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Bass, seabass

Dicentrarchus labrax

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Handline
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, English Channel and southern North Sea
Stock detail - IVbc, VIIa, VIIId-h
Accreditation -
Fish type - White round fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is not a good choice of sustainable fish to eat and should be only eaten very occasionally. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find more sustainable fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

The precise status of bass stocks is unknown and fishing effort and catch is not controlled. The combination of slow growth, late maturity, spawning aggregations, and strong summer site fidelity, increase the vulnerability of seabass to over-exploitation and localised depletion. Historically, commercial seabass landings were minimal and the species was mainly the quarry for recreational anglers but since the 1970ís the commercial catch has escalated and by mid 1990ís was believed to equal the recreational take. It is now thought commercial catches exceed the recreational catch which is significant and is currently being assessed. Recent surveys indicate that harvets from recreational fisheries could amount to 20% of total fishery removals but catches from this sector need to be quantified. Accurate assessment of commercial catches is difficult because legislation allows vessels to sell directly to the public up to 25 kilos per transaction and there is no provision for collecting data for the cumulative tonnage being sold in this way. ICES advises that commercial landings should be reduced further by 36% and be no more than 2707 t in 2014. The fishery would also benefit from more comprehensive effort and/or catch regulations and measures to protect juvenile fish. Seabass caught by handlining methods in the southwest of England are an especially good choice, as all fish can be identified by a tag in the gill, providing traceability back to the individual fisherman who caught it. Ask for fish which has been line-caught and tagged. For more information see www.linecaught.org.uk. The gill-net fishery off the Holderness Coast of north east England, between Flamborough Head Lighthouse and Spurn Point was certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in December 2007 and is another good choice. The Bristol Channel demersal otter trawl fishery is currently under MSC assessment. Avoid pelagic trawled seabass, as the fishery impacts upon the pre-spawning stock and has significant cetacean bycatch.

Biology

Bass or seabass belongs to a family of spiny-finned fish called Moronidae, which are closely related to groupers. Bass breed from March to mid-June, mostly in April, in British coastal and offshore waters. From January to March in the Bay of Biscay and from February to May in the English Channel and eastern Celtic Sea. It is a long-lived and slow growing species - up to 30 years of age, and can achieve a length of up to 1m with a weight of 12kg. Male bass mature at 31-35cm (aged 3-6 years) and females mature at 40-45cm (aged 5-8 years). Once mature, bass may migrate within UK coastal waters and occasionally further offshore. Increases in sea water temperature in recent decades has likely led to a more northerly distribution of seabass as it is now found further north into the North Sea. Climate warming may also have lengthened the time adult seabass spend in the summer feeding areas. After spawning, seabass tend to return to the same coastal sites each year.

Stock information

Stock area
Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, English Channel and southern North Sea

View map areas

Stock information
Commercial bass fisheries developed in the late 1970s and 1980s. Bass is important to inshore artisanal fishers, offshore fisheries, and recreational anglers, and has a high socio-economic value. Possible stock areas were defined for seabass in 2001, based on local fisheries for the species and on seasonal migrations, but these need to be further evaluated. Until stock structure and management units are defined reliable stock assessments cannot be carried out. There is insufficent information to evaluate the stock and no reference points have been defined. Currently there are no specific management objectives or TAC (Total Allowable Catch) for this species. Fishing mortality is increasing and is above target. The total biomass has been declining since 2005 and is estimated to be 32% lower than in the previous three years. For data-limited stocks where the biomass is estimated to have decreased by more than 20% in the reference period and the stock considered overexploited ICES scientists advise that landings should decrease by 36% corrresponding to commercial landings of no more than 2707 t in 2014. A reduction in fishing mortality is needed to prevent the spawning stock biomass (SSB) declining to such an extent that the stock's ability to rebuild itself becomes impaired. ICES also recommends the implementation of 'input' controls, preferably through technical measures (Minimum landing sizes, mesh sizes etc.) to protect juvenile fish, in conjunction with limiting entry to the offshore fishery in particular.

Management

Capture information

Fishing with hook and line (handlining, trolling lures, rod and reel) is one of the most sustainable and species selective fishing methods available. Line caught seabass are landed from mainly small inshore boats around many parts of England and Wales, particularly in the south west. Some fishermen have organised themselves to improve marketing of line caught fish and use carcass tags to show traceability. For more information see www.linecaught.org.uk. Following representation by recreational sport anglers, the UK Government proposed to increase the minimum landing size (MLS) for wild seabass to 40cm but opposition from commercial fishermen thwarted the attempt and it was left at the EU MLS of 36cm. Cornwall and South Wales, through local bylaws have a slightly larger MLS of 37.5 cm.

Read more about capture methods

Alternatives

Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below . Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Alaska pollock, Walleye pollock Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Bass, seabass Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Black bream or porgy or seabream

Bream, gilthead Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Cod, Atlantic Cod Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Coley, Saithe Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Haddock Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Hake, Cape

Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola

Meagre

Pouting or Bib

Sturgeon Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Tilapia

Whiting Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.


References
ICES Advice 2013, Book 9

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