The National Bass Programme is dedicated to the research and conservation of European sea bass. Bass were commercially fished in Irish waters until the 1990s, when the stock collapsed. Since that time, they are the only marine fish species to be managed solely for recreational angling, with strict byelaws limiting the numbers and sizes permitted for capture. The bass fishing season changes annually, subject to European legislation, and is based on stock assessments carried out by Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Our survey approach
The National Bass Programme monitors young bass in estuaries each year at key nursery areas. For these surveys, we use a mixture of netting methods, including beach seine netting and beam trawling. Beach seine netting involves deploying a long fine-meshed net to surround fish living in the shallow marginal areas and is useful for catching very young bass (fry). Beam trawls are bag-shaped nets that are deployed from a boat and pulled along the bottom for a short distance. These nets capture pre-adult bass, which are between one and four years of age in the lower reaches of the estuary.
Using this information, we can determine areas that are important for various stages of their life-cycle and establish index sites that are representative of good spawning locations.
Citizen Science – get involved by collecting scales or reporting tagged fish
Information on older bass is collected in collaboration between Inland Fisheries Ireland and citizen scientists. A citizen scientist is a member of the public who voluntarily contributes information towards scientific research. As a bass angler, this can be you!
Bass anglers interested in contributing to the programme can collect scale samples and even tag bass on behalf of the National Bass Programme. You can also report tagged fish that you catch.
A simple fish scale can tell us a lot about a fish and reveal the fascinating details of its life-history. Fish scales grow bigger as the fish gets older, with new layers of growth deposited around the scale each year, in much the same way as the rings of a tree trunk. By counting these layers or rings and the spacing between them, we can determine the age of a fish, its growth rate and other information about its life. See our webpage on fish ageing techniques for more information.
Tagging supplements fish scale information and gives us valuable clues about patterns of migration. If you have caught a tagged bass, please measure it, note the tag code and release it again. Tags may be covered in algae, so keep your eyes peeled. Find more instructions on how to report tagged bass on our citizen science webpage, and read more about how we tag and track fish on our tagging and telemetry webpage.
How to take scale samples for the project
Please collect scale samples from any bass you catch. Scales from all sizes of bass are required.
- Wet hands and equipment when sampling live fish. Place a wet hand or damp cloth over the head of the fish to calm it.
- Scales should be sampled from under the pectoral fin (see diagram).
- Please use a plastic knife or similar to take up to 5 scales, and store scales in envelope provided.
- Measure total length of fish using measuring tape (indicated on diagram).
- LENGTH INFORMATION IS ESSENTIAL — state if using centimetres or inches.
- Fill in the date of capture and the location (county and nearest town).
- Fill in weight if possible — state if kilograms or pounds.
- Fill in your name and contact number on the back of each envelope.