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RSA Strategy delayed

Aug 25,2006 SACN

Following the revelations in the Prime Ministers Strategy Unit’s Net Benefits report of the large number of participants in Recreational Sea Angling (RSA), and of the social and economic benefits that brings to the nation.

And the realisation that the potential for development of the sector is huge, but dependent upon the way that some fish stocks are managed in UK waters.

A team within DEFRA were given specific responsibility for ensuring the development of the sector, and for dealing with all issues relating to the RSA Sector.

The rather small Coastal Waters Policy Branch has however a large number of other issues for which they are responsible, and seek to progress what could be controversial issues through a process of consultation with all stakeholders.

When representatives of a number of RSA organisations first met with DEFRA officials from the Coastal Waters Policy Branch to discuss a strategy for the development of RSA, it was explained to them that things were unlikely to happen very quickly.

With some campaigners present who had been working towards the development of such a strategy for years, and who’s expectations had been buoyed by Government talk of the need to fully recognise the RSA sector and to work towards its further development, the realisation that they had been put on a ‘slow train’ was not accepted well.

And the process has proved frustrating for some, with detailed discussions with other stakeholders requiring more meetings than had been originally envisaged.

We now learn that an important meeting previously scheduled for the 4th September has now been postponed, because of delays caused due to the amount of work that has been needed on other issues.

SACN sympathises with the demands upon the poorly resourced Coastal Waters Team, and is conscious of other initiatives delayed in the past, both when being progressed by the team and its predecessors, especially the Bass Management Plan, which suffered when resources were diverted to dealing with putting in place measures to restrict the pair trawling of bass, and subsequent legal challenges.

We also understand that all government departments are under severe cost constraints.

However, having found RSA on the ‘slow train’, we find it unacceptable that development of policy that will enable measures to be put in place that will not only develop the sector’s potential, but will necessarily improve the angling experience for many present and future participants, is delayed as the ‘slow train’ is shunted onto the sideline to allow other traffic through.
The progress to date hardly matches the rhetoric that has been used by DEFRA and the Government when it has assured anglers, and the businesses and livelihoods that depend upon them, that their needs and aspirations will be given the kind of recognition and support that they warrant.

Much has been made in some quarters of ‘progress’ to date, but progress is only meaningful when that is seen by anglers on the beach, and on the water, in the form of more and particularly larger fish.

Until that occurs, meetings, involvement and recognition have no meaning at all, they are only steps towards the goal of better fishing for all, and that sometimes seems as far away as it has ever been.

SACN will be writing to the government, drawing attention to the disquiet felt by many at not only the slowness of the process, but at the delays that are occurring, and suggesting that if the Coastal Waters Policy Branch needs more resources to properly and expeditiously service its responsibilities towards the RSA sector, that these are provided.       


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