Bass, seabass (Caught at sea)

Dicentrarchus labrax

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All applicable methods
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Bay of Biscay North and Central
Stock detail — 8a, 8b
Picture of Bass, seabass (Caught at sea)

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

The fishing pressure on this stock is too high. Stock structure remains poorly known and further studies (including tagging, genetics, or other types of markers) are needed. Pelagic trawling in the Bay of Biscay is associated with concerning levels of dolphin bycatch and mortality, particularly of common dolphin.


Bass or seabass belongs to a family of spiny-finned fish called Moronidae, which are closely related to groupers. Bass breed from March to mid-June, mostly in April, in British coastal and offshore waters, from January to March in the Bay of Biscay and from February to May in the English Channel and eastern Celtic Sea. It is a long-lived and slow growing species - up to 30 years of age - and can achieve a length of up to 1m with a weight of 12kg. Male bass mature at 31-35cm (aged 3-6 years) and females mature at 40-45cm (aged 5-8 years). Once mature, bass may migrate within UK coastal waters and occasionally further offshore. Increases in sea water temperature in recent decades has likely led to a more northerly distribution of seabass, as it is now found further north into the North Sea. Climate warming may also have lengthened the time adult seabass spend in the summer feeding areas. After spawning, seabass tend to return to the same coastal sites each year.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

Bay of Biscay North and Central

Stock information

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has declined since 2010 and is now near MSY Btrigger. The fishing mortality (F) has fluctuated around FMSY since 2000 and is now just above FMSY. The recruitment (R) is variable over time. The lowest values in the time-series have occurred since 2009.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY; and spawning stock size is just above MSY Btrigger.
ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, total catch (commercial and recreational removals) in 2019 should be no more than 2495 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

ICES is not aware of any agreed precautionary management plan for sea bass in this area. There is no total allowable catch (TAC) agreed for the stock in this area.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

In 2017 23% of the total estimated catch in this fishery was from recreational fishing and 75% from commercial fishing (with the remaining 2% from commercial discards). The commercial catch was split between the following capture methods as follows: Gillnets: 28%; Lines: 32%; Bottom trawl: 22%; Pelagic trawl: 11%; Danish seine: 4%; Purse seine: 2%; Others: 1%.

Pelagic trawling in the Bay of Biscay is associated with concerning levels of dolphin bycatch and mortality, particularly of common dolphin. Nets are trawled between two boats, targeting spawning aggregations of seabass that are also attractive to dolphins. Based on the number of strandings, it was estimated that in 2017 up to 4,000 common dolphins were killed in the Bay of Biscay by fishing: this level of mortality would likely contribute to a decline in the common dolphin population there. France is carrying out research and developing plans (including acoustic repellents, avoidance tactics, better data collection and quantified mortality reduction targets) to reduce dolphin mortality from bycatch. Some measures are already required under EU legislation, but these have not yet resulted in a reduction in bycatch.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast Ecoregion. bss.27.8ab. Published 31 October 2018. Available at: (Accessed November 2018)

Peltier, H., Authier, M., Deaville, R., Dabin, W., Jepson, P. D., van Canneyt, O., Daniel, P., Ridoux, V. 2016. Small cetacean bycatch as estimated from stranding schemes: The common dolphin case in the northeast Atlantic. Environmental Science and Policy, 63: 7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.05.004

Dars, C., Dabin, W., Demaret, F., Doremus, G., Meheust, E., Mendez-Fernandez, P., Peltier, H., Spitz, J., Van Canneyt, O. 2017. Les echouages de mammiferes marins sur le littoral francais en 2017. Reseau National Echouages (RNE), Rapport annuel. Available at [Accessed on 22.03.2019]