Bass, as shown above (Image: Keith Hiscock), are one of the species being studied by scientists from the UK, France and Belgium. I, and other members of BASS, have followed the project with interest since it’s start in 2021, and I was keen to hear all about it at the conference held at Plymouth University on the 2nd March.
There are gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the movements and habitat preferences of bass at different stages in their lifecycle, and projects like these aim to add to this knowledge. In this way, areas and stages in their lives when they are especially vulnerable can be identified. This in turn can lead to ‘smarter’ ecosystem based fisheries management which takes these things into account. Not only this, but other things like the interaction of fishing methods with other species, such as dolphins and seals, and the abundance of prey species that support bass.
I found the presentations enjoyable, informative and inspiring in equal measures. The main findings of the project are currently being written up, but researchers have already discovered that some seabass travel from the south coast of Devon to the coasts of Belgium over the space of a number of months.
We seem to have grown accustomed to ‘virtual’ or online events, but it was nice to be able to attend in-person again, especially in the presence of such eminent authorities in their field. It was a great opportunity to meet the people involved in the project and other stakeholders.
Riding with fish
The idea of tagging fish, so that we can ride with them as they move about the seas, has always fascinated me. Back in the early 2000’s, I, and other members of BASS, was involved in a major bass tagging project looking at Migrations, fishery interactions, and management units of sea bass in Northwest Europe.
This project used tags which simply record the release and recapture site (where this is available), and not the journey in between. Being able to track fish implanted with sound-emitting acoustic tags using a network of receivers as they move around, gives much more comprehensive information. This network will remain in place, even though the project has closed, thereby continuing to record the movements of fish which have been tagged. The network is expanding too, enabling movements over an even wider scale to be picked up, and the network is being shared by scientists working on other species and projects using similar types of tagging systems.
As I arrived for the conference at the Marine Station at Plymouth University, it felt like I had reached my happy place. I was immediately transported back in time to Bangor University, where I attended a vacation course in marine biology as a youth in the late sixties. All these years later, I can still remember the field trips towing for plankton, and looking for seaweed in the Menai Strait. I was truly inspired by this, but at the time employment opportunities in this field seemed limited, and life took me in another direction.
My love of the sea started when my father’s RAF career took us to Malta. Daily visits to the beach, swimming and snorkelling in the mediterranean, somehow embedded the sea in my psyche. But it wasn’t until I got a job in the Haematology and Blood Transfusion Lab at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in the early eighties, that this love affair was finally consummated.
Living, and raising a family in Cornwall, coupled with a passion for sea angling, fuelled this interest in all things marine, but it wasn’t until retirement that I was able to indulge my interest in the more scientific aspects.
Messing about on the Fal and Helford rivers surveying juvenile bass with Derek Goodwin, was the perfect way to combine my passion for bass angling with a love of the practical aspects of marine biology, the seeds of which had been sown in Bangor all those years ago.
That’s it for this month folks, soon be time to get the rods out again.
Thanks for reading,