Bream, Black or porgy or seabream
Capture method — Rod & line
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — UK
Stock detail —
Black bream stocks currently appear to be in a healthy state, however there is a lack of stock assessment and appropriate management measures in force for the species. They are moderately vulnerable to fishing in terms of growth rate and fecundity, and the species spawning behavioural traits make them especially vulnerable to bottom trawling. Trawling for black bream can destroy both nests and eggs. Black bream caught with rod and line or gillnet is a more sustainable option. Cornwall, North Western and Sussex IFCA districts, as well as North Wales, have the best management for black bream and are currently the most sustainable areas to source from (Sussex has mesh regulations and closed areas for the spawning season and Cornwall, Sussex, North Western and North Wales prohibit landing of seabream below 23 cm). Avoid eating immature black bream (below 23 cm) caught prior to and during their spawning season (April & May in UK inshore waters), thus allowing them chance to spawn or reproduce.
A member of a group of fish known as Sparidae, the black bream is one of two species commonly found in northern European seas. Found off south-west Britain and east Ireland in the English Channel and the Irish Sea. Spawning occurs in April and May in a number of inshore waters, such as the English Channel. Black bream are unusual in that they are sequential hermaphrodites (undergoing a sex change during their lives), maturing as females at a length of 23cm, then as males at around 30cm. All fish over 40cm are males. The maximum reported age, length and weight are 15 years, 60cm and 1.2kg respectively.They are found over seagrass beds and rocky and sandy bottoms between about 5m to 300m. Black bream lay eggs in a nest that the male has excavated on sand with its tail. The larger the female, the more fecund or more eggs she lays, e.g. a female of 18.5cm will lay aroud 31,000 eggs compared to a female of 33.5cm which lays around to 554,000 eggs. Gregarious, sometimes in large schools. Omnivorous, feeding on seaweeds and small invertebrates, especially crustaceans. Likely predators on black bream eggs are clawed crustaceans. Adult black bream have few predators, however a few are likely to be taken by seabirds and marine mammals. An important food fish.
The hermaphroditic nature of black bream may have important consequences for the sustained reproductive capacity of the stock. Between 1977 and 1979 the modal size of black bream decreased from 37-38cm to 28-30cm as the bream fishery expanded (the fishing practices used to catch black bream selectively targets larger individuals); this has the potential to effect the sex ratio of the population and thus reproduction and repopulation. There is no formal stock assessment for black bream and as the stock is not evaluated against precautionary limits, the precise state of the stocks are unknown. The species is moderately vulnerable but there is currently no evidence that the fishery is experiencing overfishing. Although stocks in the English Channel were heavily fished in the 1970s and 1980s they have recovered in recent years and appear to be in a healthy state. As water temperatures in the English Channel increase in the spring, the stock migrates eastwards into shallower water to feed prior to breeding. Post spawning, they continue to feed inshore, migrating east to the southern North Sea. In November they begin their return migration west, arriving in the western Channel in January then return offshore to deeper waters.
There is a lack of adequate management measures for the conservation of black bream. Black bream may receive some protection from the EU fixed net technical measure which requires a mesh size of at least 220mm where catches comprise 70% or more seabream. In EU waters no Minimum Landing Size is specified for the species. However, in some Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) Districts e.g. Cornwall, Sussex, North Western and North Wales, local bylaws prohibit landing of seabream below 23 cm. But as a consequence of their changes in sex, a MLS of 23cm does not protect 100% of the juveniles and many will be caught before they have matured and spawned. Sussex IFCA also enforces mesh regulations and closed areas during the spawning season. As black seabream are sequential hermaphrodites (changing from female to male with age), as well as a minimum landing size, a maximum landing size of 40cm may also benefit the species as this will allow protection for mature males as well as mature females. The species spawning behavioural traits make the species especially vulnerable to bottom trawling. Their being sequential hermaphrodites is also a cause for concern as the stock requires a balanced age structure to reproduce successfully. The fact that males show significant paternal investment in creating and guarding eggs also emphasises the need for conservation of an appropriate sex ratio. Seasonal closures, such as those in Sussex, to protect spawning fish are required.
Rod & line is a selective method of fishing (provided only mature fish are landed) and has no impact on the seabed. Seabream is a ‘non-pressure’ stock and as such it is not subject to quota restrictions.
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