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Serious risk of “total bass stock collapse”

Serious risk of “total bass stock collapse”

A coalition of fishing groups comprised of the Angling Trust and the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) has warned EU and UK fisheries ministers that there is a real risk of a total bass stock collapse unless netting is completely banned. The latest report looking into bass stocks has indicated that seabass stocks around the UK and northern European coasts are below the critical level at which recovery can be guaranteed.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) have said in their 2017 advice briefing that they “advise that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catch (commercial and recreational) in 2017.”

This advice comes as a result of the failure of EU ministers to implement previous ICES advice stating that commercial catch limits should be drastically lowered. The Angling Trust and BASS say that they expect this advice not to be implemented as “no scientifically advised moratorium has ever been introduced by the EU Council in the history of the CFP.”

BASS and the Angling Trust, in a joint statement, have called for bass to become a recreational and sustainable hook and line species only – indicating a complete ban on netting. As part of this reform on bass fishing they have also suggested the introduction of “a slot size for both hook and liners and anglers to allow the larger, most fecund individuals to be returned to contribute to stock recovery”.

The statement also indicates that there should be no further restrictions on recreational bass angling due to the previous restrictions introduced last year – a zero take policy from January to June and a one fish bag limit for the rest of the year.

Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust said: “The politicians have only themselves to blame and their blatantly political decision taken last year, in contravention of clear scientific advice, to grant a four-month exemption and larger vessel catch limits to inshore gill netters and hook and liners from the proposed six month bass moratorium, which was unfair, irresponsible and inflicted further damage on already threatened bass stocks. Recreational bass fishing, which now has a tiny impact on bass fishing mortality, bore a disproportionate burden of last year's catch restrictions and it is time that politicians finally grasped the nettle and end the unsustainable netting of this popular sporting fish before it is driven to extinction.”

Nigel Horsman from BASS said: “This is a sad day for bass stocks and for all those thousands of anglers who take so much pleasure from catching bass. We can only hope that our fishery managers and politicians learn from their mistakes and heed the lessons from other countries, such as the USA, who have faced similar situations. It is imperative that no risks are taken with the ability of the remaining bass stock to mount a recovery. But, provided we do that now, I am hopeful that bass stocks will recover. But we must also fix the underlying cause of the current problem which is commercial overfishing on a grand scale."

David Curtis from the campaign group 'Save Our Seabass' added: “It is now confirmed that commercial fishing has put the very survival of the sea bass stock in jeopardy.  If the politicians do not now restrict the bass fishery to recreational angling and sustainable commercial hook & line fishing, we and future generations will hold them accountable for the disappearance of bass from our seas.”

The groups are now urgently looking to meet with UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice to discuss the government's response to the ICES advice on seabass ahead of the European Council of Ministers meeting in December where the final decisions will be made.

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