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The European seabass is an important commercial fish species. It is also one of the most important fish species for recreational fishermen in the UK due to its “famed fighting prowess”.

Health of the sea bass population

The species is thought to be particularly vulnerable to over-fishing. The most recent assessment of bass stocks showed that stocks have continued decline year-on-year. The international scientific body (ICES) recommended that bass catches in 2016 should be no more than 541 tonnes in Central and South North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea, half the UK’s 2014 catch of 1,000 tonnes.

Emergency measures to preserve bass stocks 2015/16

Negotiations on the introduction of technical measures to preserve bass fish stocks have been ongoing in the European Commission since 2012. After there was no agreement on technical conservation measures at the December 2014 meeting of Ministers, the UK Government made a formal request to the Commission to take emergency measures to protect sea bass stocks.

The Commission subsequently announced a package of technical conservation measures for 2015:

Despite these emergency measures, ICES warned that bass stocks are still declining. Throughout 2015, the European Commission worked with member states on a range of measures to reduce bass fishing mortality. In December, an agreement was reached for a ban on commercial (pelagic) trawlers fishing for bass from 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2016 in the English Channel and North Sea and from 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016 it shall be prohibited for vessels to fish quantities exceeding 1 tonne per any vessel per month of sea bass. Whilst for recreational fishermen are limited to catch and release for the first part of the year and a one bass per fisherman per day for the second half of the year. These measures are now in force in the UK.

Sea angling review 2012

In 2011, the Government launched a national survey of sea angling in England. This report assessed the number of people sea angling, catch data and the economic and social value of sea angling. This report – Sea Angling 2012 – was published on 27 November 2013. The Government also launched an assessment of seabass stocks to determine whether the MLS should be increased. The Government published the findings of this assessment in December 2014.

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