Sea bass is an important fishery, particularly to recreational and commercial fishing interests on the West Coast of Scotland. I therefore note with some concern the studies of the ICES which have suggested that bass stocks are continuing to deplete.
As you may be aware, the EU Fisheries Council agreed a suite of emergency conservation measures in 2015 in order to arrest the decline in sea bass stock. Additional measures were agreed for the 2016 fishing year to restrict the fishing of bass for both commercial and recreational fisheries. With the ICES continuing to issue warnings about bass stocks, it may be that more needs to be done in terms of conservation. I am acutely aware of the difficulty in achieving agreement between different countries on the measures required – not least because the ICES recommends that no more than 541 tonnes in Central and South North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea be fished. That figure represents half the UK’s catch alone of 1,000 tonnes last year.
It may interest you to learn that issues connected with the fishing industry are traditionally debated in Westminster each December, and should this tradition continue, my SNP colleagues will be sure to raise this issue with the Minister and press him for appropriate action at the EU Fisheries Council this year.