Anglers have been banned from taking bass during the whole of 2018 due to fears of a complete collapse of the species.
It means you can only fish catch and release for the popular species, but there are hopes of a relaxation of the rules later in the year to allow a one fish a day bag limit.
What it does mean is the European Commission’s threatened complete ban on any form of bass angling for the first six months of 2018 followed by six months of catch and release, as reported in issue 552 of Sea Angler, was rejected by EU Fisheries Ministers.
Those proposals prompted outrage from anglers and their representative bodies, who made strong representations, including a 18,000-signature petition, calling for no further restrictions on recreational bass fishing.
In December, EU Fisheries ministers announced a package of measures for 2018 in response to advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), which showed that the Northern European bass stock is crashing. It was nearly 19,000 tonnes in 2010, but the forecast for 2018 is just 6,414 tonnes, a fall of two thirds. It means the future regeneration of the stock is now critically endangered and the stock may remain depleted for extended periods.
Ministers announced that catch and release angling for bass all year round can continue with the prospect of a recreational bag limit in the second half of 2018, depending on a data review of the updated ICES advice in March.
There will be further limits on commercial bass fishing – 1.2 tonnes provision, rather than a by-catch, over 10 months for fixed nets (Feb-March closed); by-catch for demersal trawls and seines down to one per cent of catch capped at 100kg for trawls and 180kg for seines per month over 12 months; five tonnes per commercial rod and line vessel a year over 10 months, a reduction of 50 per cent (Feb-March closed).
The fact commercial fishing for bass was addressed pleased campaign groups, such as the Angling Trust, which is taking the view that the settlement “looks like about the best we were going to get in the context of the ICES stock assessment of bass numbers.”