Plateforme Petite Pêche has condemned the failure of the French authorities to manage fishing for bass in the Bay of Biscay in a way that avoids a December catch limit

French small-scale fishermen are adamant that winter overfishing of bass is going to lead again to a shortfall in quota for the coastal fleet that relies on the pre-Christmas market towards the end of the year.

According to Plateforme Petite Pêche, small-scale boats were in 2018 limited to a 50kg per day limit at this key time of the year, as larger vessels had taken so much of the quota earlier in the year. What made this harder to accept was that the fishery re-opened on the 1st of January with a quota for the new year, allowing the bigger boats to immediately start landing several tonnes of bass each every day.

The line boat fishermen represented by Plateforme Petite Pêche state that they will not again accept being expected to pay the price for those who overfished earlier in the year.

Line-caught bass command premium prices at the end of the year – just as line boats’ catches are capped

‘It is now inevitable that the bass catch limit in the Bay of Biscay (2140 tonnes) will be reached well before the end of the year, once again adversely affecting those who fish bass in the most responsible way. The authorities and the industry bodies have remained deaf to our warnings that we launched at the end of spring,’ a spokesman for Plateforme Petite Pêche said.

The association states that Bay of Biscay bass have only been under effective management since 2017 with a catch limit of 2490 tonnes introduced,, reduced to 2240 tonnes in 2018 and this year to 2140 tonnes.

‘The licensing system is completely out of sync with the reality of the fishery. Nearly 550 licenses have been distributed in the Bay of Biscay, which corresponds to a catching capacity well above the allowable limit,’

Plateforme Petite Pêche’s spokesman said, adding that this does not take into account unlicensed landings.
‘The unfortunate consequence of this mode of management is that we must fish as much as possible before everyone else and especially before the fishery is closed. In other words, there is a race for fish every winter and early in the autumn by fishermen looking to be ahead of the closure of the fishery. This system is all the more of a joke because vessels can accumulate several licenses for different gear. A trawler can have a license for trawling and for lining, which is a method it will probably never use – in other words a passport for fraud.’

According to Plateforme Petite Pêche, in the last ten years there has been a rush for bass by vessels that did not target it before, such as seine netters.

‘A seiner can literally empty an area of ​​several kilometres in a few hours, catching juveniles and adults, generating very high levels of discards, all to the detriment of the rest of the entire fishing fleet and of course, of the biodiversity on which we all depend – or that they high-grade the catch, taking several tonnes of bass and discarding everything but the largest fish,’ Plateforme Petite Pêche states.

‘It is time for state officials and fishermen to end this hypocrisy. What is the point of fishing hundreds of tonnes of bass in winter, which is sold at ridiculous prices, and then banning fishing at the end of the year when prices are at the highest, if not to protect the interests a sector with unsustainable practices?’