Despite all the hard work over 2019 it still came as a surprise when just before Christmas the EU agreed to increase the bag limit and season for recreational bass catches to two fish per day for nine months of the year – from March to November – in 2020.
Anglers have been restricted to one bass per day for seven months in 2019 and while we were lobbying for three bass per day for 10 months in 2020 (the science told us that was sustainable) the increase to two fish for members of the public wishing to take a few fish for the table is both welcome and long overdue.
The long-term goal of the Angling Trust is still to secure 25 per cent of the bass catch for recreational fishing – as it was before the EU introduced restrictions – but Rome wasn’t built in a day and bass stocks won’t be rebuilt for quite some years to come.
What’s even more pleasing about the EU’s decision is that the measures agreed for bass catches in 2020 are within the scientists’ sustainable levels meaning the bass stock will continue to recover over 2020 – a win-win for anglers and bass! What this proves is that we have the right arguments and are starting to be listened to more seriously.
However, 2019 marked the last year of the UK arguing over fish quotas every December with other EU countries and we are yet to know what the UK intends to do in 2021 and beyond – the great unknown!
2020 will see the start of an EU-funded project to establish a control scheme for recreational catches of seabass – probably using a logbook system. While this might sound alarming for some, it’s the result of our lobbying in 2017 to establish a monthly rather than a daily bag limit and could lead to even more flexibility about how many bass you can take, and when.
While the news for bass this year was encouraging the overall picture for EU stocks wasn’t so festive with quotas for many stocks set above scientific advice in the year that the EU had committed to all stocks being fished sustainably. Well, if you set the rules it seems you can also break them too!
We hope the new measures for 2020 allow anglers more flexibility to take a few fish for the table on the occasions they are able to get out fishing over the course of 2020 – and in the knowledge that, with the stock recovering, future years should be even better. When you do, spare a thought for individuals like David Curtis, from Save Our Sea Bass, and those at the Angling Trust, who have battled the institutions of Europe to get you, and bass, a better deal in 2020. Happy fishing!