This week is crunch time for European bass stocks with the Council of Ministers meeting to discuss controversial proposals from the European Commission for 2016 aimed at reducing pressure on the fishery.

Representatives from the Angling Trust and the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) have been hard at work making the case to UK fisheries minister George Eustice on behalf of recreational anglers.

The Commission’s proposals include reductions in commercial catch limits, lowering anglers’ daily bag limit to one fish and a total ban on all forms of bass fishing, including catch and release angling in the first half of 2016.

Both the Trust and BASS have urged the Commission to go further and make bass a sustainable hook and line fishery only for both recreational and commercial sectors. However, they have strongly opposed any attempt to include catch and release angling in the six month bass fishing ban and have described lowering the bag limit as ‘disproportionate’.

Angling Trust Campaign Chief Martin Salter said: “The recreational angling community totally rejects the unfair, unenforceable and totally disproportionate proposal put forward by the Commission to include Catch and Release bass fishing within the closure period announced for the first half of 2016 and to reduce the recreational bag limit from three fish to just one. We have provided comprehensive briefings to our ministers showing high survival rates from angling making such a draconian measure completely unnecessary. Bass stocks have declined because of commercial over fishing and that is where the Commission should be making the greatest changes.”

In the second half of 2016, recreational anglers are getting a considerably worse deal than commercial fishermen as evidenced by 2014 UK landings data. The new Vessel Catch Limits will only impact 111 vessels out of 1,331 landing bass (i.e. only 8%) and only reduce commercial landings by 25%. The EU Commission has committed to fishing bass at Maximum Sustainable Yield (FMSY) from 2017 and these proposals make this target unreachable.

Nigel Horsman of BASS added: BASS hopes and expects that George Eustice will remember, when he is discussing the future of our declining bass stocks at Fisheries Minister’s meeting, that the biggest and most valuable stakeholder in the bass fishery is the £200 million recreational sea angling sector. Simply tinkering with the problem is not enough and serious action is needed now and this should discriminate in favour of the most valuable and least impactful sectors. The only sustainable forms of bass fishing are recreational sea angling and commercial hook and line fishing. It is time for bold measures for long term gains.”

Angling Trust Marine Campaign Manager David Mitchell said: “When the Minister is discussing bass at next week’s Fisheries Minister’s meeting, we have asked him to keep uppermost in his mind that saving the bass stock is the key to saving the jobs and businesses that depend on a sustainable bass fishery. Banning catch and release fishing for bass is both absurd and impractical given that anglers use similar methods for a host of other species including wrasse and pollack. It would also be economically disastrous for the tackle and tourist trade, the angling charter boats and the local bass guides who derive much of their income from April onwards when the bass begin to show on the inshore grounds.”