bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

bass

Image | Sarah McCartney copyright Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Description

An athletic, predatory fish found in coastal areas around Europe, bass is prized by anglers and chefs. It has delicious white flesh and beautiful sivery scales with robust spiney fins and a powerful tail.  Sadly bass have been over fished in European waters and as a result bass is not recommended by Cornwall Good Seafood Guide. Of the bass availalble the best Choice is Cornish line caught bass caught by licenced commercial fishermen.

 

Sustainability Overview

Bass stocks have historically been poorly studied but recent infomation from fisheries scientists show that bass stocks in European waters are being over exploited. in 2016 ICES recommended that european catches should be reduced in 2017 to zero. The situation is very serious. Significant measures have been put into place to reduce fishing effort across the whole of europe. Many new measures have been brought in. Click here for a full explaination from the Marine Management Organisation. Pair trawling for spawning shoals has now been banned in our area and catch limites have been placed on net and trawl fisheries.
 
Only vessels with a track record are now allowed to fish for bass. Catches are now limited for net fisheries and hook and line fisheries and line fishing is banned during the months of February and March. The minimum landing size for bass for line fishermen has been increased to 42cm across the whole of europe. Recreational fishermen have been restricted to a catch and release fishery in from 1st Jan to 30th June and a one fish per fisher per day limit for the remainder of the year.
 
These measures are likely to significantly help bass stocks to recover but untill the stock levels recover significalntly Cornwall Good Seafood Guide cannot recommend eating bass as this time. If you do choose bass be aware that the best choice is to choose handline caught Cornish bass. For more info visit www.linecaught.org . Avoid trawled bass and farmed bass imported from the Mediterranean. For more infomation on the current situation with bass click here.
Find local fish

When is best to eat?

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Gill Netting

Cornish Waters

Gill nets are lightweight nets made of nylon (monofilament) fishing line that are anchored to the seabed and are used to catch fish by entangling the gills.

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Handlining

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish Ports

The best choice. Handline fishermen use hooks and lines to catch premium quality fish. Undersized specimens can easily be returned to the sea unharmed. This is a very selective method and there is minimal effect on seabed habitats and by catch of unwanted species. look for line caught tagged fish.

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How we rate fish

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Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.

Sustainability Overview

Bass stocks have historically been poorly studied but recent infomation from fisheries scientists show that bass stocks in European waters are being over exploited. in 2016 ICES recommended that european catches should be reduced in 2017 to zero. The situation is very serious. Significant measures have been put into place to reduce fishing effort across the whole of europe. Many new measures have been brought in. Click here for a full explaination from the Marine Management Organisation. Pair trawling for spawning shoals has now been banned in our area and catch limites have been placed on net and trawl fisheries.
 
Only vessels with a track record are now allowed to fish for bass. Catches are now limited for net fisheries and hook and line fisheries and line fishing is banned during the months of February and March. The minimum landing size for bass for line fishermen has been increased to 42cm across the whole of europe. Recreational fishermen have been restricted to a catch and release fishery in from 1st Jan to 30th June and a one fish per fisher per day limit for the remainder of the year.
 
These measures are likely to significantly help bass stocks to recover but untill the stock levels recover significalntly Cornwall Good Seafood Guide cannot recommend eating bass as this time. If you do choose bass be aware that the best choice is to choose handline caught Cornish bass. For more info visit www.linecaught.org . Avoid trawled bass and farmed bass imported from the Mediterranean. For more infomation on the current situation with bass click here.
bass

Biology

Bass are highly mobile and predatory fish that prey on smaller fish, worms and crustaceans. Bass are slow growing and females don’t reach sexual maturity until they are between 38cm and 42cm at and age of 6 to 7 years. Bass can live for up to 30 years and can reach 120- 130cm in length.   Bass spawn offshore during the winter and are known to aggregate in shoals that are targeted by mid–channel pair trawling teams.  Juvenile bass settle in estuaries where they take advantage of plentiful food (mainly mysid shrimps) and warm temperatures. Being slow to mature bass have a moderate biological vulnerably rating of 58% (Cheung et all 2005) so are vulnerable to over fishing. 
 

Stock Info

The latest advice from the International Convention for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) are painting a grim picture for sea bass stocks. Fishing effort for bass continued to increase and stock levels are dropping dramatically. ICES are advising that catches in 2015 should be reduced by 80% in 2014.
Bass fishing has been over sustainable levels for the last 20 years however bass populations have been boosted by warmer years which are better for survial of juveniles and during warm years from 2000 to 2008 bass populations moved further north due to higher sea temperatures. Recent colder winters have meant that survial of juveniles has been poor and this combined with contiued over fishing has combined to give us the poor situation that bass stocks are now in. ICES 2014

Management

There is no restriction on numbers of bass taken in European fisheries. In Cornwall for many years we have had a larger minimum size for bass 37.5 than in many other areas of Europe. (eu minimum landing size is 36cm), but recent emergency measures to help bass conservation have resulted in an increase across europe to a minimum landing size of 42cm. 
The European Commission are currently looking in detail at bass and have brought in emergency measures that led to a ban on pair trawling for bass in EU waters.
 
Cornwall has several designated bass nursery areas within estuaries where national legislation restricts fishing for bass from a boat. There are also several areas where gill netting is restricted – e.g the Runnelstone and the manacles bass box. 
A cetacean by-catch code of conduct has been set up by Cornwall IFCA after a series of cetacean by catch incidents due to inshore winter bass netting in 2005. 
In 2016 minimum landing size for bass was increased to from 37cm to 42cm.
 
Summary of new Bass fishing regulations released Feb 2017
Bass fishing is completely banned in the South West Approaches (areas VIIb, VIIc VIIj and VIIk and in the celtic sea (off Cornwalls North Coast) outside the 12 mile limit
Bass fishing is allowed subject to restrictions in VIIf ad VIIg inside the 12 miles only, in the Channel VIIe (south Cornwall Coast)and in the South West approaches, area VIIh
 
Bass fishing commercially is only allowed by boats with a track record (ie documented bass landings between 1 July 2015 and 30th Sept 2016), new rules mean that this track record has to stay with the boat - ie cant be transferred to a new boat or transferred. 
 
The only methods of fishing permitted for bass fishing are:
 
  • Fixed Gillnets:  May retain up to 250kg of bass per month as an unavoidable bycatch when targeting other species.
  • Hooks and Lines: May retain up to 10 tonnes of bass during period 1 January 2017- 31 December 2017. However it is prohibited to catch and retain bass with hooks and lines in February and March.
  • Demersal trawls and seines: may retain up to 3% of the total weight of marine organisms retained on-board per day as an unavoidable bycatch, up to a maximum of 400kg per month.
You may only use one authorised fishing gear per trip when retaining bass on board.
 
Please note, commercial angling for bass from the shore shall not be allowed in 2017.
Hook and line boats can land up to 10 tonnes of bass during 2017, 
 
In the recreational bass fisheries, boats are limited in all areas to a catch and release fishery only from 1st January to 30th June 2017 and to one bass per fisher per day from 1st July to 31st December.

 

Capture Info

Bass are caught in significant numbers by recreational fishermen, and commercial fishermen. Numbers of bass being caught by anglers is not recorded which makes stock assesment very difficult. 
Handline and rod and line caught bass represent a large share of this. Gill nets are used to target bass in Coastal areas with in Cornwall.There are well documented issues of bycatch of dolphins and porpoises with this method of bass fishing as well as concerns with targetting brood stock during spawning season. 

References

Seafish responsible sourcing guide, bass 
Cornwall Bass Fishery, Edwin Derriman, Cornwall IFCA Jan 2013 
Project inshore pre assessment database 2013
Report of the Inter-Benchmark Protocol on New Species (Turbot and Sea bass ; IBPNew 2012). 1-5 October 2012 Copenhagen, Denmark
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111
www.fishonline.org.uk
 

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