EU sets new catch limits, area closure for seabass
European fishing boats are only permitted to catch between one and three metric tons (MT) of seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) per month depending on the size of the vessel and fishing method used under a new commercial fishery management plan to address declining stocks adopted the EU Council of Ministers.
According to catch data supplied by France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the monthly catch limits will have an average impact of decreasing seabass landings for pelagic trawlers by approximately 60 percent, for hooks and line fisheries by 6 percent and 22 percent for demersal vessels.
The monthly catch limits for sea bass covering commercial vessels for the remainder of 2015 are as follows:
• Midwater or pelagic trawls 1.5 MT
• Demersal trawls (including Danish/Scottish seines 1.8 MT
• Driftnet and fixed (trammel) net fisheries 1 MT
• Longline or pole-and-line fisheries 1.3 MT
• Purse seines 3 MT
The Council’s decision also comprised an area closure around Ireland for commercial bass fishing, thereby extending a national measure to cover all EU vessels active in the area.
Seabass is a high value, iconic species for recreational and commercial fishermen. However, scientific advice has identified the need to drastically reduce the catch because of an increase in the fishing pressure and a drop in recruitment.
Historically, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium managed seabass nationally. Measures varied from setting voluntary minimum landing sizes in France, closed areas to protect nurseries in the United Kingdom, a ban on recreational fishing for bass from 15 May to 15 June in Ireland, a maximum bag limit for recreational anglers in Ireland and the Netherlands to a full prohibition for commercial fishing in Ireland.
But scientists warned these measures were not enough for a sustainable management.
All countries agreed that a common approach was needed and a package of three measures was introduced this year beginning in January with an emergency rule prohibiting pelagic trawling on spawning seabass to alleviate the immediate threat to the stock from fishing during the reproduction season. This was followed in March with a regulation setting a bag limit of three fish per recreational angler per day and now by the monthly catch limits for commercial fisheries.
The Commission is also working on a proposal to set a minimum landing size for bass, which will be discussed with member states in the coming weeks.
It will also make further proposals in October for next year’s bass fishing. These proposals will be based on the latest scientific advice on the stock’s status, which the Commission expects to receive on 30 June. In addition, it will ask for catch data from the member states concerned in order to have an informed view of the real situation on the ground.