More Bass bans to come but why?

Sean McSeveny
  · Sean McSeveny  · July 1, 2016

The good news is that from today, we are allowed to keep one Bass per angler, as long as it is 42cm or larger.

Bass 7lb

 

The bad news is that a scientific report released yesterday from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), recommends a complete ban on Bass fishing for the year 2017. This includes commercial fishing and recreational sea angling. Since the fallout of the recent Brexit campaign and subsequent political picture of lies and deceit from all sides  has come to light, I have become very sceptical of so called expert reports. Subsequently I spent many hours studying this recent report from ICES, which I have included, should others wish to do the same. If you do this link will take you to the ICES Document

My initial reaction on reading the document for the first time was “oh no, this is really bad news”. Don’t get me wrong, it is bad news, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. The report like many others before it, is so full of assumption and lack of hard facts that it is farcical. After going through this report in detail, many times, I conclude that the bad news is that we now have another report claiming doom and gloom for the Bass stocks and a call for an unnecessary ban.

Looking at some of the more important aspects of this report, such as this paragraph I have lifted from the document show how incomplete the facts are:

The two survey data series for the eastern English Channel, which is only a small part of the total stock area, provide good estimation of recruitment. However, a change in vessel and survey design in the Channel Ground Fish Survey led to the 2015 ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Published 30 June 2016 ICES Advice 2016, Book 5 3 value not being included in this assessment. The very weak recruitment from 2008 to 2012 estimated in the assessment is confirmed by the surveys and by reduced catches of young fish by the UK and French fisheries. All the input data to the assessment and additional information (catch per unit effort in the French fishery) are indicative of a declining trend of biomass. Stock identity remains poorly understood and tagging studies are ongoing. Survival rates of sea bass discarded from commercial vessels or released by anglers are poorly known.

Putting this into simple terms I can make some conclusions from this. Firstly the number of small Bass being caught, would be expected to be reduced. The ban on fishing in nursery areas and an increase in mesh size will result in more undersized fish escaping the net. I for one have seen a large increase in the number of school Bass I have seen captured in nursery areas and areas such as Chesil Beach, a mark not renowned for producing small Bass. Why leave out a large piece of data, such as the 2015 survey? Simply to allow figures to be manipulated.

One of the largest aspects that the report relies on, is the very inaccurate information supplied by a number of angler surveys, in the UK and northern europe. once again I quote from the document in the section regarding landings by recreational sea anglers: Known to be substantial but cannot be fully quantified (surveys indicate total annual removals by France, UK (England), Netherlands, and Belgium to the order of 1500 tonnes in 2012) 

That figure is around 40% of the total catch rate for all of northern Europe, including commercial landings. This is a ridiculous figure at best. I know from personal experience, that when asked to complete these surveys, there was pressure exerted in the form of inferring that exaggerating your catch reports and amount spent on angling, would help the greater cause of recreational anglers. I put the blame for these ridiculous claims squarely at the feet of B.A.S.S and the Angling Trust. It is time that those organisations stood up and admitted that they have at best manipulated the figures, in a failed attempt to improve the deal for recreational sea anglers. Failure to do so will result in another Bass ban aimed at the wrong group

In my opinion and I do stress that this is from my own observations, Bass stocks are in a far better condition than is being claimed in this report. The current ban on trawling for bass during their breeding period and maintaining monitored catch quotas on all commercial boats is working. I know this may not be the kind of news you wish to hear, but many of the commercial Bass boats have hit their 1.3 tonne quota within a few days of the start of each month. They have then either been tied up, or have switched to other species, if they have an allowable quota for them. This in itself is proof that the Bass stocks are increasing.

I have had enough of lies and disinformation from politicians and so called experts this week. It is time to start asking serious questions, of those supposed to be looking after our interests in angling, Those same groups that are unelected or appointed by the majority of anglers in this country.

Thankfully my whole week has not been spoiled by football and politics, I did manage to get out a few times this week and I had the good fortune to guide a couple of very experienced fly fishermen, who were in search of Bass, Wrasse and Pollock on fly and lures. The wind made conditions difficult during the afternoon, but it was great to get out around portland and Weymouth and show off some of the great fishing that is possible on fly in this area.

fly fishing for Bass

I am sure many of you read the great Wrasse article the Ben Basset wrote. I created a short video for it on how to rig a Texas Rig. For those of you new to lure fishing, or jut have not yet tried fishing with soft plastics, you may find this video useful. The Texas Rig allows you to fish some really rough and weedy marks.

Chesil Beach: Medium swell up to 2m with lightly coloured  water

Portland: Swell with lightly coloured water.

Portland harbour: calm and clear water

Weymouth Bay: Calm with clear water

Chesil Beach forecast: It is pretty windy on Chesil today, but the forecast for the weekend, especially Sunday is looking good. We can finally head to the beach with a good chance of catching some Mackerel this weekend. We could also see more Black Bream and Gurnard showing. There is a very good chance of a Bass this afternoon and into early evening. Once darkness falls, the Rays may move in.

Portland: Tides for the weekend look good for Pollock off the Bill, especially towards the end of the weekend, when dawn will coincide with high water. Always one of the best times to fish. Once the wind settles the Wrasse fishing will be good, with a chance of a hard fighting fish on bait and lure.

Portland Harbour: Quite a few Thin Lipped Mullet showing in the shallow water around Castletown and Sandsfoot Castle. There was a few small Bass amongst them, but as the tides build the numbers and size should increase.

Weymouth Bay: plenty of small fish showing from the pier, but the recent rain, has made the harbour murky. The Mullet are still there, they are just difficultt o target.

Preston should produce some Gurnard, Dab and Flounder during the day, with the chance of Rays and Smoothound at night.

Guiding: The new guiding season is underway once again. Although we can’t keep any Bass at the moment, we can certainly catch them. I am hoping that the winter fishing ban and the new commercial quotas, combined with an increase in the minimum landing size, will make for some great Bass fishing. I specialize in lure fishing and I am offering Fly fishing this year as well. I am still more than happy to go after the multitude of species in this area with bait, whether that is big Wrasse, explosive Smoothound fishing or targeting the tastier fish such as Plaice and Bream. If you want to book a session or find out more information drop me an email at guiding@fishingtails.co.uk

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16 Responses to "More Bass bans to come but why?"
  1. Jerry H says:

    Not surprised. Legslation once in place rarely goes away. Banning anglers from keeping ANY bass while it was apparently ok for Gill netters and commercial line boats to target them in the spawning season was pointless anyway. We’re just off to Cornwall for a week. Paid £600 for accommodation due to pushing into July purely because if we catch a nice bass we would like to eat it. Next year? I don’t think so. But I guess if Cornwall can afford their vote to brexit and loss of EU funds they won’t miss my paltry few hundred next year.

    No time to read the report now, but the last one I saw referred to recreational fishing, not angling, and included recreational netting and longlining. I think it’s highly dubious that those activities would be recreational, in the UK anyway.

    Any way, out the door now, will be interested what others have to say.

    • Sean McSeveny Sean McSeveny says:

      No one was allowed to target them during the spawning season.

      • Jerry H says:

        I was going by issue 249 (June) of Sea Angling News which reported that during April and May bass in the Southern North Sea shoal up to spawn off Suffolk and Essex and these aggregations had been fished, and they are spawning at the same time between Essex and Dorset. Perhaps the time they are spawning is in dispute, or varies from year to year, or the official spawning season doesn’t quite fit with reality. They cite the Angling Trust and a former member of the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority and also photos of bass landed in may secreting milt and eggs.

        • Sean McSeveny Sean McSeveny says:

          You are quite right Jerry. The actual time that the Bass spawn can change year on year. It is highly dependant on temperature and as the water temperature didn’t drop until later than normal this winter, the Bass would have spawned later. There was a blanket ban on Bass fishing during Febraury and March, the months usually associated with Spawning. It would be a good idea, if the ban was introduced for a period defined by the fisheries department, as they do for certain species in the US.

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Sean,
    That was quite a provocative piece. I hope what follows is a courteous and respectful response. If you find it otherwise then please accept my genuine apologies.
    Can I get this right please? You seem to be implying that the ICES report is a tissue of lies and deceit because there was a lot of scaremongering related to the build up to Brexit? ICES is a scientific organisation which, to the best of my knowledge, has no political links.
    You describe the report as farcical and facts as incomplete. You state that figures have been deliberately manipulated. You appear to imply that the report is deliberately inaccurate but why would that be the case? Why on earth would independent scientists want to lie about the state of bass stocks? Quite frankly I find it a preposterous allegation. These guys do this for a living, it is their job, they are experts in this field and as far as I can see have no axe to grind. I am unsure what qualifications you have in statistics and fishery management but they would need to be pretty substantial to be able to question these guys and that is exactly what you appear to be doing. Do you have access to some additional information about the Northern bass stocks that ICES scientists do not have? If so then please share it with the rest of us.
    Not content to question the integrity and ability of ICES scientists to do their job you then have a pop at the AT along with BASS.
    You claim that the bass landings attributable to recreational anglers is 40%.
    “That figure is around 40% of the total catch rate for all of northern Europe, including commercial landings. This is a ridiculous figure at best. I know from personal experience, that when asked to complete these surveys, there was pressure exerted in the form of inferring that exaggerating your catch reports and amount spent on angling, would help the greater cause of recreational anglers. I put the blame for these ridiculous claims squarely at the feet of B.A.S.S and the Angling Trust. It is time that those organisations stood up and admitted that they have at best manipulated the figures, in a failed attempt to improve the deal for recreational sea anglers. Failure to do so will result in another Bass ban aimed at the wrong group”.
    I can find no reference to bass landings attributable to anglers as being 40%. The figure more often quoted is 25 or 30%. The AT and BASS have constantly questioned this figure themselves and believe it to be less than 10%. It is a total nonsense to suggest that BASS or the AT have manipulated figures to show a greater recreational mortality than is actually the case. Why and how would they do that? How would manipulating figures to show increased bass mortality due to recreational anglers benefit the recreational bass anglers who these organisations represent? It is a ludicrous suggestion. It wouldn’t. It would result in restrictions on recreational landings which is something both groups have vigorously fought against.
    How on earth is a failure of these organisations to admit to something they are not responsible for, (manipulating figures), going to result in another Bass ban? Your insinuation is ridiculous. To claim that two major angling organisations are manipulating figures is a pretty serious allegation to make. “I put the blame for these ridiculous claims squarely at the feet of B.A.S.S and the Angling Trust. It is time that those organisations stood up and admitted that they have at best manipulated the figures . . . . ”.
    You state that you had pressure exerted upon you to exaggerate your catch reports and the amount spent on angling. Come on Sean – name names – who pressured you into doing this?
    Please do start asking questions of the Angling Trust and BASS and perhaps you will be kind enough to publish the whole interview on this fine website. A published article featuring the AT and BASS will inform a wider audience of just how much both organisations are doing for recreational bass anglers. If it were not for them I wonder how many bass we would have left.
    If I am ill I go to a doctor for advice. If my car breaks down I take it to a garage. If I have a legal problem I visit a solicitor. I believe it is always best to go to the experts. In the same way, and with the greatest respect, I will rely on the experts for advice on fishery management and in this instance they are the guys who wrote this report.
    Thank you for allowing me the opportunity and platform to respond to your article. I hope I have done so in a polite and courteous manner.

    • Jimi D says:

      Dave, have to say that I am in agreement with you!
      No study is ever perfect, and there are always limitations. This does not mean that there is no value in them.I would say the idea behind them is to get a larger picture that reflects reality as far as is possible. This will differ locally, yes, so that anecdotal evidence can seem to be in contradiction to evidence of a study, but it is just that – anecdotal.
      As to experts – yes, anyone can call themselves one and say anything they want, but when it gets to large data studies then yes, scientists and statisticians I think have the edge. And confusing the blinking career politicians and their disingenuous antics with independent scientists is, well, a tad unhelpful, tarring anyone who is trying with a very very broad brush (just as tarring all politicians as bleeping bleepers is unfair, as we were reminded with very starkly with the shooting/stabbing of one). I am as cynical of organisational interests in presenting a particular viewpoint (politics basically) as ever after the shenanigans of the past weeks/months/years/decades. These are not the however people conducting this study.
      I would say that it is surely better to follow the precautionary principle, protect our stocks on the (possibly incomplete) evidence we have as measured by independent observers, ie ICES, and reassess as further evidence is measured. Better to have too many bass than none?! We should certainly look at the reality the impact of recreational fishing on stocks, and compare to commercial pressure, and argue for a distinction in legislative approach to protecting stocks.
      And maybe I’m just like this as I haven’t managed a bass yet this year!

  3. John Quinlan says:

    You suggest that the AT and or BASS encouraged you and others to lie or exaggerate your catch. Would appreciate if you could reference this please as I am unable to find any evidence of this whatsoever.
    Surely the fact that many claim that the AT and BASS have been in favour of controling bass catches would mean that they would be encouraging you to under report your catches not the other way around!

  4. Michael says:

    Good article Sean. Who would police a weekend beach angler? If i wanted to keep a bass and didn’t know the new rules, what would be the consequences. (If a small fine, Jerry could allocate some of the £600 and go on holiday next year)

    • Jerry H says:

      Most likely a hefty fine and confiscation of your gear including your car and boat if you use one. Not worth it, and I don’t want to break the law anyway. I’ll just fish for something else at a cheaper time of year. Would find it hard to return a gut hooked fish or one with a damaged eye though. It won’t keep me away from Cornwall, I am half Cornish anyway, and there are plenty of other species down there.

      I saw the figures Sean quotes above last year, can’t remember if it was in an ICES report or a research paper I read, I’ll see if I have it bookmarked when we return.

      Anyway I am an ultra low impact fishery, I’ll be happy if I get one keeper in the week!

      Great video on the Texas rig by the way.

  5. Dave says:

    Great article, I cannot see the rule being enforced, who comes around to check the size of the bass when you catch them, I’ve never been checked, I’ve seen people take bass smaller than mls I have seen fish of 12″ killed at abbotsbury last year. Why can’t we farm and then stock bass to help fish stocks, let’s face it we now do it with game and coarse fishing, thanks to this program I can now see salmon in the river Trent, river dove, not seen for a century, sea fishing always lags behind?

    • Sean McSeveny Sean McSeveny says:

      The main problem is Bass grow so slowly, so it make it prohibitively expensive to grow them on for recreational purposes. Add on top the fact that farming fish has lots of knock on issues, including having to catch huge amounts of food for them, which is mostly Sandeels. This deprives the wild fish of their diet.

      • Dave says:

        Hi Sean, thanks for reply. How long does it take to grow bass on to 4to 6″ then release into areas where bass grow on. Unless we try to talk out a solution as anglers we can’t go to the people in power with a suggestion to help shore/ pleasure anglers to continue our pastime, a ban is the thin end of the wedge, before a ban on fishing( rod n line) because we’re the problem,not commercial fishing!

        • Sean McSeveny Sean McSeveny says:

          Hi Dave.

          It would take around 2 years for a Bass to grow to that size. The problem is that it is just not practical to grow Bass on for recreational purposes. Once released there is no guarantee they won’t simply be swept up in some trawlers net.

          I know that they strip salmon of eggs and milt to help produce fry that will hopefully mature and return to the same river system that they were produced in, but Bass distribution and movements are not yet understood. Though there is a tagging programme being undertaken at present, that may fill in some of the gaps.

  6. dave johnston says:

    is th allouance one per day or one per fishing session as several anglers may fish different venues in one day

  7. colin winyard says:

    A couple of points from the report – I had a skim through an extract yesterday on wsf – forgive the accuracy because I am working from memory. I don’t understand the statistics but one can make comparisons of the catch rates between years and countries.

    The catch in the uk has gone up more than 10 times over the period covered by the report – this rate of increase cannot be sustainable and the graphs suggest a continued steep decline in stocks unless something is done.

    There was a problem with recruitment (success of breeding season I think?) in the years 2008 – 2011 – this means there will be an even bigger problem with stocks in years to come because Bass are slow growing so now is the time to restrict catches.

    The French catch more bass than us – their catch is massive compared to the UK (6x our catch) -this may be because western France (Biscay) is within the test area and Bass are more common there?

    Technology is a problem. Pair trawlers with GPS can return to the same gullies in the mid channel during the winter to hammer the Bass whilst they are dormant over the winter months – I think the main reason for the ban this year was to stop this fishery. This may have been the cause of the poor recruitment between 2008 – 11.

    Ban/restrictions are a good idea but they rely on good behaviour because impossible to police. The ban will help stops anglers exploiting Bass for no good reason like an angler I met last year who told me he had to catch £70 worth of Bass to pay for the Petrol for his boat – shame on him.
    Tight lines!

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