Seabass, the 90s dinner party fish of choice and seafood restaurant staple of the last three decades or so, is sinking into seriously deep water, according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
In fact, tomorrow the MCS will announce that such is its concern that it believes the only way to prevent even more, irreparable damage to stocks will be a temporary ban on fishing.
Since 2008, recruitment of young fish into the main seabass stock in the Northeast Atlantic has been poor, and since 2010, the size of the population has been rapidly decreasing and is on track to plummet to levels from which it may struggle to recover.
On the MCS Fish Online guide all wild seabass, with the exception of line caught, is currently red rated – which means it is to be avoided and should not be served. Following the latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the rating for line-caught bas, currently ‘4’ is being reviewed and may well become red-rated too.
Samuel Stone, Fisheries Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, says that not enough is being done to reverse the fortunes of seabass: “Lack of agreement between EU member states over how to manage this valuable stock leaves the fish and its fishermen facing a very uncertain future. Fishery management measures that sufficiently reduce catches are urgently needed to reverse the fortunes of this fish; if such measures cannot be agreed and implemented quickly, a complete moratorium on fishing for seabass may well be necessary in the foreseeable future.
“New advice from ICES for bass fishery management in 2016 indicates that the stock is in an even worse state now than previously recorded. ICES are recommending catch totals of just a third of what was proposed last year for 2015, with only 541 tonnes recommended for 2016. Last year, the UK alone caught well over 1000 tonnes of seabass, with the French catch being even more than this at over 1300 tonnes. The stock is in rapid decline, and much more needs to be done – and urgently – to prevent this iconic and important fishery from collapsing.”
Our advice would be to heed the MCS warning and serve alternatives like black bream.