Bass are present in the inshore waters where BLUE has projects, so its plight is a concern. Bass has both a high importance for anglers and a high commercial value which makes it vulnerable to over-fishing. The stock has declined significantly in recent years due to poor management. The latest data suggests the population is reaching critically low levels and is at risk of collapse.
Scientists now advise a significant reduction in landings by all methods to roughly a tenth of the commercial landings in 2010. These are unlikely to be achieved by management measures announced by the European Commission for next year so continued political pressure and the implementation of drastic measures are needed.
Having already helped to precipitate this year’s emergency measures with our report on the value to the UK economy of bass caught by various methods in 2014, BLUE now needs to ask vital questions about how bass catches will be returned to maximum sustainable yield (the maximum level of catch that the stock can sustainably withstand) by 2020 as EU law requires, the best use of this valuable wild resource and the impact and acceptability of the various bass fishing methods.
BLUE held a workshop to convene all stakeholders in November 2015 to achieve a common understanding of the problems, present the legal obligations on regulators and support implementation of a management plan to recover stocks and ensure their future sustainability. Input was sought from many stakeholders including the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities (IFCAs).
It was decided to hold further meetings to develop a national management plan for the species; to establish principles which could be advocated to other European Member States to support management of the stock across all European waters. The parlous state of bass stocks appears to have overcome some of the obstacles to discussion which had bedevilled this subject for many years and recreational and inshore fishermen are looking to new alliances and new measures to safeguard the bass if and when it recovers.