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Industry fights EU bass catch limits

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Representatives from the recreational fishing industry says that the EU is ignoring its interests in favour of the commercial sector.

The recreational fishing industry has mobilised to fight stringent new sea bass catch limits that could be imposed on millions of European anglers for the first time from next year.

The European Commission is advocating a limit of one bass per person per day in a proposal described by angling’s governing bodies as ‘untimely, unbalanced and unacceptable’.

But in a joint briefing paper, the European Anglers Alliance (EAA), the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) and the International Forum for Sustainable Underwater Activities (IFSUA) suggest the proposal could be beyond the competence of the Commission.

The paper highlights the failure of the Commission to put forward serious measures to reduce bass fishing mortality from commercial fisheries. It also bemoans the lack of data on how the proposed recreational limit would effect fishing mortality rates.

All three bodies are lobbying the Commission and its member states to reject the ‘misguided’ proposal at the Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels on December 15th and 16th.

“This case is of immense importance as it will set a precedent for whether or not the EU can take action that will do disproportionate harm to the recreational sector while failing to manage the commercial sector properly,” says the paper.

It also points to the sizeable contribution recreational bass angling makes to the European economy and warns against damaging this ‘through unfair and disproportionate restrictions’ that favour exploitation by a less economically valuable commercial fishing sector.

It goes on to say: “The case for managing bass as a recreational asset is overwhelming, but the Commission seems unable or unwilling to manage the resource for purposes other than commercial exploitation.”

However, the Commission’s track record of ignoring the concerns and interests of recreational fishing is ominous. Both EFTTA and the EAA have lobbied vigorously in the past for the inclusion of recreational fishing in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, but have been unsuccessful.

In the UK, the Angling Trust has reacted angrily to the proposals, saying they expose the flaws in the UK government’s strategy of relying on Europe to take action, rather than coming forward with its own bass management plans.

Trust Campaign Chief, Martin Salter, said: “[Fisheries Minister] George Eustice and his officials at Defra need to up their game considerably. Their flawed strategy of leaving the future of British bass stocks to the unholy horse trading processes of the European Commission is unravelling.

“The Angling Trust warned Mr Eustice and MPs that the Commission was likely to cave into pressure from the commercial sector and that it was foolhardy to resist drafting much needed domestic measures that could complement whatever was eventually agreed in Europe.”

The new proposed measures for sea bass stocks in the North East Atlantic follow scientific advice released by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in June this year.

The Commission also notes that ICES’ Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) considers that in general the current national measures for the protection of sea bass are proving ineffective.

In the 50-page proposal for regulation, the Commission describes sea bass stocks as being ‘on the verge of collapse’ and says that pelagic trawling and recreational fishing are the main sources of fishing mortality. The Commission makes the point that fishing mortality of sea bass currently quadruples maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels.

The Commission’s ultimate objective is to improve and maintain stock levels that can deliver MSY by 2015 where possible – and by 2020 for all stocks.

The proposal, it says, is in line with the Common Fishery Policy’s objective of ensuring fisheries are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.


  • The present proposal to be considered by the Council in December is outside the remit of the European Parliament.
  • There is no data showing how a recreational limit would reduce mortality in sea bass.
  • The proposal fails to provide specifics on catch limits for vessels fishing in restricted areas.
  • The scope of the proposal regarding commercial fishing is too limited.
  • The legal text is unclear regarding types of vessel and types of angler.
  • There is considerable uncertainty as to the EU’s legal competence to legislate for the proposed recreational bag limit.
  • Individual member states should make their own decisions on the reduction of bass mortality.
  • The proposal offers no details on commercial catch limits where mortality is to be addressed. So it is unlikely to deliver little if any reduction in bass mortality from commercial fishing.
  • The introduction of landing obligations and a reduction in quota for other species may mean commercial landings of bass in 2015 actually go up.
  • The proposal on commercial fishing is limited to too few vessels and too small an area. In fact, only one of eight areas identified by ICES.
  • The fact that the majority of ICES areas are still open means that commercial bass fishing will continue unchecked.


  • The Commission and Council should drop proposals for a recreational bag limit.
  • Serious efforts should be made to restrict commercial bass fishing mortality in a fair and proportionate way.
  • A cap should be imposed on bass caught in mixed fisheries.
  • More of the data needed for an appropriate bass management plan should be made available.
  • The Parliament should take a fairer and more balanced approach than that taken by the Commission’s proposed regulation.
  • A new, long-term management plan should be developed next year.



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