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Where Do Anglers Stand?

Aug 03,2000 Malcolm Gilbert


On the 25th February 1999 a meeting was held at MAFF Nobel House to discuss the inclusion of recreational angling boats in fisheries closures when the under ten metre fleet had exhausted a specific stock quota.

In the Minutes that were issued by MAFF covering this meeting, the following statement appeared: "MAFF had no direct responsibility for sea angling as a sport; this was for the Department of Culture, Media and National Sport (DCMS). However, MAFF's responsibilities impinged on the activities of sea anglers because of its obligation under community legislation for conserving fish stocks, managing quota and licensing UK fishing vessels".

This means that 'the management of fish stocks' is being undertaken entirely without the requirements of the recreational sector being taken into account. Nevertheless, anglers are legally required to adhere to minimum landing sizes and if the commercial under ten metre quota is exhausted we are also prohibited from retaining any of the species in question.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is the overseeing body for Sport England. Sport England recognises the 'sport' aspect of sea angling and actually pays a small sum by way of grant to assist the governing body for sea angling as indeed it does for other sports. However, the DCMS have no involvement whatsoever in the management of fish stocks.

Conclusion

However you interpret this situation, one thing is quite clear. Recreational sea anglers and the diverse industry that is supported by sea anglers are hugely disadvantaged. Just as a football is an essential ingredient to pursue the sport of soccer, so fish are an essential ingredient for recreational sea anglers. And therein lies the problem. Sea fish stocks are in serious decline. As the prospects of catching fish of a desirable size and type diminish, so the incentive to go angling also diminishes. There exists what can be described as a 'fish availability threshold' and because of commercial overfishing, the availability of fish for sport angling is now seriously below this threshold.

Sea anglers and all those who's livelihoods depend on a healthy recreational sea angling industry are deliberately excluded from having a say in the management of the commonly owned fish stock resources both at National and European levels. This is unfair and unjust. As direct stakeholders in fish stocks, the recreational sector must be allowed to fully participate in the management of these resources. The socio-economic impact of recreational sea angling has been investigated mainly in other countries. However, during the late 80's and early 90's, MAFF commissioned an economic study of the bass fisheries which was carried out by the University of Portsmouth (Centre for Economic & Management of Aquatic Resources) and, as with the findings abroad, the recreational sector has been found to be of significantly higher value than previously thought and often very much higher than the commercial sector. This fact, combined with the much lower fishing mortality levels, has resulted in some species being managed in the USA, primarily or even exclusively for the recreational sector.

The Recreational sector in all it's diversity must rally and support an assertive campaign to restore our fish stocks.



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