Fisheries Ministers deny Flexibility to Recreational Anglers in 2017 - the monthly bag limit not agreed

EAA and EFTTA had asked the Commission on behalf of recreational anglers and the tackle trade to allow recreational anglers to fish for bass with some flexibility in 2017 in the form of a monthly bag limit instead of or along the daily bag limit. The 2016 measures - no retention first half year and one fish only second half - were overly restrictive and did a lot of damage to the recreational angling dependant businesses in 2016. Furthermore, many anglers have expressed their frustrated that their fishing was curbed while segments of commercial fishers were allowed to continue unaffected or even allowed to catch more in 2016 than they were allowed to in 2015.

The Commission agreed to our flexibility plea and proposed a monthly bag limit of ten bass, for the ministers to agree or dismiss at the Council meeting 12-13 December. We soon realized that this would be a hard sell. Both e-NGOs and commercial fishers argued that this would lead to an increase in fishing mortality. Therefore, we issued and circulated an 'open letter' in a try to convince the ministers that the critics were wrong, but to no avail. The ministers decided simply to roll-over to 2017 the 2016 measures.

This bass case shows clearly, once again, that recreational anglers are lowest in the pecking order of sea fishers. And it illustrates that we are only of real interest when a stock has been depleted (by the commercial sector) and the commercial sector seeks to avoid or reduce cuts in their catches. In this sense, our catches are treated as nothing more than a reserve for commercial fishers to draw on when needed. This has to change! The tens of thousands jobs, which depend on anglers' spending deserve as much care and attention than any other job or livelihood within any other sector.

Bass fisheries management measures 2014-2017 - disproportional and unfair treatment of recreational angling

We claim that recreational angling has been hit harder than any other fisheries segment by EU management measures since 2014. As shown below the recreational landings may have been curbed by as much as 80%.since 2014.
On top of that: Fsheries access and restrictions are most often based on historic catches/landings. That gives advantage to those who caught and landed the most in the past, but only in 'the near past'  (one to five years). For recreational anglers this means more unfairness. In a longer perspective recreationlal anglers took far the biggest share of bass catches - untill consumers got a taste for this fish, and the commercial bass fishing took off in the 1970s:

Trend in catch distribution recreational vs. commercial fishing for bass

- Figure by UKBASS

 Year.

 Recreational

% of take

 Commercial

% of take.

 1970

 95

 5

 1990

 50

 50

 2000

 40

 60

 2012

50

50

 2014

25

75

                                         T
* Note: The figure do not show tonnage removed - just the percentage distribution of fsihing mortlaity between the two sectors.
The recreational landings are thought to have been pretty stable from the 60-70s till today, while the commercial landings
have increased dramatically over the years.

Year 2015:

In October 2014 the European Commission had proposed a bass bag limit for the very first time: one sea bass per recreational fisher per fishing day. EAA and EFTTA argued that this was not appropriate and asked the Commission to investigate what an increase in the minimum landing size (MLS) could bring of reduction. The recreational angling community clearly prefers a MLS increase over a bag limit. The Commission then asked independent scientists to assess MLS/bag limit alternatives. A report was delivered early December 2014, and included the Commision's scientific advisers 'STECF' reporting of meeting 13-17 April 2015.    

At the time EU’s bass minimum landing size (MLS) was 36 cm. The scientists concluded:

● “..with full compliance, an increase in MLS to 45cm (to approximately the length at maturity) can achieve a reduction in overall retained catch numbers of 50% or more, which could only be achieved by very restrictive bag limits on their own or in combination with smaller MLS.

● “Based on the present analysis, it is proposed that an increase in MLS to 45cm should be considered, but combined with a daily bag limit of 4 fish to eradicate, as far as possible, large catches of seabass landed by small numbers of recreational fishers for personal consumption, distribution or sale.”

● “For the great majority of survey respondents, an MLS of 45cm could reduce retained catches by around 50%, whilst a bag limit of 4 fish applied at the same time would seldom be limiting but would help prevent excessively large catches.”

On this background the Commission later raised the MLS, not to 45cm but 42cm only. Also a bag limit was introduced, not 4 fish as recommended by the scientists but 3 fish only (the option highlighted in green below):


If these measures had been put to effect as per 1st of January 2015, we assume the total recreational bass fishing mortality would have been cut by ca. 50% (from 1,500 tonnes ). However, as the bag limit came into effect a little later (25 March) and the MLS increase not before the 1st of September we find 25% reduction a plausible figure, which would bring the total recreational bass fishing mortality down to 1,125 tonnes in 2015.


Year 2016:

Very drastic measures were put in place for 2016:

No fish to be retained during the first half of the year and only one bass per fishing day the rest of the year (orange option below). We find it plausible that these measures have the potential to bring down the total recreational bass catches in 2016 to <300 tonnes, which would equal an 80% cut compared to 2014 and a 73% cut compared to 2015.
In comparison the commercial catches were 2,066 tonnes in 2015 (preliminary figure). Preliminary catch data show that during the first 8 months of this year (2016) more than 600 tonnes of bass has already been caught by the commercial sector (UK, FR, NL; no figure is available for BE), or >29% of the sector’s 2015 catches. As the legislation allows for more catche in the second half of 2016 than first half we expect the commercial sector to catch more than 1,100 tonnes this year, or >50% of the 2015 catches (which means a reduction of less than 50%). On top of that, not all commercial bass catches and discards are included the official statistics.


Latest update: 14 Dec 2016