Mumbles of a Marine Biologist

Simple, UK Marine Species ID Guide (Click pictures below for posts)

European Sea Bass – Dicentrarchus labrax

Having been an angler for most of my life, the european sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax ) was one of the first fish I fell in love with. This was a fish that always felt bigger than it was on the line because there so damn feisty (and by now people should know I love things that are much more feistier (is that a word?) than there size makes them out to be), they are beautiful silver, and they taste GREAT.

So for the above reasons you can imagine that this species is not just a hit with me but with other marine anglers around the country. This fish however, in the last few years has led to heated debates with anglers, trawlers and governments as more stringent catch quotas are enforced. The reason these quotas have been introduced in the last few years is that population of bass, like many other commercially desirable fish in our waters, has been dramatically declining. It was flagged in 2013 when it was discovered to be the lowest stock level in 20 years.

Even with a quick 5 minutes google, it is pretty clear that some anglers are angry at the quotas, which means that they cannot keep fish for the first half of the year and can only keep one per day for the rest, whilst claiming the trawlers have a much less stringent rules attached to them. With the argument from more commercial fisherman being that recreational anglers can over target this species too, so both should have quotas. You can keep up to date with all the quotas here. 

Now I am taking a totally neutral opinion with this one, I cannot claim to have enough knowledge about the stock size, or if the quotas are stringent enough or too much for both commercial or recreational anglers. Even if I read hours of literature this is still not my area of expertise and not my place to say. If I was to write this post claiming otherwise I would be adding to what seems to be mass amount of unclear information floating around the internet on this topic. But without mentioning this ongoing debate, would be ignoring one of the major talking points for this species in Europe for the last few years.

So instead I just want to highlight how amazing this species of fish are, so that if whether your an angler, commercial fisherman, marine biologist etc. you can take a moment to see just note how impressive this species is. This is why I have chosen to paint this species, because it deserves to be raved about … in my eyes anyway.

Bass like many humans, stay in large groups as for the first few years of there 25ish year lives, these are called shoaling bass. They can hang out with their friends, hunt together (feeding mainly on crustaceans) and then when there ready they can bugger off to catch the big food (bigger crustaceans and fish) by themselves. Who knows, they might meet up at the fish equivalent of a pub every few years to catch up with there shoal friends, but surprisingly I don’t think anyones looked into that (though I don’t think we can rule it out)?

Their silvery appearance, is not just to add flare to their lives, it actually helps to scatter the light and helps make them hidden in the water column. If anyone has ever released a fish and tried to keep an eye on it if its silvery for more than a few seconds before it darts off this is why (that or its swam away super fast!). This type of crypsis and the fact that they have some seriously strong muscles for launching themselves at there prey means they are some mean, kick-ass, predators. And come on, they just look like such an impressive fish, spines and all!

They are also not that fussy on where they habituate, they can pretty much inhabit most coastal waters. They prefer to be deeper and offshore (up to 100m) in winter, and in summer they come back happy to elegantly glide through the waters in estuaries and near shore. But basically, they go where the food goes and don’t really care, what a good mantra for life!

So just as a quick end remark – the reason I began this post off stating I was an angler wasn’t to immediately say I was taking that side, but instead just to highlight that through this hobby I have had amazing encounters with this fish, even if they were released afterwards. With any luck these quotas are just what this species needs to help bump up their numbers again (but only time will tell), because I for one want to see this species a lot more and for a lot longer!

Any comments, questions, opinions or stories about the brilliant bass you’ve encountered tweet me on twitter @marinemumbles. Liked the illustration? Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with all my latest art.

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