles from baseline under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in ICES divisions VIIa and VIIg.

During that period, it shall also be prohibited for Union fishing vessels to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land quantities of sea bass exceeding the quantities set in the first subparagraph caught in those areas.

Art 10(4):
The catch limits set in paragraphs 2 and 3 shall not be transferable from one month to another or between vessels. Member States shall report to the Commission catches of sea bass per type of gear not later than 20 days after the end of each month.
For Union fishing vessels using more than one gear in a single calendar month, the lowest catch limit set in paragraph 3 for either gear shall apply.

EAA comment: Comparison 2016 (above) vs. 2015 (below). 'Fixed gillnets' has got its own catch limit in 2016. Positive discrimination has been offered the so-called "small scale fishers", fishing vessels using hooks, lines and fixed gillnets. These vessels can legally catch and land up to 1,300 kg bass per month - and their bass fishing is only closed in February and March (other metiers' bass fishing are banned from the 1st of January to the end of June). We don't understand why the Member States have decided that, against the Commission's proposal. This will prolong the time for the stock to recover, which is unfair to recreational anglers and other fishers.


Art 10(5) and Art 10(6) – (recreational fisheries 2016):


Art 10(5):
- From 1 January to 30 June 2016 in recreational fisheries in ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIIa and from VIId to VIIh, only catch-and-release fishing for sea bass, including from shore, shall be allowed. During this period, it shall be prohibited to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land sea bass caught in that area.


Art 10(6):
- "In recreational fisheries, including from shore, not more than one specimen of sea bass may be retained per fisherman per day during the following periods and in the following areas:
(a) from 1 July to 31 December 2016 in ICES divisions IVb, IVc, VIIa and from VIId to VIIh;
(b) from 1 January to 31 December 2016 in ICES divisions VIIj and VIIk."

EAA comment: Everything considered, we find that recreational fishing has been unfairly treated compared with commercial fisheries - in particular compared with "fishing vessels using hooks, lines and fixed gillnets". We insist, that a bag limit of three fish year round - except from some closed months to leave alone the spawning fish (which could/should be different months for different areas) - would be fair. Zero landings in six months and one fish only the other six months will do unnecessary and disproportional harm to recreational angling and its dependant businesses, which will lose millions of euros due to these measures.

See our position paper of 4 December for more information and opinions.

Additional information:
A Minimum Conservation Reference Size 42 cm took effect last year (2015) on the 1st of September, for both commercial and recreational fishing. The MCRS 42 cm is unaffected by the proposals mentioned above, but shall be evaluated "before the end of 2017" - see map below. It is worth noticing that the area where the bass MCRS applies is much wider than the areas where other bass management measures apply.