Latest advice from the Marine Conservation Society states sea bass is highly unsustainable in the English Channel, which is recognised as level three and four of a five-light traffic system to help safeguard at-risk species in local and European waters.
This has led to urgent calls to do more to protect bass in Bailiwick waters.
Guernsey Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society president Bryn Le Poidevin is leading the call.
‘GBASS [which promotes catch and release fishing] are sadly unsurprised to see wild sea bass highlighted as an unsustainable source of seafood,’ he said.
‘There has been anger for many years that fishery managers have allowed commercial fishermen to severely damage the sea bass stock through unsustainable overfishing.
‘Whilst EU measures to protect the stock have been put in place, with cuts to commercial pressure, there has been a slight improvement. However, the levels of bass stocks are scientifically proven still to be nowhere near safe levels.’
There were concerns over the implementation of measures in the Bailiwick to safeguard stock levels.
‘Whilst there are anecdotal stories of an abundance of bass in Guernsey, this may be the case for small inshore fish,’ added Mr Le Poidevin.
‘The fact remains that commercial fishing has accounted for the majority of the big spawning fish, which are the future for attaining a safe and sustainable level of bass stocks.
‘If the smaller inshore fish were guaranteed to be able to grow and breed, then it might be possible to have some optimism for the future but the pattern of commercial pressure and targeting of bass over the last few decades tempers any such optimism.’
A 2017 Sea Fisheries report shows the decline of bass stocks locally, from 74 tonnes landed in 2011 falling to 11.46 tonnes in 2017.
Mr Le Poidevin offered ways of going forward.
‘Sustainable fisheries do not “just happen” and requires government and fisheries to take account of the science and best practice when managing stocks,’ he said.
‘Government and fisheries should work with all stakeholders in ensuring that measures are in place that enable bass to thrive and not merely barely survive.
‘It is beyond negligence not to implement a progressive, conservation-based fishery and marine management plan with legislation and proper enforcement.’
A spokesman for Sea Fisheries said: ‘The management plan and associated legislation for European sea bass has been in place at the EU level for several years and has been subject to various amendments during that time.
‘The purpose of the legislation is to help the bass stock to recover, with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea advice currently suggesting the stock remains below its optimal size, hence the need for continued regulation.
‘All Bailiwick licensed and recreational fishing vessels are subject to this legislation.’
Mr Le Poidevin said it was a serious issue and was not one to be taken lightly.
‘It’s frustrating as it is regularly raised and nothing changes,’ he said.
‘I realise it could be viewed as “robust” but we have been liaising with Sea Fisheries for over a decade and got nowhere.
‘If this happened on land and not under the sea, people would be outraged.’