RECREATIONAL anglers in the South Hams are being asked to catch and release sea bass during the first half of the year and to limit their catches to one fish per day in the second half of 2017.
The European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Council introduced new quotas to protect bass stock, that came into effect on Sunday, January 1.
In December, the fisheries ministers of all 28 EU member states discussed measures for sea bass as part of the annual total allowable catches and quotas regulation.
Other measures adopted by the council apply to commercial fishermen, including ‘no fishing for sea bass by commercial vessels targeting sea bass, except for long lines, pole and lines who will have a closure of two months in February and March and a maximum catch limit of ten tonnes per year; a monthly limit of 250 kilogram for vessels deploying fixed gill nets and traps to cover unavoidable by-catches; a small by-catch allowance of three per cent and a maximum of 400 kilograms for demersal trawlers and seiners.’
The decision of the council takes into account that many fishermen depend on sea bass to a greater extent and may not have other alternatives to catch.
Beshlie Pool, executive officer at local fishermen’s association South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen, said: ‘We have several members who also fish for bass using various methods.
‘In the run up to the December council meeting, members wrote to Sarah Wollaston MP explaining their concerns with the proposals, including the zero allowance for any incidental capture of bass in the gill net fishery and the proposal to increase the allowance for recreational anglers.
‘Conservation of bass stocks is important to everyone, not least commercial fishermen who can sometimes rely on the species for income. It is not yet possible to determine the success of measures imposed in recent years, including an increase in minimum landing size. However, local fishermen believe that the continuing restrictions on all sectors of the bass fishery will contribute to safeguarding the stock for future.’
Ms Pool continued: ‘Although there are ways to avoid catching bass in gill nets, it is highly likely that legitimate fisheries will see a bycatch. Those who use this method of fishing are pleased that the EU have recognised that a zero bycatch allowance would have increased discards in this fishery - something the whole UK fishing industry is keen to minimise. They are also content that continuing with a restriction of one fish per day for recreational anglers, rather than increasing it to ten per month, will be less open to abuse and easier for the authorities to enforce.’
A spokesperson for the Agriculture and Fisheries Council said: ‘Halting the decline of sea bass and rebuilding this valuable stock is the objective of the commission. Numerous jobs in Europe depend on commercial and recreational sea bass fishing and there are many small scale fishermen involved for whom sea bass is often their main source of income.
‘Recreational fishing (everything from angling equipment to boat rentals) plays an important role as well. There are more than 800,000 recreational anglers in the UK generating a lot of added value.
‘A potential collapse of this stock would have a very serious impact on the livelihoods of many fishermen and coastal communities. It is therefore vital to rebuild sea bass for the benefit of both commercial fishermen and recreational anglers,’ the spokesperson added.