Fishing Stories

Call for temporary ban on seabass fishing

Urgent action is needed to prevent rapidly declining seabass stocks from collapsing, conservationists have warned.

Seabass stocks are rapidly declining

A temporary ban on all fishing of wild seabass may be needed if agreement to manage stocks cannot be reached, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said after new scientific advice warned the situation for the species was getting worse.

Last year, the scientific experts at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) called for total catches of both recreational and commercial fisheries to be cut by 80% to stem the declines.

The MCS said the population in the north east Atlantic had been rapidly declining since 2010 and was on track to plummet to levels from which it could struggle to recover.

A failure by European Union countries to agree a management plan for seabass stocks led to emergency measures to ban pelagic trawling - fishing away from the bottom of the sea in the water column - for the spawning period between January and April this year.

Member states have now reached agreement on restrictions on catches for commercial fisheries, a three-fish bag limit for recreational fishermen and an extension of the moratorium of commercial fishing for seabass around Ireland to include all vessels.

But the restrictions are predicted to reduce catches by only 60% for pelagic trawlers, 22% for demersal vessels, which fish along the bottom of the sea, and 6% for hook and line fisheries, well below the 80% reduction urged by ICES.

Samuel Stone, fisheries officer at MCS, warned that the lack of agreement between EU member states over how to manage valuable stocks of seabass, popular with restaurants and shops, left the fish and its fishermen facing a very uncertain future.

“Fishery management measures that sufficiently reduce catches are urgently needed to reverse the fortunes of this fish; if such measures cannot be agreed and implemented quickly, a complete moratorium on fishing for seabass may well be necessary in the foreseeable future.”

He said the latest advice from ICES was for a catch of just 541 tonnes in 2016 in the North East Atlantic, half the UK’s catch alone of 1,000 tonnes last year. France caught even more seabass than the UK in 2014, catching 1,300 tonnes, he said.

“The stock is in rapid decline, and much more needs to be done - and urgently - to prevent this iconic and important fishery from collapsing.”


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