The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, DEFRA, have issued the the following statement regarding proposed bass conservation measures. The major item of interest from a sea angler's point of view is the increase in the minimum conservation reference size (size limits) to 42cm.
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 fisheries, 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