The Angling Trust has stepped up the pressure to see the long overdue introduction of a 42cm minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) for both recreational and commercial bass fishing in order to allow the fish an opportunity to spawn successfully before harvesting. The present stock crisis is very much due to overfishing on the spawning grounds as well as a minimum size which allows fishing for juvenile bass before they had the chance to spawn. 

A letter outlining the case for increasing the MCRS to a minimum of 42cm is being sent to the European Commission ahead of a meeting on Friday June 5th where the Commission’s draft proposal for introducing a MCRS of 42cm will be discussed.

Earlier this year the Commission announced its intention to increase the bass MCRS from the present 36cm to 42cm as part of a package of much needed measures in 2015 to reduce fishing mortality, including a ban on mid-water, pelagic, trawling and the introduction of a three-fish-per-day bag limit for recreational catches.

In addition the Commission is preparing another measure which seeks to reduce the total catches via monthly catch limits set for various commercial fishing methods.

Both the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and EFTTA, the European tackle trade body, have strongly welcomed the proposed MCRS increase. Angling organisations in the UK including the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (B.A.S.S.) and the Angling Trust (and its predecessors) have been pressing for over 20 years for the introduction of a minimum size that allows female bass to spawn before being harvested.

Jan Kappel, Secretary General of the EAA, said:

“We urge our Ministers to withstand the pressure from the commercial fishers and let facts and common sense prevail. The bass fishery is unsustainable and the stock is endangered.
As we understand it, the Commission can force the MCRS increase through against the Ministers will and we would urge the Commission to do so should the Ministers not support this sensible increase to 42 cm, which do allow bass to spawn and increase the spawning stock biomass more quickly.

Fishing mortality from recreational catches has been reduced by the three bass per-day-bag limit which took effect in March. The MCRS increase will reduce the recreational fishing mortality further more; so now we would very much like to see the commercial sector follow suit!”

David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Marine Campaigns Manager and Secretary of the EAA’s sea Sub-Group, said;

“ There’s a real danger that the Commission’s proposal to increase the MCRS gets compromised by commercial fishing interests who seem to only be able to focus on their short term interests rather than the long term interests of the fishery.

A 40cm MCRS would still not allow all bass to spawn before being harvested and a two-step increase from 36cm to 40cm, before eventually moving from 40cm to 42cm, would display a pitiful lack of ambition by all those tasked with averting the collapse of sea bass in EU waters. Let’s move to 42cm now and help the stock recover by increasing the allowing fish to spawn and increase the biomass.”