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Bass (European)

Dicentrarchus labrax

Bass are a streamline bodied fish with a large head and mouth. They have small silver scales covering their body and two dorsal fins, the front one having 8-9 sharp spiny rays. Spines are also noticeable on the lower part of the gill plate. Bass are found sub-tidally down to around 100 m around most of the UK. Young fish are often found schooling in shallow waters, estuaries and the lower reaches of rivers as is commonly seen in the Kent and Essex IFCA district. Larger adult bass are found in deeper water usually but come closer inshore to warmer waters from March to Mid-June peaking in May after spawning. Bass are a relatively slow growing species with males reaching minimum landing size at a mean age of 4 years and females from 5 years in the UK.

Bass is a schooling predator of smaller fish species such as members of the herring family, sandeels and other small schooling fish. They are also an important predator of small crustaceans and squid playing an important part of food chains in estuaries and coastal waters.

New Regulations regarding the landing of Bass have been introduced by the EU from 1 January 2017

Where commercial bass fishing is allowed (subject to restrictions)

From 1 January 2017 you may only use certain fishing methods to fish for or retain bass as a by-catch when operating in the areas below:

Sea area International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) division
North Sea IVb, IVc
Channel VIId, VIIe
Celtic Sea VIIf, VIIg* (inside the 12nm limit only)
Irish Sea VIIa* (inside the 12nm limit only)
South West Approaches VIIh

Subject to having a track record in the fishery, you are only permitted to catch and retain bass with the following gears:

  • fixed gillnets;
  • hooks and lines;
  • demersal trawls and seines.

You are not allowed to catch and retain bass with any other gears, including drift nets. Commercial fisheries from the shore are also prohibited.

Track Records and authorisation

Your vessel will have a track record if there is a record of bass landings during the period 1 July 2015 to 30 September 2016.

You will be issued an authorisation by your fisheries administration notifying you of the gear(s) you are allowed to use.

If you receive a letter stating you have no authorisation to fish for bass then you are not allowed to catch, retain, trans-ship or land bass. You must return any bass to the sea immediately.

Fixed gillnets

Only vessels with a record of catching bass with fixed gillnets during the track record period are permitted to retain bass as a bycatch when fishing with fixed gillnets.

You may retain up to 250kg of bass per month as an unavoidable bycatch when targeting other species.

Hooks and lines

Only vessels with a record of catching bass with hooks and lines during the track record period are permitted to retain bass when fishing with hooks and lines.

You may retain up to 10 tonnes of bass during the period 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017, but it is prohibited to catch and retain bass with hooks and lines in February and March.

 Demersal trawls and seines

Only vessels that have recorded catches of bass during the track record period may retain bass when fishing with demersal trawls and seines.

You may retain bass 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.

Fishing gear

You may only use one authorised fishing gear per trip when retaining bass on board.

Summary of commercial catch limits

 Vessels with authorisations

Fixed Nets Demersal Trawls and Seines Hooks and Lines
Fishery Restrictions Unavoidable by-catch fishery only Unavoidable by-catch fishery only

Maximum 3% by weight of all marine organisms per day.

Closed February and March
Maximum catch limit 250kg per month 400kg per month 10 tonnes per year

Vessels without authorisations

All other gears (including drift nets) and vessels without authorisations
All bass catches prohibited

Commercial shore fisheries

Commercial shore fisheries
All bass catches prohibited.

 Bass and the landing obligation

The landing obligation applies to commercial fisheries.

Pelagic landing obligation

You must discard all bass caught when using pelagic gears as fishing for bass is prohibited.

Demersal landing obligation

The demersal landing obligation is being gradually phased in but does not currently apply to bass in 2017. It will apply to bass in all fisheries no later than 2019. This means that you must discard all bass unless you are fishing using fixed nets, demersal trawls and seines or hooks and lines in accordance with your authorisation.

If you are fishing using a gear specified in your authorisation you must discard fish below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) and any fish in excess of your permitted by-catch. Once you have reached your monthly by-catch or annual catch limit then you must not retain any bass.

Recreational fishing for bass

If you are a recreational fisherman in the North Sea and Western waters you are subject to the limitations below:

Sea area ICES division 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2017 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017
North Sea IVb, IVc Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
East Channel VIId, VIIe Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
Celtic Sea VIIf, VIIg Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
Irish Sea VIIa Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
South West approaches VIIh Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
West of Ireland VIIj, VIIk 1 bass per fisherman per day 1 bass per fisherman per day

These catch limits apply whether you are fishing from a vessel or the shore.

If you have any queries please contact your local marine office.