Sea Bass – pilot project to improve recreational data collection agreed by Budget Committee

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04 Oct

On the 26th of September, the Budget Committee of the European Parliament approved a 300,000 euros recreational sea bass pilot project. The project, and the whole of the EU 2018 budget, will be voted by the Plenary later this year.

The project proposal, tabled by MEP Alain Cadec, reads:

- This pilot project aims at testing a control scheme for catches of sea bass made by recreational fishermen, in order to provide the EU legislator with more options for the management and control of recreational fisheries, also in the context of the future revision of the Control Regulation and the elaboration of multiannual management plans. 

- This pilot project would develop innovative tools to ensure an efficient and harmonized control by Member States of sea bass recreational catches in the Atlantic. In particular, it should test electronic reporting tools, which could be filled in for example via a smartphone application, and examine them in the broader context of available fisheries management and control means, such as fishing licenses, tracking devices, monitoring and inspection activities. 

Justification: The evaluation by the Commission on the Control Regulation concluded that the lack of control and reporting provisions relating to recreational fisheries is felt as hindering the quality of catch data. Authorisation and monitoring of recreational vessels is another shortcoming identified. This pilot project therefore aims at testing control schemes for sea bass catches made by recreational fishermen. It should facilitate the possible future implementation of relevant measures, such as bag limits. 

Sea bass is and always has been a very important fish for recreational sea anglers. However, since commercial fishing for bass took off in the 1970s the stock has become overexploited, with fever and smaller bass left in our waters as the result. The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) pushed for more than a decade that the EU should curb overfishing of sea bass, and increase the minimum landing size. The Member States were well aware that the bass was in trouble but delayed the adoption of any management measures for years. Finally, the EU Commission by itself put in place emergency measures in 2015 and increased the minimum landing size from 36 cm to 42 cm for bass fisheries in North Atlantic waters. 

Today, additional management measures have been adopted by the Member States and put in place. Unfortunately, these measures hit hard recreational sea anglers, who have been restricted to release all bass they catch the first half of the year and take home only one bass per fishing day the rest of the year. This has hit hard in particular the boat anglers and the charter boat business. Therefore, EAA and EFTTA last year suggested that anglers should be allowed to choose a monthly bag limit instead of the daily limit. The Commission liked the idea and suggested the Member States to adopt a monthly bag limit of 10 bass, but the Council of Ministers declined. A monthly bag limit was not enforceable they claimed. 

The hope is that this pilot project will make a monthly bag limit enforceable. It also will provide better catch data, which is most welcome by scientists, managers, local communities and businesses, which serve and depend on bass anglers’ expenditures. 

EAA and EFTTA warmly welcome the Budget Committee’s acceptance of funds to this project. We hope, of course, that the Parliament’s plenary will do the same. We also warmly thank MEP Alain Cadec for having worked out and presented this project proposal. 

For more information on sea bass and recreational fisheries click here

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