The EU Council agrees on sea bass measures for 2018

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14 Dec

In the early morning of the 13th of December, the Council of the EU came to an agreement regarding sea bass management in EU waters.

Given the very poor condition of the stock, the European Commission had proposed a complete ban on angling for the first half of the year and no retention of sea bass in the second half of the year. The EU fisheries Ministers finally agreed on an all year round catch & release fishery in the Northern waters while anglers in the Bay of Biscay will be allowed to keep three bass per day (down from 5).

The new legislation should enter into force on the 1st of January 2018. 

However, after the ICES benchmark exercise (March 2018), the Commission will consider if there is a basis for reviewing the measures in place for seabass and allowing for any landings of seabass in recreational fisheries. So, a bag limit might be allowed for recreational anglers during some months of 20181

In view of the Council meeting, the EAA and EFTTA launched a petition, today signed by more than 18.000 people, to urge the Council to roll over the 2017 recreational measures to 2018, which would allow members of the public to continue fishing for sea bass and to retain one fish per fishing day in the second half of 2018. 

The EAA and EFTTA understand the need to stop the decline and rebuild the bass stock, and support measures put in place to do so. However, when reading the ICES advice it is clear that the data doesn’t reflect accurately the stock or catch situation. In particular it is worth noticing that recreational release mortality is set to 15% while it should be 5-7%, and that the commercial discards are not included the assessment at all. Furthermore, the small vessels under 10m enjoy a number of exemptions, which hide that the real amount of catches could be 3 times more than what the official records tell (ICES 2014, page 84). 

The EAA and EFTTA are not happy that the EU did not do what was needed in the past in spite of our repeated warnings for more than a decade that the bass could not sustain the fishing effort allowed, which by and large were free fishing for bass. Over the years recreational anglers have suffered a continuously poorer bass fishery, with less and smaller bass. And now recreational anglers are hurt again as they have to have their catches reduced to zero to address a problem they didn’t create. 40 years ago 90% or more bass were caught recreationally. Then the commercial fisheries took off and now the stock is overfished. 


1. Cutting from Council conclusions (draft):, pages 16-17:
[Declaration by France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and the Commission on Recreational Fishing of the Northern Bass (4bc, 7a-h)] :
- « Declaration de la France, des Pays-Bas et du Royaume-Uni et de la Commission sur la pêche recreative du bar du Nord (4bc, 7a-h)
Considerant l'importance de la pêche récréative de bar pour l'économie des régions littorales;
Considérant l'état critique du stock du bar de la zone du Nord;
Considérant que les captures de la pèche récréatives ont été estimées avoir dépassé celles de la pace professionnelle;
Considérant les limites de l'estimation de la mortalité induite par la pèche récréative;
Considérant l'urgence d'adopter des mesures adaptées au regard de l'état de la biomasse;
La France, le Royaume-Uni, les Pays-Bas, après avoir consenti à des mesures de gestion drastiques  pour tous les métiers de la pèche professionnelle, estiment justifie de maintenir un régime de  gestion de la pèche récréative précautionneux de pèche-relâche sur l'ensemble de l'annee.
A la lumière des résultats de la révision du modelé d'évaluation du bar que délivrera le CIEM en mars 2018, la possibilité d'autoriser le débarquement d'un bar par personne et par jour pour une période de temps limitée sera examinée. »

Cutting from page 17 in this compromise paper of 13 December 2017:
- European sea bass (Commission): 
"After the ICES benchmark exercise in 2018, the Commission will consider if there is a basis for reviewing the measures in place for seabass and allowing for any landings of sea bass in recreational fisheries.”

Further references: 
ICES advice of 24 October 2017 – Northern bass

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