November 19, 2017 Last Updated 2:10 pm

* Bass – Pre December Council Update – 2017

Bass – What now for the struggling species?     Nov 18 2017 Firstly to appreciate what is happening to bass you have to have some appreciation of the

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Bass – What now for the struggling species?



Nov 18 2017

Firstly to appreciate what is happening to bass you have to have some appreciation of the general politics that surround all fishing negotiations.

In this case the EU Fisheries Commission will put forward a position paper and the fisheries ministers will debate the proposals and will come to some sort of agreement based around the pressure applied by commercial lobbyists and the need to protect stocks as outlined by the scientists.

Technically speaking the EU commissions hands are tied. The EU has committed not to knowingly fish a species into oblivion. Where the politicos do not have sufficient information the “precautionary principle” applies. Decision making must be conservative at least until better information is gathered.

 So, a discussion paper began to circulate in mid-November. This non-paper sets out the proposals for bass for 2018.

It advocates:

Recreational: Six months total ban on targeting bass. Six months catch and release.

Commercial: Netting of bass prohibited and no by catch allowance. No landing obligation (bass caught as a by catch must be thrown back to the sea). Limited hook and line commercial fishing is permitted to a max of 4ton per boat per year.

 By any standards these are fairly draconian proposals. It is important to realise that these are just that, proposals. Nothing is set in stone until the December council. Between now and then the lobbying continues and countries will decide on their position. Most EU positions get somewhat diluted before a deal is reached.

 There is one thing to remember about bass. The EU has been moving towards these type of measures slowly, as they do. Over the last few years they have made concessions to the commercial lobby to allow some bass fishing. It always obvious if the desired effect is not achieved then the commercial lobby runs out of room as the next set of measures are put in place.

It is simple really, if the commercial fishing people could have managed their catches then the status quo would have been achieved. Instead, commercial fishing took bycatch allowances to mean business as usual. Obviously the catches for the year did not match the planned allowances that would let stock recover. The EU are not fools! Is is the usual modus operandi of the EU the road will be narrowed further in terms of commercial fishing. The catch rate will be reduced. This should not come as a surprise to anybody.

 The continued ban on commercial fishing in Irish waters continues.

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The UK situation

Since the publication of the non-paper on bass there has been somewhat of a frenzy on social media. Many look on the notion that bass cannot be retained by anglers to be a serious threat to their civil rights. Many look at the imposition of a six month “closed season” to be a threat to their way of life and the ability to earn a living where they are guides and charter skippers. Remember that these are still only proposals!

 Some on social media blame the EU for imposing these rules and are looking forward to Brexit and the time when the UK control their waters. I have news for you, the UK already control their own waters inside the 12mile national limit. One has to wonder whether UK politicians would take the hard decisions needed to protect stocks of bass from a commercial industry that has shown itself unable to self-regulate. You would fear for bass in that situation.

 Some on social media are blaming the UK angling organisations for the regulations that have been imposed. Many are pointing to apparently inflated figures for angling participation in the UK as being the reason for restrictions. The UK is not alone in this situation. The EU is taking stock of information from France (There are more bass anglers in France than the UK), The Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Spain. This is not a case of decisions in the EU penalising Uk anglers. This is an EU-wide subject.

 Some on social media are reckoning that UK angling organisations are responsible for the spotlight falling on bass. Anecdotal evidence would say that sea anglers have been largely ignored as a lobby group. The spotlight is falling on bass because catch rates were increasing yet scientists are warning that the species is beyond the point where it can save itself without protection measures.

 Some on social media are blaming UK angling organisations for over stating the numbers of participants in sea angling and as a consequence the amount of bass that are retained by the recreational sector. There is no doubt that participation levels were over estimated in various studies. The UK does not have the monopoly on this, a recent Irish study commissioned by Inland Fisheries Ireland has largely been swept under the carpet in terms of angler numbers as it is felt to have over estimated.

 There is no doubt that recreational fishing has an impact on bass stock. Before the recent EU regulations there was no limit to the amount of bass that could be retained (Other than in Ireland). Without doubt the situation remains that anglings effect on retained fish numbers has to be seen as reducing mortality by a huge degree as compared to the free for all that existed.

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Angling mortality

Many would be concerned about the figures for post release mortality in bass. Many bass anglers were practicing catch and release before there were any rules. In Ireland we have largely a catch and release fishery since the 1990’s. In their advice for the stock International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) a figure of 20% post release mortality is used. This would seem excessively high. Consider the results of the ESB Bass Acoustic Tagging Programme in Cork Harbour – 100% Survivability of implanted bass over 30 days (After 30 days it was felt that any mortality could be for many reasons). The study was not a post release survivability study, but the results cannot be ignored nonetheless.
You can read more on the study here:

 bass fecundity

Where do we think the future lies for bass?

 I would take the same opinion since the first rules were brought in by the EU. The EU has made concessions to the commercial industry. The EU know well that the desired effect will not happen but political and economic considerations are important in decision making. As each year passes the EU will get to the position that they adopted at the very outset – Bass will be a species that will be commercially fished by rod and line commercials only – Artisan fishing that will benefit local communities. The methods are shown to be sustainable and undersized fish can be released with a high degree of survivability.

 Anglers will have to contend with something like a one fish rule per 24hrs all year round.

We have been largely fishing to regulations such as these in Ireland for years now. We are accustomed to them and there is a degree of pride in our effort to conservation our bass stocks. You must remember that by the late 80’s bass were commercially extinct in Irish waters.

As bass stocks improve in areas where there have been traditionally good stocks you will find that commercial fishing will be given greater quota from time to time. Anglers will benefit from increased allowances too. Some countries, like Ireland, will maintain bass as an angling only species and hopefully will reap the benefit in terms of increased participation and a corresponding increase in tourism and other repeated revenues.

The furore at the present is based on a proposal. It will be December until we see what the final regulations will be. It might be an opportune time to contact your representatives and make your feelings known. If you still condone the work of UK groups like the Angling Trust and UK BASS it would be a good time to support them. Irish anglers can contact their local TD’s. Maybe it might be better to email Michael Creed the minister responsible for fish and fishing.

Excerpts from the Eu Paper:

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non paper 2

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