Steps to protecting Irish Bass

| March 9, 2015

Bass Dicentrachus labraxCommercial fishing for bass has been banned since 1990 in Ireland due to overfishing since the 60s.

Today, the Irish bass fishery is saved but not totally restored. That’s why a 50 cm minimum landing size and one-fish bag limit has been approved in principle but not implemented as yet (awaiting the EU measures).

Anglers now travel from all over Europe travel to Ireland to catch bass as here bass are on average bigger and more plentiful than elsewhere.

Is the time now right to seek a judicial review of the Government’s and Marine Scotland’s approach to maintaining a healthy and diverse inshore marine environment to avoid all Scottish waters ending up like the Clyde ?

Development of bass angling in Ireland:

  • Bord Failte (Irish Tourist Board) formed in 1952.
  • First sea angling promotion rod competition at Splaugh Rock in Co Wexford.
  • Ten years later it had to be discontinued due to commercial overfishing.

Evolution of bass policy:

  • Concern about the decline of bass registered in the late 1960s.
  • Four public enquiries ended in January 1969.
  • Regulations brought in gradually, to close loop-holes in the protective armour.
  • Finally suite of regulations complete in 1990.
  • All of these regulations opposed by commercial fishers.

Regulations to restore bass numbers:

  • Size limit (40 cm total length) – generally observed by anglers
  • Close season (spring) – angling season usually autumn
  • Some commercial fishermen still ignore restrictions in sub-areas VI and VII
  • Daily bag limit for line capture
  • Ban on the sale of Irish bass

These regulations were introduced piecemeal, not in a single administrative action. Debate was open.

Advantages of an angling fishery for a slow-growing, late maturing, slow replicating species:

  • Slower rate of exploitation
  • No discarding problem such as would accompany capture by mobile gears.
  • Undersized fish released with prospects of survival
  • A proportion of above limit rod-caught fish are released.

The Socio-economic argument:

  • Angling a crucial element of the tourist experience in Ireland
  • 1999, 173,000 overseas visitors for angling – 2006, 103,000
  • Reduction due to perceived decline in resource quality, among other factors.
  • Now – Anglers now travel from all over Europe travel to Ireland to catch bass.

At all times, as in Scotland, the mobile commercial sector has opposed attempts to preserve or restrict their access to the stock, even when it is understood that opening the fishery would only result in a one-off bonanza of possibly 500 t being captured which would eliminate inshore stocks within a single year.

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