Cornwall Good Seafood Guide logo

bass

When is best to eat?

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
bass

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. Since then extreme management measures have resulted in a drop of fishing effort which is now well below sustainable levels.  Despite this the latest stock assessments show that spawning stock is still below biological limits so continued efforts are being made across the European union to conserve this stock.  Pair trawling for spawning shoals has now been banned in our area and catch limits have been placed on all commercial fisheries.
Only vessels with a track record are now allowed to fish for bass.  The minimum landing size for bass for line fishermen has been increased to 42cm across the whole of Europe. 
 
In 2018 there was a total ban on recreational fishermen (including spearfishermen) taking bass throughout the whole of the European union. 
The EU have announced catch limits for 2019 and a bag limit of one fish per angler per day for recreational fishermen for 7 months. Specific details on bass fishing regulations in Cornwall will be published on Cornwall IFCA website please check as these details are due to be updated in the coming months. 
 
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. 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. 
Updated Jan 2019

Sustainability ratings for this species

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.

Learn more

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.

Learn more

How we rate fish

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.

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. in 2018 it is advised by ICES that no more than 880 tonnes of bass should be caught across the whole of Europe.
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

HIstorically there was 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 in 2016 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. 
 
The EU have announced that there will be catch limits on all commercial bass fishing in 2019 and that recreational anglers will be restricted to one bass per day per angler. Details of these managment measures will be released via the CIFCA website
 
 

 

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

ICES advice Bass 2018
ICES advice Bass 2017
 MMO bass fishing guidelines 2017
ICES advice bass 2016
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
 
 

Where to buy

Find and buy Cornish Seafood

Sustainable alternatives

Cornish Sardine by Sarah McCartney

Cornish Sardine

Sardinus pilchardus

Hake by Sarah McCartney

Hake

Merluccius merluccius

mackerel by Sarah McCartney

Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Pollack by Sarah McCartney

Pollack

Pollachius pollachius

Sustainable alternative recipes

Our Sponsors

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide is underpinned by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Good Fish Guide. The first UK consumer guide to sustainable seafood. For more information visit www.fishonline.org

Website by Dewsign. Dewsign pro bono client