EU Ministers agree sea bass management measures for 2020

After a long night of negotiations, EU Fisheries Ministers found an agreement on the 2020 fishing opportunities, including new management measures for sea bass in Northern and Southern waters. The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) find the agreement fair for recreational fishing and good for the continued rebuilding of the bass stock.

The recreational fisheries measures 2020 - overview:

Northern Atlantic waters (ICES divisions 4b, 4c, 6a, 7a to 7k)
Bag-limit: 2 bass per, 9 months: 1 March to 30 November (catch and release the other 3 months)
(up from 1 bass / 7 months this year)

Southern Atlantic waters (ICES divisions 8a and 8b – Bay of Biscay)
Bag-limit: 2 bass per day, all year
(down from 3 bass this year)
Additionally: “France and Spain shall ensure that fishing mortality of seabass stock in ICES divisions 8a and 8b from their commercial and recreational fisheries do not exceed the Fmsy point value resulting in 2 533 tonnes of total catches.”

Minimum landing size - north and south: 42 cm (no change from 2019)

Recreational rod and line and spearfishing are allowed, but fixed netting for bass is not allowed, as explained in Recital 9b:
..Considering the lack of sufficient selectivity and that higher number of specimens are likely to be caught than the established limits, fixed nets should be excluded. When only the catch-and-release practice is allowed, only the gears ensuring high survival rates should be permitted...

EAA and EFTTA welcome the 2020 measures
EAA and EFTTA had recommended an increase in the bag-limit from the present one to three bass for both north and south. We got two, but also two more months open season. This is acceptable, on the background that the Commission had proposed no change but a roll-over of the recreational fisheries measures while proposing a catch increase to the commercial sector.

The ministers agreed to a fairer deal for recreational fishing. The ministers increased the total catch limits some but stayed within the scientists’ total catch advice. The increase in the total catch opportunities was distributed about evenly between the recreational and the commercial sectors.

The bass stock will continue to rebuild under this 2020 management scheme, which was a high priority for EAA and EFTTA.

References and links:
● A draft of the agreed bass management measures can be downloaded here
(the adopted final legislative text will be published in the Official Journal in January)
● Council press release: 2020 fishing opportunities in the Atlantic, North and the Mediterranean Seas: Council secures agreement
● Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said in this press statement:
Many success stories show us that stocks that have been overfished can recover thanks to the ambitious actions taken. This is the case for Northern hake: today fishers can catch twice as much as in 2008. This is the case with Northern seabass: emergency measures agreed in 2015 have led to maximum sustainable yield fishing after only three years.”

Sea Bass Fishing Opportunities for 2020

Sea bass fishing opportunities for 2020 will be agreed at the Council of Ministers meeting on 16-17 December. This position paper sets out the EAA and EFTTA requests for recreational angling (fishing with rod and line or handline). 

Bag limit and months of fishing season

The EAA recommends a 2020 recreational bag limit of 3 fish per day for the same 7 months as last year (1 April to 1 November). This year the bag limit was only 1 fish per day during that period. 

ICES advises that the total bass removals in 2020 should be within the range of 1,634 tonnes to 1,946 tonnes. We suggest, that the Council and the Commission agree the lowest total removal advised by ICES: 1,634 tonnes

Using the new ICES catch allocation tool, the recreational bag limit we suggest (3 bass/7 months) would result in 358 tonnes of recreational mortality, or as little as 22% share of the total catch. 

The Western Waters Multiannual Plan requires that the recreational catch restriction shall be ‘non-discriminatory’ . Our proposal of 3 fish per day during the open season (1 April to 1 Nov) is not only fair to recreational anglers but will reduce the harm being done past and present to businesses and jobs dependant on recreational bass fishing. 

The Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) in south is discriminatory 

We note that the EU Commission’s proposal includes a 42cm MCRS for areas 8a and 8b that will only apply to recreational fishermen. We are of the view that this would be a discriminatory measure and would like you to instead propose a 42cm MCRS for all fishing in areas 8a and 8b. 

The North Western Waters Advisory Council’s (NWWAC) bass advice of 27 November 

Read an extensive EAA minority position in the NWWAC advice (the section 6). 


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