ACCORDING TO the latest assessment by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the levels of wild sea bass have dropped to its lowest in years.
Experts have warned that spawning stocks have decreased by 32% since 2009, and have recommended that a 36% cut in catches be made across the English Channel, Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and southern North Sea.
This would put total landed fish levels allowed at no more than 2,707 tonnes, down from 4,060 tonnes.
The declining figures was a key topic at the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) conference held in Weymouth, where delegates met to tackle some of the big problems faced by the seafood industry.
Charles Clover, chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: "The apparent crash in the sea bass population highlighted by the latest ICES assessment should be of significant concern to both commercial and recreational fishermen, especially as nothing very much appears to be being done about it yet at a government level.”
“We believe that the need to protect older fish until they can spawn reopens the debate about minimum landing sizes that took place in the last decade. This time, both commercial and recreational fishermen need to combine their significant lobbying power to ensure we protect this living resource effectively.
“We also hope that the kind of scientific research currently being carried out alongside academic and commercial partners in Lyme Bay, as part of BLUE’s project to establish a marine protected area there with the active participation of local fishermen, can play a part in explaining what is currently happening to sea bass stocks.”
The charity claims that anomalies in the rules on sea bass trawling benefit French fishermen and contribute to the problem.
While British fishermen are forbidden from trawling in pairs with 12 nautical miles of the coast in the South West, their French colleagues often fish for bass in pairs in the English Channel.