The Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have issued a consultation paper covering measures for the protection of bass caught within NI waters.
“The proposals arise from various discussions during and following the Review of Inshore Fisheries. The Department’s response to the review stated that there would be “merit in harmonising regulations to protect Sea Bass throughout the Island” and that DARD “proposes to bring forward proposals for new Sea Bass regulations in the Northern Ireland zone”. The introduction of regulations would also tie in with similar proposals being progressed by the Loughs Agency. The result would be a coherent conservation policy that would better protect Sea Bass throughout our coastal waters.
The state of the Sea Bass stock around the Irish coast is scientifically unknown, because it is not a commercial species and data is sparse. However the stock around Ireland is considered to remain depressed since overexploitation in the 1980s.
In recent years there have been increasing reports of Bass being caught around the Northern Ireland coast. This may be an indication of the stock moving northwards, possibly as a result of climate change. This raises the possibility that in future significant stocks of Sea Bass could develop in Northern Irish waters. However since the species is vulnerable to over fishing due to its slow growth rate, regulation is being proposed now to ensure that any potential growth in the stock is fully realized.
Within the UK commercial fishing for Bass is currently permitted subject to certain local conditions, but the only regulation that applies here is a minimum landing size of 36 cms. Sea Bass is not thought to be a targeted species within the Northern Ireland fleet and is only landed as a by-catch.
Sea Bass is important to our angling community and is considered a prize fishery by this group and sea angling for Sea Bass could provide an additional opportunity for the development of angling within some parts of our waters and could enhance income to our coastal communities through chartered fishing trips for both local and European fishers and an increase in angling tourism.”
The full details of the proposals can be found on the Government website..