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Bass Regulations

The following Statutory Instruments detail the restrictions for catching European Seabass for both Commercial and Recreational Fisheries: 

Commercial Fishing for Bass

The commercial catching, retaining, transhipment and landing of bass is subject to the following restrictions: 

  • It is prohibited to retain and land bass in February and March. 
  • During January and from 1st April until 31st December, commercial vessels may fish for, retain, tranship, relocate or land bass with the following gear and within the following limits: 
    • Demersal trawls and seines - maximum 5% by weight of all marine organisms PER TRIP. Unavoidable by-catch 3.8 tonnes (3800kg) per vessel per year. 
    • Hooks and lines - not exceeding 6.2 tonnes per year. 
    • Fixed gillnets - By-catch not exceeding 1.6 tonnes per year. 
    • All other gear types, including ring nets, pelagic trawls and drift nets All bass catches are prohibited.
  • Commercial fisheries using hooks and lines or fixed gillnets require a specific authorisation from  The MMO  to catch and retain bass.
  •  A UK fishing vessel may only carry one authorised fishing gear on a fishing trip when retaining bass on board.
  • Commercial bass fishing from the shore is prohibited with any gear.
  • You must not retain, tranship, land, transport, store, sell, display or offer for sale bass below 42cm (Minimum Conservation Reference Size) in overall length, but must return them immediately to the sea.

Recreational Fishing for Bass

Recreational fishers are subject to the following rules:
  • Recreational fishers using rod and line are prohibited from retaining bass in February and March. Catch and release only is permitted during this period.
  • Outside of February and March, recreational fishers may retain two bass per person, per day.
  • Bass retained outside of February and March must measure at least 42cm in overall length (the Minimum Conservation Reference Size).
  • No bass can be taken by fixed or drift nets.
  • These rules apply when fishing from a boat or from the shore.

The catch and release periods are not the same as for bass nursery areas. Please see below for information on bass nursery areas. In any case, the February and March mandatory catch and release period still applies in bass nursery areas.

View the full Bass Fishing Guidance, including the rules for chartered angling vessels, on the MMO website here - Bass Fishing Guidance 2024 - GOV.UK (

To download a Southern IFCA Recreational Bass leaflet 
click here


Bass Nursery Areas

There are restrictions on fishing for bass in nursery areas at certain times of year, which apply to both commercial and recreational fishers. 

The Bass (Specified Areas) (Prohibition of Fishing) (Variation) Order 1999 sets out the following prohibition for fishing in Bass Nursery Areas:

"Fishing for bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), or fishing for any species of sea-fish using sand-eels (Ammodytidae) as bait, by any fishing boat within any part of the areas described in column 1 of the Schedule to this Order is prohibited during the period specified in relation to each area in column 2 thereof."

Within the Southern IFC District, the areas and specified periods for which the prohibition applies are as follows:

Chichester Harbour Prohibition applies between 30 April and 1 November
Langstone Harbour
Prohibition applies between 30 April and 1 November
Portsmouth Harbour
Prohibition applies between 30 April and 1 November
Southampton Water
Prohibition applies between 30 April and 1 November
Fawley Power Station
Prohibition applies all year
Poole Harbour
Prohibition applies between 30 April and 1 November
The Fleet
Prohibition applies all year

To see further details of these specified areas, please download our Bass Nursery Area resource or click the images to the right. 

Key points:
  • Be aware of the dates when the bass nursery areas are active
  • When active, you must not target bass if fishing from a vessel
  • When active and when using a vessel, you must not use sand eel as bait regardless of species targeted

Net Fishing Byelaw

The Southern IFCA Net Fishing Byelaw specifies that:

A person must not use a net within a Bass Nursery Area in the District if:
a) any bass is carried on the person or on board the vessel; and
b) the net use is taking place during a Bass Nursery Area prohibited period.

Please see Bass Nursery Areas section for details on BNA in the Southern IFCA District.



Credit: Guy Mitchell
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