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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 2018

 

Commercial bass fishing

The catch, retention, transhipment and landing of bass during 2018 is subject to restrictions. Those restrictions relate to;

  • when and where you can catch bass
  • how you can fish (gear type) and whether you have an authorisation to do so
  • how much can be retained

When and where you can catch bass

Throughout 2018 you must not catch, retain, transship or land bass caught from a vessel or the shore from the following ‘prohibited’ areas:

Sea area International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) division
South West Approaches ICES VIIb, VIIc, VIIj and VIIk
Irish or Celtic Sea Outside the 12 nautical mile limit of UK waters in ICES VIIg and VIIa

During January 2018 and from 1 April 2018 until January 2019 the catch, retention, transhipment and landing of bass in the restricted areas below, is only permitted if you have an authorisation from the MMO to do so. Fishing for bass in any restricted area is prohibited during February and March 2018.

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

( * Inside UK 12nm limit only)

How you can fish when operating in a restricted area

Subject to having an authorisation issued by your fisheries administration you are only permitted to catch and retain bass with the following gears:

  • fixed gillnets
  • hooks and lines
  • demersal trawls
  • demersal Seines

You are not allowed to catch and retain bass with any other gears, including nets that drift with the current or are capable of doing so.

You cannot catch, retain, tranship or land bass if you have not been issued an authorisation.

Fixed gillnets

Fixed nets are considered by the MMO as those being “fixed, or capable of being fixed, by any means to the bottom of the sea” as set out in regulation (EC) 850/1998.

Fixed nets are defined as being fixed to the bottom of the sea in a permanent position by any method such as weights, anchors or stakes and it must be set so as not to be able to drift or move with any current.

Where a net is out of the water (i.e. on a fishing vessel) it must be immediately capable of being fixed to the bottom of the sea by any method such as weights, anchors or stakes either attached to the net or capable of being attached immediately prior to the net being deployed. In the absence of adequate means of fixing the net to the bottom of the sea being present the net will not be considered to be a fixed net.

For the avoidance of doubt, anchors, weights or other items attached to the net which do not fix it to the bottom of the sea or prevent it from drifting (regardless of the state of the current), will not be considered sufficient to consider the net as a fixed net.

Use of multiple gears

A UK fishing vessel may only carry one authorised fishing gear on a fishing trip when retaining bass on board.

If you fish using more than one of the permitted gears in a single calendar month the lowest of the catch limits for the gears will apply.

How much can be retained

You can only retain and land bass subject to the limits below. Catch limits are not transferable between vessels.

For vessels with authorisations

Demersal Trawls Demersal Seines Hooks and Lines Fixed Gillnets Nets All other gears (including drift nets) Commercial shore fisheries
Fishery Restrictions Closed February and MarchMaximum 1% by weight of all marine organisms per day. Closed February and MarchMaximum 1% by weight of all marine organisms per day. Closed February and March Closed February and March All bass catches prohibited. All bass catches prohibited.
Maximum catch limit Unavoidable by-catch of 100kg per month Unavoidable by-catch of 180kg per month 5 tonnes per year Unavoidable by-catch of 1.2 tonnes per year All bass catches prohibited. All bass catches prohibited

Charter Vessels

If you have a licensed fishing vessel and have been issued an authorisation you can catch and retain bass in accordance with that authorisation, your fishing licence and this guidance.

If you do not have a fishing licence and an appropriate authorisation any bass caught must be returned to the sea immediately.

Bass and the landing obligation

The landing obligation applies to commercial fisheries. Bass is subject to catch limits and therefore the landing obligation (“discards ban”) requirements outlined below apply.

If you complete a fishing logbook you must record your bass discards.

Pelagic Landing Obligation

You must discard all bass caught when using pelagic gears as bass is classed as a prohibited species when caught with unauthorised gears.

Demersal Landing Obligation

The demersal landing obligation is being gradually phased in but does not currently apply to bass in 2018. 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 seines or hooks and lines in accordance with your authorisation and the catch limits as noted above. Once you have reached your daily threshold, monthly or annual limit then you must not retain any bass.

During February and March 2018 all bass fishing is prohibited and bass catches must be returned to the sea. Fishers should take all reasonable measures to avoid and minimise bass discards.

Pelagic Landing Obligation

You must discard all bass caught when using pelagic gears as bass is classed as a prohibited species when caught with unauthorised gears.

Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS)

The MCRS (‘minimum size’) for bass is 42cm.

You must not retain, tranship, land, transport, store, sell, display or offer for sale specimens below the MCRS, but must return them immediately to the sea.

 Authorisations

If you want to catch and retain bass with the above gear types in 2018 you must have an authorisation from the MMO to do so.

During 2017, commercial fishermen were authorised to catch and retain bass with certain gears. Authorisations were issued to vessels with a track record of landing bass during the reference period of 1 July 2015 to 30 September 2016.

If you were issued a 2017 authorisation you will be authorised for the same fishing gears in 2018. Unless otherwise notified, your 2018 authorisation will be valid until January 2019.

A transfer of authorisation will be considered providing the replacement vessel is no larger in engine size and tonnage. In addition, owners intending to sell vessels being replaced should also make the purchaser aware that the vessel being sold will lose its authorisation to catch bass once the transfer is completed.

Individuals wishing to transfer an existing authorisation to a new vessel should make initial contact with their local MMO office, providing evidence that their circumstances meets the above mentioned criteria.

Authorisations will transfer to a new owner of the vessel when the ownership of the Union vessel is transferred. The current catch uptake by that vessel will also be transferred – i.e. the catch limits will not be reset. For example, if a vessel has used all of its hooks & line annual catch limit then the new owner of the vessel will not be permitted to catch and retain further bass using hooks & lines.

Recreational fishing for bass

For recreational fishers, any bass caught during 2018 must be returned immediately. This applies if you are fishing from a boat or from the shore