Angling bodies welcome sea bass trawling ban
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The recreational fishing sector has welcomed an EU Commission decision to introduce emergency measures that will alleviate the ‘imminent and serious’ threat to European sea bass stocks.
In a move of significant benefit to the recreational fishing industry, the Commission has imposed a pelagic (open sea) trawling ban likely to take effect before the end of this month and running until the end of April. The period covers the species’ critical spawning season.
“These measures will protect the stock from being targeted when it is at its most vulnerable,” says the Commission’s announcement. “Pelagic trawling in the spawning season makes up 25% of the impact on the stock.”
Areas affected include the Celtic Sea, the Channel, the Irish Sea and the southern North Sea. The Commission, the executive arm of the EU, will work with the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to implement the ban.
There is an ‘opinion vote’ at today’s meeting of the Commission’s Fisheries and Aquaculture (January 21st), but with the deal already secured it cannot prevent the measures being formally adopted.
The ban is among a package of measures aimed at averting the collapse of declining sea bass stocks. Further measures relating to other fisheries may be necessary at a later date, says the Commission.
The decision is a victory for the European Anglers Alliance (EAA), which has long campaigned for more protection for bass stocks. The move was also welcomed by the UK, which had called for the Commission to use its powers to invoke emergency action. However, it is less likely to impress France, which accounts for the biggest share of sea bass.
“The EAA is very happy about these emergency measures,” said Jan Kappel. “The next step will be follow-up measures for other commercial fisheries and recreational fishing.”
The Commission took its decision at a meeting in Brussels on Friday. It follows the failure of member states of the Fisheries Council to agree on ways to resolve the issue, despite being warned that numbers of spawning bass are heading towards the lowest levels in history. The current fishing mortality among sea bass is almost four times higher than the stock can sustain, they had been told.
A further red flag had been raised by recommendations from ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, that an immediate 80% reduction in sea bass was necessary to avoid a total stock collapse.
Regions affected by the ban are identified by ICES as divisons IVb and c and VIIa (see map).