The EU Member States and the European Commission agreed the 2019 fishing opportunities early this morning, which include bass management measures for northern bass and the Bay of Biscay. EAA and EFTTA (the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association) had lobbied for a bag limit of three northern bass, which would be the same as it is for southern bass but got one bass only for seven months. The other five months of 2019 catch & release will be the rule.
“Like previous years, this year we’ve put a lot of time and efforts into the bass lobbying. We even opened a costly Court case against the catch & release only provision, which was adopted for all months of this year. We closed the case when the EU made an in-year change, which then allowed anglers to take home one bass during October, November and December,” said Jan Kappel, Secretary General of the EAA. He continued: “We are not happy about the 2019 outcome for recreational angling. It shows once again the negative side of not being fully recognised by the Common Fisheries Policy on an equal footing with the commercial fisheries sector and aquaculture.”
The “best scientific evidence available” was not taken fully into account by the Commission
The Commission is obliged to make its proposals based on the “best scientific evidence available”. It doesn’t mean that the science always is or has to be very good, but it has to be ‘the best’ available. In this case the Commission had received from Cefas scientists estimates for the recreational bass fishing mortalities for 2019 under different bag limit schemes. The evidence made it clear that increasing the bag limit from one to two wouldn’t double the fishing mortality, far from it. It would lead to only a 23% increase. And a bag limit increase from one to three bass in seven months would not triple the mortality but lead to only a 33% increase. Nevertheless, the EAA and the EFTTA learned from sources close to the negotiations that the Commission still argued that a bag limit of two would double the recreational fishing mortality. The EAA and the EFTTA plan to ask further explanations to the Commission on this point. The Commission believes that the Cefas figures were mistaken, but whatever the mistake was, it is hard to imagine that a doubling of the bag limit will double the fishing mortality. That is not how recreational fishing works.
In any case, angling seems to lose catch opportunities to the commercial sector yet again. The EAA and EFTTA estimate shows that the recreational sector’s share of next year’s catches will be only 17% vs. the commercial sector’s 83% of the total. It has been stressed time and again that this downwards spiral is grossly unfair and needs be turned around.
A small improvement is represented by the fact that the sea anglers’ bag limit was increased from 2017’s 6 months from July to December to 7 months from April to October inclusive for 2019. We compare with 2017 as 2018 is an atypical year with a bag limit in only three months due to inflated catch figures from last year. These figures were corrected by the scientists earlier this year.
Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) for the “Southern” bass and the “Northern” bass
It seems that the EAA and EFTTA request for an increase in the minimum landing size from 38 cm to 42 cm didn’t happen, which is unfortunate. Anglers fish a 42 cm limit in south. The commercial sector should do the same, as is the case for northern bass. But this might be corrected soon as the European Parliament and the Council very recently agreed this should happen vis-à-vis the Western Waters Multiannual Plan currently under finalisation.
More information about the Council's results is available here.