For years, the EU and Fisheries Ministers have succumbed to pressure from commercial fishing lobbyists and set catch limits far in excess of what the scientists said was sustainable. The new Common Fisheries Policy (“CFP”) requires the EU to fish sustainably from 2015, by following the scientific advice about how much fish can be caught.
The first big test of this new approach will be the December EU Council meeting, where the Council of Fisheries Ministers of the EU Member States set the “fishing opportunities” for the majority of EU fish stocks.
The scientific body which advises the EU on fish stocks, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (“ICES”), has advised that stocks of sea bass have fallen so low that catches for 2015 must be cut by a massive 80% in order to avoid a collapse of the stock. This situation has come about due to a combination of increasing fishing pressure and a number of poor spawning years, leading to low numbers of young sea bass growing to become adults and reproducing.
So you would expect that the EU would now be proposing wide-ranging rescue measures for 2015 to save the sea bass, for the Fisheries Ministers to agree in December. Measures that have been discussed include:
- A ban on the targeting of pre-spawning aggregations of sea bass that occur each Winter. To the dismay of sustainable fishermen, sea bass which have gathered to reproduce are slaughtered by a small number of trawlers which account for over 25% of all sea bass landed across the EU commercial fleet.
- An increase in the minimum landing size from the below maturity size of 36cm to 48cm, to allow sea bass to reproduce at least once before they are caught, so that the stock can increase.
- Technical measures such as increasing net mesh sizes and the selective closure of bass nursery areas to reduce the amount of sea bass caught by inshore fleets, which currently represent 40% of all sea bass landed.
- A “bag limit” for recreational anglers of two or three sea bass per person per day.
However, the EU has just published its proposals and it appears that the legal requirement to fish sustainably from 2015 has being thrown overboard.
The EU has proposed:
- A “bag limit” for recreational anglers of one sea bass per person per day.
- That targeting of pre-spawning aggregations of sea bass can continue, but that, in one small area only, and for one type of trawling only, fishing will be restricted by limits on the number of days they can fish in that area and the number of tonnes that they can catch each month.
- No other measures to limit commercial fishing!
Recreational anglers and conservationists are understandably outraged. It is clear that the measures proposed go nowhere near achieving the 80% cut in catches advised by ICES; and to add insult to injury, the proposals disproportionately target recreational anglers while commercial fishing largely gets off the hook.
The sad, but obvious, conclusion appears to be that once again the EU has caved in to the commercial fishing lobby and turned a deaf ear to the scientists. Our only immediate hope lies with the Fisheries Ministers of the EU Member States and our MEPs; If we can persuade them to listen to our protests then they can instruct the EU to replace its proposals with a meaningful action plan that will in time result in a large, sustainable, sea bass stock.
BASS is therefore urgently encouraging everyone who is concerned about our marine environment to write to their MP, MEPs and the Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP, to demand an 80% cut in the amount of sea bass landed from 2015, as the scientists advise, before it’s too late.
Please also sign the petition at: