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Worth of Recreational Sea Angling

Aug 06,2006 sacn

Economics of Recreational Sea Angling

Version: July 2009.

Compiled by the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network

The first time I ever put a bait in saltwater, it was to catch crabs.

Many years later I hate to think how much money I've spent on my pastime of sea angling.

There is an old joke amongst anglers "My greatest fear is that I will die suddenly and my wife will sell my fishing tackle for what I've told her I paid for it!"

I expect that if my wife ever worked out how much those rods, reels, weights and a thousand and one other bits and pieces in the tackle room are worth, a sudden death would be a realistic possibility.

And over the years, the amount spent not only on bait and tackle, but boats and engines, fishing holidays ............... I daren't dwell too long on that, it's frightening.

But all of that money has gone not only towards my pleasure, but towards supporting the business and livelihoods of those who make a living from servicing the needs of the UK's Recreational Sea Anglers, from charter boat skippers and crew, bait suppliers, tackle shops and their employees, through to boat builders, guest houses and waterside cafes.

When a fisherman claims that his activity is about earning a living, whereas angling is just about having fun, he is missing something quite fundamental.       

Wherever the commercial landed catch is valued, it also includes the value of species that are of no interest at all to anglers. 

Crustaceans, shellfish, nephrops (prawns), hake, monkfish etc.  

And those species of most interest to anglers are usually of no great importance to the commercial sector eg mullet, conger eel, wrasse, flounder, tope and hounds and other small sharks and rays,  etc, even bass.

Bearing that in mind it’s estimated that the proportion of the commercial catch for which anglers and fishermen compete, and which supports the bulk of the £1 billion worth of the Recreational Sea Angling sector, is no more than £50 million.

Also to be considered is that anglers who fish from beaches and piers are limited to fishing only that narrow inshore strip that is within casting distance, and owners of small angling boats cannot usually venture far from shore.

As well as being dependent on a fairly narrow range of mostly commercially unimportant species, the overwhelming largest percentage of sea angling activity takes place far away from the activities of most commercial fishing.

(see:  The Golden Mile )

Also to be borne in mind is that when policies have been put in place to enhance the 'Angling Experience'  (More and bigger fish and an increased mix of species), the value of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector has soared.
(ie Following the recovery of the USA Recreational Striped Bass Fishery  between 1981 and 1996 the consequential expenditure increased from $85 million to $560 million over the same period by anglers fishing for striped bass). 
Of more value than comparing the current value of the sector would be an exercise to determine the realistic potential value of the different sectors given favourable management objectives aimed at development of the sectors (the Net Benefits report gives the likely outcome for the catching sector based on different scenarios that shows that at best, only limited growth would be possible, maybe as much as £650 million given extremely favourable conditions and acceptance by the industry of some severe retrenchment)

What should be emphasised is that the figures show that the value of the RSA sector is huge, and of great social and economic importance, increasing the quality of life of it’s millions of participants and providing livelihoods and business opportunities, often in coastal communities, and that it is capable of producing considerable additional growth if management policies are adopted to increase the quality of the angling experience.

And its growth potential is far bigger than any estimate of its current value.

Another relevant comparison to be carried out is: How much taxpayer’s money is used to support the catching sector in the way of costs for administration, science, grants, enforcement etc., compared to how much is returned by the catching sector into the public purse.
Compared to how much is paid into the public purse by the Recreational Sea Angling Sector (VAT approaching UKP100million!) and how much public money is used to support the RSA sector?

Recent Studies

July 2009

A study commissioned by the Scottish Government published

Details at:


January 2009

A three year lottery funded study into 'The social and Community Benefits of Angling' is starting this month.

Details at http://www.substance.coop/angling

January 2009

Fisheries Economics of the United States 2006

Recreational fishing generated its highest economic effect in total sales and jobs generated in Florida ($7.6 billion sales, 131,000 jobs); Texas ($2.2 billion sales, 34,000 jobs); California ($1.9 billion sales, 23,000 jobs); North Carolina ($1.2 billion sales, 24,000 jobs); and Louisiana ($1.2 billion sales, 27,000 jobs).


December 2007 A report: "Hunting and Fishing: Bright Stars of the American Economy ~ A force as big as all outdoors" along with STATE FACTS is available on the Web at http://www.nssf.org/07report.

In January 2007 a pan European Study was published, giving details of the value of Marine Recreational Fisheries throughout the EU.

"Recreational fishing constitutes a considerable social and economic activity.

Total expenditure on recreational fishing across Europe is believed to exceed €25 billion a year.

By comparison, the 1998 value of commercial landings in the 15 EU member states was estimated at €20 billion"


and at:


(The European Anglers Alliance have also compiled a comprehensive compedium of information relating to the Socio-economic value of angling in Europe which is accessible at: http://www.eaa-europe.org/index.php?id=19 )

In June 2006, the EU launched a Green Paper on Maritime Affairs, it states:

“One important relationship in the context of leisure activities is that between angling and fisheries.

The European Anglers Alliance states that Europe has an estimated 8-10 million recreational anglers at sea with a related industry of € 8 to 10 billion.

There seems little doubt that the value to the coastal economy of a fish caught by an angler exceeds the value of the same fish caught for commercial purposes by a fishing boat.”


A paper produced by Struan Stevenson MEP states

"There are an estimated 8 million recreational sea anglers in the European Union.

Due to their collective expenditure on a whole variety of specialist fishing items, recreational anglers add substantially to the economy.

The importance of recreational fishing can be seen throughout the EU, for example in the UK, recreational bass fishing is thought to be four times more valuable than commercial fishing of the same species."


In April 2006 The Environment Agency published ‘Fishing for the Future’

“2.6 million (6%) of the 43 million people aged over 12 in England and Wales went fishing in freshwaters in the last year.

1.5 million people fished just in the sea.

With over 4 million people fishing last year, it is probably the nation’s favourite outdoor participation sport.

Even more people fish less frequently, with 20% (8.3 million) having been freshwater fishing in the last 10 years.

• About as many people again would like to try or return to angling if it were easier for them.


April 10 - 2006: The Relative Economic Contributions of U.S. Recreational and Commercial Fisheries


English Nature Research Reports, Number 448.

Executive Summary - Para 3 P6 of 18

" As a result we can only hazard a guess at the scale of economic value of inshore fisheries . Inshore boats( 10 m and under) make up most  of the fishing fleet, accounting for around  80% of all registered vessels in England & Wales, and around 60 % of active fishermen work the inshore waters.

The best estimate of the value of commercial landings from these waters is about £ 35 million, or 25 % of all landings into England & Wales by UK registered boats.

But the real economic value of the inshore waters is a good deal higher.

Around one million sea anglers fish the inshore waters of England & Wales once a year, generating £ 140 million income for the coastal economy.

Revenue from inshore fisheries is particularly important in some rural regions, though by contrast with ports of Scotland very few areas south of the border can truly be called fisheries dependent."


In February 2005, the Environment Agency published ‘a better environment, healthier fisheries ‘

Although concerned with Freshwater Fisheries, the social benefits provided by the development of Recreational Sea Angling are very much the same.

"Healthier fisheries means healthier local communities and economies was the message from the Environment Agency at the launch of 'A better environment, healthier fisheries: better fisheries for our nations' today.

"Fisheries is about more than just fishing and our work is a key influence on local economies throughout England and Wales," Dafydd Evans, Head of Fisheries, said today.

"Angling creates jobs and prosperity, extends visitor seasons and creates more business for restaurants, pubs, shops and hotels."

Full Report at:


See also: http://www.anglers-net.co.uk/sacn/latest/index.php?view=514

In August 2005, a study by the Environment Agency (‘Public Attitudes to Angling 2005’) notes:

“Based on a population aged 12 and over in England and Wales of 44,254,462 the number of people aged 12 and over who had been sea angling is 3 million.”



The Drew Report

A report into the value of Recreational Sea Angling was commissioned from Drew Associates by DEFRA.

This is generally acknowledged as the most comprehensive report regarding Recreational Sea Angling in England and Wales

Published in July 2004, it calculated that the direct spend by Recreational anglers in the England & Wales amounted to £538 million and the total worth of the sector could be some £1.3 billion.

The report can be downloaded from:


A report entitled ‘A Bio Economic Review Of Recreational Angling for Bass’, produced by the Scarborough Centre for Coastal Studies can be downloaded from:


"Net Benefits"

A report into the UK fishing Industry, produced by  the Prime Ministers Strategy Unit also contains information about the Recreational Angling sector.

It values the recreational sector as being worth ‘at least £1 billion’ and estimates that there are 2 million people who went sea angling in England & Wales in 2002

This report can be downloaded from:


An authoritative  study, conducted by Nautilus consultants, valued the Welsh  Inshore fishery at £8 million per annum. 

It valued the contribution of Recreational Sea Angling to the Welsh economy at £28 million.  The full report (PDF format) can be downloaded from:


(In fact, the Nautilus report was challenged in a document produced by the Countryside Commission of Wales that felt that a truer figure for the economic benefit of Recreational Angling is closer to £57million).

Invest in Fish

A further report on the value of recreational angling has been compiled by Nautilus for the Invest In Fish project in the South-West


Catching Sector

Statistics on the value and employment within the catching sector are available at:


(The value of the landings of the UK fleet, both in the UK and in foreign ports for 2004 was £513 million, again down on previous years)

and at:


Comparison with the value of the catching sector

Attention has been drawn to the apparently greater economic worth of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector over the Commercial Catching Sector and as ‘Best Value Management’ seems to indicate that some stocks could be more usefully managed for development of the Recreational Sector, there has been some reaction to this from proponents of the Commercial Sector.

“The two sectors are very different and cannot be directly compared”

However it is inevitable that such comparisons will be made, and the following points should be borne in mind when doing so.

 The commercial sector is supported by public money in direct subsidies, compensation, administration, research and enforcement etc.  No contribution is made by the commercial sector (fishing boat licences, although now worth many thousands of pounds, were issued to them without charge by the government).  Subtract the amount of public money paid out to maintain the commercial sector from the annual contribution of the sector to the economy and the residual net worth of the sector (if any) is minimal.

 Apart from a few thousand pounds distributed to the Governing Bodies by Sport England, no public money is currently expended to support and develop the Recreational Sea Angling Sector.

 The direct spend of sea anglers in England and Wales is estimated to be £538million, most of this spend will be subject to VAT, contributing significantly to the public purse.  (So whereas commercial fishing is supported out of the public purse the recreational sea angling sector is not, in fact the public purse gains considerably from activities associated with recreational sea angling ie VAT, income tax and corporation tax).

 Those (mostly declining) fish stock resources that support the £538 million direct spend of sea anglers in England & Wales, have a first hand sale value in England & Wales of only £52 million.

 Faced with biological limits that are mostly being exceeded, there is little possibility for development of the commercial sector; rather there is likely to be a need for continuing painful retrenchment to match catching capacity to the marine environment’s capacity before any possible stock restoration on which subsequent limited commercial expansion can take place.  

 Evidence from overseas shows that the economic contribution of the recreational sector (which has low environmental impact and minimum fish mortality) increases several fold when fishery management objectives are changed to deliver a better angling product (more, but more importantly, bigger specimens of those species attractive to sports anglers).  The number of anglers, the number of trips made by each angler and the spend per trip (with good fishing assured, anglers invest more in quality tackle, boats etc) all increase significantly for relatively little investment.

 Much commercial fishing causes environmental damage. Although such environmental damage is not shown in the ‘economic balance sheet’ it has become common for such damage to be valued in terms of services provided by the environment to mankind (ie generation of abundant fish stocks, generating the food chain destroyed by the damage caused to the seabed and its ecology by bottom trawling, disturbance of the marine ecosystem and ecological balance etc) and the cost of replacing these services, as well as the cost of environmental repair and restoration.  These costs should be deducted from the value of the commercial sector.  In contrast there is very little environmental cost associated with the recreational sector.  

 Should money and management be invested in a sector that is in unavoidable decline, or be used to develop the potential of a sector that has huge undeveloped potential?

 Comparing the whole value of each sector is largely irrelevant, anglers are not interested in shellfish, crustaceans and many fin fish and likewise many species of great interest to anglers are of no or little interest to the commercial sector.  Around 60% of the value of the commercial sector can be discounted if attempting to compare the sectors with regard to the species that the sectors can be can be said to have competing management objectives for.  

 When talking of redesignating species for recreational purposes, (eg buying out of salmon licences) the commercial sector will often demand that they be compensated for loss of opportunity.  What should be borne in mind is a) Often we are talking of a declining opportunity, b) Commercial fisherman will have the opportunity of diversifying into the recreational sector (as many farmers have had to do) c) The first hand value of their catch does not represent the value on which compensation needs to be considered, rather all the costs associated with obtaining that catch need to be deducted to arrive at a net value to the fishermen who are being asked to forgo that catch in future.  Government revenues from increased recreational activity (VAT etc) will often surpass that figure.  

 The point is often made that when the value of the catching sector is expressed as the first hand value of the landed catch, that it must be remembered that fishermen also spend money on boats, fuel, wages etc and that this spending by the sector should also be included.  But the money that fisherman have to spend on boats, loans, wages, fuel, equipment etc all has to be paid from the money they make by selling the fish they catch.  It cannot be counted twice!

 But the fishing industry also supports other jobs such as in fish processing, fish and chip shops etc!  What has to be remembered is that 85% of the fish processed in the UK comes from abroad. And those ‘UK jobs’ in the processing sector are often filled by seasonal immigrant workers, who send much of their earnings back home to support their families there (and this is increasingly true of UK fishing boat crewmen).

“Over the 25 years since 1981, there has been a very substantial increase in the amount of fish which is imported into the UK from foreign catchers for processing and/or consumption. Only a relatively small proportion of the fish now consumed in the UK is caught by the UK fleet while much of the fish caught by the UK fleet is exported. The health of the UK catching sector is no longer of such central importance to the UK seafood industry.”

The Drew report states:

“Conclusions on the contribution of sea angling to the national economy have to be made with care. Cessation of the activity would not result in the loss of 18,890 jobs. Expenditure would be displaced into other directions with corresponding benefits to employment and income.”

But that statement is true of almost all economic sectors.

For instance, if the commercial fishing industry was to disappear, then equally consumers would spend the same money now spent on fish on sausages and cheese sandwiches etc, leading to a displacement of fishing related jobs into food processing and the dairy industry etc, with no overall loss of employment.

In any case, the validity of the statement needs to be challenged.

- If anglers were to take up golf (and similar activities), then it is unlikely that the jobs of people previously employed within tackle shops would be replaced by an equal number of jobs within the golf equipment shops etc, it is more likely that the increased trade by the golf equipment shops would be absorbed by the current infrastructure as additional profit, without any corresponding new job creation.

- It also ignores the fact that many of those anglers would simply stay at home to read the Sunday paper, or take the dog for a walk, rather than engaging in another activity that would generate significant economic value.

- Faced with a declining opportunity to pursue their sport in the UK, many anglers already choose instead to spend their money and seek better angling opportunities overseas, whether fishing for striped bass in Cape Cod, barramundi in Queensland, cod in Norway, or big bass in Ireland.  There is no reason why many of the German, Dutch and other European anglers who spend money chasing big bass in Ireland (where commercial fishing for bass is banned) should not be making shorter journeys to parts of the UK, except currently the fishing opportunities are not comparable, and American and German accents are rarely heard from anglers on UK beaches as the potential jobs they would support go elsewhere. 

- Many UK angling services, charter boats and guides have already relocated their business outside of the UK, where the ‘angling experience’ is superior.  Real business, real jobs, gone from our shores.

 From Western Morning News.(WMN) 1/5/2003

Figures quoted by Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive for SW
Tourism as follows :

" Eight per cent of our visitors come to the West Country for fishing -
three per cent for coarse fishing and five per cent for sea fishing and with
a total of 10 million visitors per year bringing in £2 Billion of revenue
you can work out for yourself that the result (angling ban due to fish
feeling pain) would be devastating"

five per cent (sea anglers) of 10 million visitors - 500,000 visitors
equal to the population of Cornwall)

pro rata 5 per cent of £2 billion revenue contribution to SW Region - £100

The Channel Islands.


The Island’s’ fisheries authority have formally recognised that the economic value of the recreational sector likely dwarfs that of the commercial sector and consequently, have recommended that an "audit" of recreational activity be carried out.
In exit polls, conducted when visitors leave the island, 9,500 visitors replied that quality sea angling would be a principal reason to visit Jersey & 14,000 said it would enhance their visit.

The sea angling potential of Jersey has been marketed for upwards of 20 years using the phrase "where owning a fishing rod is second nature".

In 2001, despite very modest advertising the Jersey Bass Festival (225 competitors total) welcomed 40 visitors to the island from S Africa, France, Ireland and the UK - last year saw 150 competitors and visitors. 2003 will see a new Jersey Tourism supported week long angling competition in June, together with the launch of a new tourist targeted angling web site and guide book.

Alderney has had an annual angling festival each October for over 15 years - their second largest revenue generating tourism attraction each year - Island pop. 2500 - max. number of participants = 200 (100 visitors)

Guernsey likewise has an annual bass festival that hosts 30 visitors each year, additionally they also regularly receive NFSA delegations of anglers and stop-over angling boat charters (as does Alderney).

The Jersey Junior Sea Angling Festival has been running for 25 years and each year (weather permitting) has up to 200 competitors - sponsored by local tackle outlets, Jersey Tourism and a number of other commercial interests - very much part of the annual programme - "everyone" started there and it is not uncommon to see three generations of anglers from the same family together on the breakwater with picnics, etc.

This is all taking place "as things are" - with restoration/regeneration of stocks and better RSA recognition, angling could do for coastal communities what surfing has done for Newquay.     The winners of the 2001 Jersey Junior Festival.

Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit

In October 2003, at a ‘Stake Holder Event’ in Newcastle, the Prime Minister’ Strategy Unit held that Recreational Sea Angling is worth £1.3 billion pound, with 2 million people going sea angling at least once in 2002. 

This compares with an optimistic valuation of the commercial sector at £640 million by 2015.


From a document produced by the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (October 2005)


In the European Union there are 2900 companies, (manufacturers, and wholesalers) trading in Recreational Fishing tackle and representing 60.000 jobs.

These 2900 companies make an annual turnover of 5 Billion Euros.

The Fishing tackle Trade serves 25 Million Recreational Fishermen representing through 12900 Tackle shops that employ another 39.000 people.

A great deal of these livelihoods rely on sea angling taking place round the North Sea.

Many rural and remote communities benefit from sea angling with regards to jobs and economic activity.

25 Million Recreational Fishermen spend an estimated 25 Billion Euros per year on equipment transportation and lodging in the 25 EU countries.

For the North Sea region we estimate the socio-economic value to be ca. GBP 1 billion / Euro 1,45 billion (we believe this is a very conservative estimate given there is insufficient data for the North Sea region alone).

Other Sources

There is a wealth of other information available on the Internet, from various countries, that can be found using search engines and entering phrases such as ‘value of recreational angling’


http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=value of recreational angling&btnG=Google Search

Angling is becoming big politics. It’s not just about the value, and it’s not just about the sense of well-being that successful angling trips bring to 2 million or so recreational sea anglers, it’s also about the involvement of their families in that, increasing the number affected several times over.

And not just anglers and their families, it’s also very much about those employed in servicing angling; bait-diggers, tackle-shop workers, charter skippers etc. And it’s about the workers in tourism in those places and coastal communities made more attractive by good angling opportunities.

It’s about building a healthy marine environment that can deliver a substantial sustainable socio-economic value from an activity that will not destroy it, providing alternative employment opportunities for those who love going to, and those who love being close to the sea.“


Related news

» Undiscovered Value
by Leon posted on Jul 06,2007
» Europe’s flourishing sea angling “too valuable to be left to chance”
by SACN posted on Nov 21,2006
» Letter to Carwyn Jones
by John Morgan posted on Nov 02,2006
» Value of Hunting and Fishing
by SACN posted on Dec 19,2007
» Fighting For Fish
by Leon posted on Aug 03,2006

comment Comments (2 posted) 
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(Posted on June 23, 2018, 12:51 am RECmymn)

  • Never be afraid to think about how much money you spend on angling. I think about it everyday but am greatful that I stopped spending it on drink, cigarettes and all the other things that were impacting negatively on my life many years ago. There are far worse things in life to spend your cash on than angling - that's what I tell my wife when she moans about the price of my latest 525 mag. As for angling being big business - Coming from Whitby one of the countries top angling venues I can say it always has been - its part of our life/culture. Whether it should become part of a political game is debatable.
(Posted on January 17, 2007, 5:22 pm Glenn Kilptrick)

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