EU Fisheries Ministers found an agreement on 2021 management measures
As always at the end of the year, EU Fisheries Ministers negotiated until late in the night but managed to find an agreement on the 2021 fishing opportunities. The deal includes the roll-over of management measures for sea bass in Northern and Southern seas.
Due to the Brexit fisheries negotiations which were still ongoing at the time of the AGRIFISH Council, sea bass-related measures are applicable for three months only
, from 1 January until 31 March 2021.
In the Northern Atlantic waters
(ICES divisions 4b, 4c, 6a and 7a to 7k), only catch-and-release will be allowed in January and February as sea bass stocks remain low. In March, the bag limit of two fish per day and per angler will apply
, with a minimum size which remains at 42 cm.
In the Southern Atlantic waters
(ICES divisions 8a and 8b), the bag limit of two fish per day per angler still applies for 2021
. France and Spain will also have to ensure that the total catches of both commercial and recreational fisheries do not exceed 3,108 tonnes, which is up 575 tonnes in comparison with 2020.
In both waters, recreational fixed nets continue to be forbidden
for catching and retaining sea bass, because of their lack of sufficient selectivity.
Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius acknowledged the difficulty of this year’s negotiations as “the EU’s fleet has suffered from the COVID-19 crisis and is facing uncertainty due to still ongoing EU-UK negotiations”.
He also declared that “as a transition measure, the Council has decided to proportionally roll over the TACs for 2020 into the first 3 months of 2021, with several limited exceptions, due to seasonality and particularly worrying scientific advices. This decision will allow our fishermen and women to continue their activities as we finalise negotiations and consultations with our neighbours across the Channel and with Norway.”
References and links
The final text is available here
Council press release: Agreement on fishing opportunities in the Atlantic, North Sea, Mediterranean and Black Sea for 2021
Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius’ press statement
Over 2021, the measures for recreational fisheries and seabass were rolled over:
Sea Bass Fishing Opportunities for 2021
For notes and references please download the position paper
Concerning Sea Bass measures 2021
The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) represent millions of a sea anglers and the industry providing them with fishing tackle.
EAA and EFTTA have raised awareness for decades about the threat to sea bass from overfishing.
- “Following a lack of agreement between Member States since 2012 on coordinated and effective measures to protect this important stock and another lack of agreement of EU ministers in December's Fisheries Council, on 19 December 2014 the UK made a formal request to the Commission to take emergency measures. The Commission then consulted the Member States involved and analysed the scientific evidence available. On the basis of discussions with all Member States and based on the scientific evidence the Commission has taken its own decision.”
Five years have passed with various measures put in place, including bag-limits and closed season for anglers – a closed season which is longer than the one set for the commercial sector. EAA and EFTTA members have been very patient and proactive over the years, but feel our sector is disproportionally hurt by restrictive measures. The catch and discard data are questionable for some metiers. And, based on the Council/Member States’ latest opinions with regard to the pending revision of the Control Regulation, we expect no fully documented sea bass fisheries the next 4-5 years.
For EAA and EFTTA members to continue to be patient and proactive, we would like to request a few changes to the management measures with regard to the bag-limit, the closed season and the Minimum Conservation Reference size (MCRS). Please adopt:
- a small change in the bag-limit from the present 2 in 9 months to 3 in 8 months (both for northern and southern bass). A change to three fish for eight months, would be very similar to two fish for nine months, and within the ICES advice according the Commissions very own tool (which they have said they insist on using). In effect the 3/8 impact is just under (2 tonnes) the 2/9 impact.
- one-and-the-same closed season for recreational fisheries in both southern and northern waters
- one-and-the-same closed season for commercial fisheries in both southern and northern waters
- a harmonised MCRS 42cm for all EU waters
Protection of juveniles
For a number of years, the European Anglers Alliance and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association have stressed that the difference (from 25cm to 42cm) in the existing minimum conservation reference sizes (MCRS) set for sea bass is inappropriate. To protect juvenile sea bass the MCRS should be not less than 42cm, and the same for all EU waters. Furthermore, different MCRSs in adjacent waters also complicate fisheries management unnecessarily according to STECF and the Commission (1).
EAA and EFTTA asked the Commission to propose and the Council to adoption of a harmonised MCRS of 42cm for all sea bass fisheries, recreational and commercial, in all EU waters with effect 1/1/2021.
1. STECF advice: avoid having different MCRS applying in adjacent waters (June 2020) (2):
- “In subarea 8 the mcrs for cod, sea bassand red sea bream, the mcrs proposed for recreational fisheries is greater than the current mcrs for commercial fisheries. However, for the rest of the SWW, the mcrs is harmonised with the current regulations contained in Annex VII of Regulation (EU) 1241/2019. There is no reason given for the difference in mcrs between the two areas. Extending the increased mcrs to the whole area would increase the benefit of the measure and avoid having different mcrs applying in different adjacent management areas.”
2.The Commission suggested in 2016 that the bass MCRS should be 42cm in all EU Atlantic waters (3)
3. Sea bass is one of the most important species to Europe’s ca. 10 million sea anglers, and the businesses dependant on anglers’ spending, which is estimated 10.5 billion EUR; 100,000 full-time jobs (4).
4. Sea bass’ spawning size:
a) the spawning size is the same for all EU waters, but bass grow faster to that size in southern waters (5)
b) at 42cm only ca. 50% female bass have reached spawning size.
5. The commercial bass fishery and the market:
a) the bigger bass fetch higher prices on the market per kg, which is, should be, an incentive to catch and land the bigger bass.
b) unfortunately, the discard ban does NOT apply to the bass fishery. Undersized bass are caught legally in nets with smaller mesh than needed to only catch bass at or over the set MCRS - then discarded.
c) more than 90% (93.5%) of bass on the market are farmed: 81.852 ton vs. 5.337 ton wild (2016) (6)
d) often restaurants sell farmed bass as wild bass, as the consumers and (some) chefs cannot (or won’t) tell the difference. The existing differences in the MCRS adds to this problem.