The Real Battle (Article 47)
Jan 21,2009 00:00 by SACN

As fishery stocks decline, and quota becomes harder to find, fishing activities which were once far below the radar of concern find themselves dragged unwillingly into the limelight.

The artisanal fisheries of France and the Mediterranean have now been bought firmly into that limelight.

Often carried out by people from island communities, but also widespread along the coast, men with nets go out to catch what has now become significant quantities of fish, primarily to feed their families, but also often selling or trading the surplus within their communities.

Licensed commercial fishermen, themselves subject to strict regulation and control, become incensed at such unrestricted activity, particularly if it means less fish available for them to catch, and the market price of those that they do land is reduced by the supply from unlicensed and unregulated fishermen.

And so in their mind, there is a growing need for regulation of such unregulated fisheries.

The problem for Recreational Sea Angling is that both the unlicensed artisanal fisheries and recreational or sports angling are conveniently (for Brussels) encompassed in the same ‘sector’ and lumped together under the generic label of ‘Recreational Fishing’.

And so proposals for regulation of one activity also by default encompass other activities where such regulation is inappropriate, with no regard for the very different environmental impact, social and economic impact, motivation and problems of application and enforcement.

Article 47 of the proposed Control Regulations is rightly being resisted by Recreational Sea Anglers on a massive scale.

Yet unless Recreational Sea Angling is formally divorced from the catchall term ‘Recreational Fishing’, it must be expected that article 47 will be only the first of many subsequent proposals that are directed at other ‘recreational fishers’ and which are wholly inappropriate for needless application to the Recreational Sea Angling sector.

Regardless of the outcome of the campaign against Regulation 47, the real battle that must be fought and won, is the formal separation within EU fisheries terminology  and regulation of RSA from ‘other recreational fishing’.

Otherwise the way that RSA is likely to be regulated and controlled in the future will be very different to anything that we are familiar with now, and this will be but the first of many such battles that will sap our energies and resources when there is so much else that we should all be reaching for.