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Earlier this year, the Commission introduced emergency measures for the bass fishery following scientific advice that suggested that low recruitment and high fishing mortality had led to a significant decline in the biomass. The emergency measures primarily affected the French pelagic trawl fleet. Subsequently, discussions have been held in Brussels on a further package of measures to address the other sources of mortality on bass.
We have received the following update from DEFRA:
Further to the measures applied so far in 2015 – and following the latest discussions at EU level – the European Commission will propose monthly vessel catch limits for bass, seasonal closures on targeting activity for the commercial sector and an increase in the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) for bass to 42cm for both recreational and commercial sectors.
Following the emergency measures this year, which closed the mid-water trawl spring fishery on spawning aggregations, and the new 3 fish bag limit for recreational anglers, the European Commission intend:
- To propose a second in-year amendment to the fishing opportunities Regulation for 2015 with monthly bass catch limits by fishing gear groups and some specific area provisions. This proposal could be made in late April – which suggests new monthly vessel catch limits for bass could be in place as soon as June.
- In parallel, to use implementing powers for immediate action to conserve stocks to propose amendments to the EU Technical Conservation Regulation (EU 850/98) to: increase the bass MCRS to 42cm for both recreational and commercial sectors; apply seasonal closures for targeting activity by commercial fishing gear vessel groups; and make a mesh size adjustment to 110mm+ for fixed gears to target bass, in line with the MCRS increase. Timing is uncertain at this stage but this is likely to be agreed before the end of the year.
- The Commission are also looking at the potential to ask for advice from the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries(STECF) on the elements of the interim bass package, for example, the monthly catch limits and possible seasonal closures by fishing gear group, as well as the earlier emergency measures, though the timing of such advice need not delay implementation of the catch limits and other provisions.
It is clear that the view of the scientists in STECF and in the annual ICES assessment will now be pivotal. The new ICES advice should be available in late May or early June.
The Federation accepts that some remedial measures are inevitable, although we do not agree that the 80% reduction in fishing mortality, suggested by an MSY approach, would be deliverable, necessary or appropriate. We support a balanced package of measures, including all fisheries which impact the bass stocks, applied in a fair and proportionate way. We reject opportunistic moves by some in the recreational sector (clothed in conservationist disguise) to reserve the whole bass fishery for recreational use.