If someone asked you compare the value of sea angling with commercial fishing in England, which do you think is of greater financial worth? Given all you see in the media about the importance of commercial fishing and of threats to the industry, it’s logical to imagine that fish landings contribute significantly to the economy. At the same time sea angling barely gets a mention, so you might well conclude its value is insignificant by comparison.

On Wednesday Sea Angling 2012 reported its findings on the socio-economic impacts of sea angling in England


I was pushed for time when it was released, yet at a glance the headline figures provided crucial ammunition to help get our interests as sea anglers properly valued in fish stocks management decisions. To my slightly bass angling bias eyes the headline figures were:

There are 884,000 of us sea anglers in England.
• Sea angling supported £2.1 billon of spending and supported 23,600 jobs in England (when indirect effects are also taken into account.)
• Its estimated anglers catch between 380 and 690 tonnes of bass in England, of which 230 to 440 tonnes are kept ( This compares to commercial landings in 2012 of 897 tonnes)


3 of the over 800,000 sea anglers

On Thursday I planned to make time to try and look up some additional data and make a comparison of angling against the economic value of commercial fishing. Fortunately Malcolm Gilbert (from The Angling Trust and a BASS member) did the sums independently and circulated them privately. I have checked the figures he produced – I needed to as they are hard to take in – but they are accurate, pure dynamite and something everyone should be aware of. The following is extracted from what Malcolm sent me:

The first sale value of ALL commercial landings into England [Sea Angling 2012 is ONLY about England] is only £164 million and that includes a wide range of species such as lobsters, cockles, monkfish, lemon sole, hake that are of no direct interest to recreational anglers. If from this list you include only the species of interest to both commercial fishing and anglers alike, you are left with commercial landings worth just £35 million at market in 2012.

So those fishery resources upon which the recreational angling sector across England are dependent, and which drive £2 billion worth of expenditure, are ONLY WORTH £35 million to commercial fishing! Yes, that’s right! First sale landings value – what the fishermen receive – is less than 2% of what sea anglers put into the economy.

Sure, the first sale value of fish does create additional economic impacts downstream with transport, packaging, processing, wholesaling and retailing. One economic report carried out in the South West about ten years ago gave a multiplication figure of 2.7 to encompass ALL economic impacts, but even if we multiply £35 million by 2.7 we still only make less than £100 million – still less than 5% of the revenue driven from recreational sea angling.

And yet we have a Government department costing tax payers tens of millions of pounds to manage commercial fishing, referring to the species that support recreational sea angling as ‘commercial species’ and who resolutely refuse to do anything in terms of fisheries management that takes account us anglers.

And don’t be confused with these small values from commercial fishing compared with the £6 billion sea food industry. The UK seafood industry is largely made up of imported seafood and aquaculture, which have absolutely nothing to do with the UK commercial catching sector.

Our public fishery resources are just that – public – and we need a sea change to the way in which the Government views and manages them. Prioritising short term earnings for commercial fishers has to end and the wellbeing of the resources themselves needs to be first priority. Right now, our marine fisheries management isn’t fit for purpose.

After finishing Malcolm’s email I had to take a long pause just to fully absorb the magnitude of the information. Then once I had reflected, my next question was if sea angling brings 20 times as much benefit to the English economy compared to commercial fishing for the same species anglers catch, why the hell are our wants not considered? The bottom line to the answer is we do very little to push our case, while commercial fishermen campaign in a remarkably effective way, using full time parliamentary lobbyists, and over the years have captured the minds of both the British public and the decision makers.


Anglers young and old fishing for the same fish as commercials target contribute over 20 times more to the economy!

When I asked Malcolm if I could use these words of his he told me one other thing that really clarifies why although we have the right arguments we are so poor at influencing opinion. Recently he went to see his MP in his (very coastal) West Cornwall constituency to make the case for angling. His MP, Andrew George, was reportedly highly impressed with his arguments. Amazingly however, he revealed that although subjected to a constant barrage of concerns being expressed from commercial fishermen, this MP has not had a single visit from anyone (be they anglers, tackle shop owner, charter boat skipper etc) to put the case for sea angling.

This is all further proof that we sea anglers really do have highly compelling arguments in our favour: we just need to make them heard. Until then the commercial sector will continue to run roughshod over us and our fisheries will continue to decline. If you live in England, feel outraged and/ or inspired by these figures, do one simple thing and email (or write to) your MP. You don’t even need to find you own words. Just tell them you are a sea angler, paste in the main part of this blog, then ask why fish stocks are only managed for the benefit of commercial fishing rather than to maximise their economic value?

And if you just remember and spread one statistic from this blog, remember this:
If you compare the benefit to economy of the fish caught by commercial fishermen and sea anglers in England, you find sea angling contributes over 20 times as much.

  1. I’ll be sending a copy of this report and the analysis to my MP.

  2. Email sent along with another to George Eustace, Fisheries Minister
    I hope the West Cornwall boys get onto Andrew and put our case for greater representation forward.

  3. Great work Dave. If we all do similar quick things once in a while our future fishing will be the better for it.

  4. Have had ackowledgements from both and apparently a reply is on its way from Steve Gilbert, MP for St. Austell and Newquay. He can be contacted by email at
    A quick google search will throw up your MP contact details. I think it just needs a quick line asking that they read the attached report and analysis and consider giving sea anglers a bigger voice in decision making as they contribute so much to the economy. I guess that George Eustice is the one that also needs contacting as he is fisheries minister. It takes about 5 minutes tops and if we all do it then we could make a difference. Nothing whatsoever to lose by doing this.

  5. Fantastic Dave! Not only do you get to feel good about your excellent efforts but your post must put you in with a good shout of winning one of the Bass and BASS books ( see previous blog.)

    Inspired by your efforts I am about go email my local Bristol MP now.

  6. Andrew George has a short memory. We have shared emails regarding the issues and he visited me at my home last month to discuss face to face . I just wish other stakeholders would have a little faith or conviction and send an email or write a letter

  7. GOOD and nice picture and fine fish thanks

  8. As someone said (? Michael Kennedy but I’m sure Malcolm will correct me) a bass in the surf is worth 20x a bass in the fish box. Come on guys , I can’t believe the modern generation of anglers will let the old farts brigade take all the fish!

  9. Got a response from Steve G who has written to Dept of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking for a response to our concerns. Now if we could all do this . . . . . . . it may start to make a difference.
    If you don’t shout no one is going to hear you.

  10. Hello to all you spiky lovers out there!
    I am afraid that I have to introduce myself as an interested and concerned member of of the greater enemy. Why you ask? Simples. For the last nine years I have been running a licensed small fishing vessel targeting bass, all on rod and line. My degree of success along with a few others has relied on healthy numbers of fish with that cunning ability to mock all but the gifted (jammy buggers) few! The truth is, or sadly was that those jammy buggers have nothing more than a long history and mental picture of where these fish where likely to be and feeding at any given time. I have shown many times that if you put yourself over feeding bass with the correct approach they are possibly the easiest of fish to catch. A mixed approach of taking small to medium fish from huge shoals on plastics when the opportunity was there or picking off large fish on perfectly presented live baits seemed to have little effect on things. I would now say that this has changed massively and that talk of a 20 per cent reduction or even the 36 per cent that has been recently suggested is a huge under estimation. I would suggest that stocks of mature breeding fish may now may be 36 or even 20 per cent of what they were. The reasons behind this I believe are many fold and obviously over exploitation is largely to blame. However the recent trend of targeting larger fish during the autumn migration has resulted in a larger amount of fish being landed but with a greater individual size. In fact the number of large 3 kg fish being landed is better than ever. Therefore the stock must be healthy and thriving and ultimately sustainable? Take into account that there is now probably 20 times the effort by local fishing fleets towards bass fishing due to crazy quota allowances on other species a 20 per cent reduction in landings starts to look a bit more alarming, I hope your starting to get the picture. But hang on a minute didn’t the cod quota work, they couldn’t land cod off here for the last few years and now the waters are teaming with them again! The quota has just been increased massively due to the now unlikely chance that they can catch that many. The management of fish stocks is a minefield of ill informed and poorly collated data traded like shares on the stock market. Also the potential market of commercial fish landings food and otherwise has a potential value that actually makes recreational angling and it’s associated businesses look tiny. I can’t believe that you do not see the business generated by commercial fishing, from Market trader to fishmonger to restaurant to chippy to animal feed to bait supply to all those people supplying boats clothing nets electronics fuel boots moorings insurance servicing repairs etc. Sorry but that angle just doesn’t cut it. I hope now your starting to see. Every person whose life is affected or undermined by another’s activity takes umbrage with that person and fingers the blame at them but that person is most likely reacting to the actions of another. The angler on the beach who doesn’t have a single bite in a perfect surf may blame me for taking to many bass from my little boat on my rod and line while I blame the drift netters for 3 bad days on the wrecks and the drifters blame the pelagic pair trawlers for their poor returns this week. They can only blame poor shagging technique and the change in migration patterns due to global warming for their poor returns! Hang on a minute?How many bass did grandad catch off Dover pier? Suddenly it all becomes clear, too many people n never enough fish!

  11. Response from GEustice / Defra Names deleted

    Dear …………….,
    Minimum Landing Size of Bass

    Thank you for your email of 2 December to George Eustice about minimum landing size (MLS) of bass. I have been asked to reply.

    I would like to assure you that Defra is committed to managing the marine environment for the benefit of all marine users, including recreational fishermen. We also recognise the importance of sea anglers in managing fish stocks and their contribution to the UK economy. We are also aware of the many benefits associated with angling, including the social as well as economic contribution of the sport.

    George Eustice recently launched the results of the Sea Angling 2012 research project, which confirmed many of these benefits. Defra officials are continuing to work alongside representatives of the recreational angling sector and the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities regarding these results and are discussing how the recreational sector can take these results forward for the benefit of their own sector.

    With regards to bass stocks, in February 2013 the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea’s (ICES) published a benchmark assessment report for European bass which indicated the stock levels were declining. It is clear from the conclusions of the ICES report that conservation measures need to be introduced at a European level. Defra has been, and is, continuing to push for effective EU-wide conservation measures that will ensure the stock recovers and becomes sustainable.

    To this end, meetings were held in May, July, September, and November 2013 amongst EU Member States to discuss options for viable solutions to address the commercial exploitation of the bass stock. The European Commission are collating the suggested interim measures to protect bass submitted by Member States in order to seek advice on these measures from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), which it will consider in March 2014.

    However, we are disappointed by the decision to refer the UK’s proposed management measures to their scientific committee rather than acting immediately. Defra Officials have expressed immediate concerns to the Commission drawing attention to the need to protect the spawning aggregation areas during the spring months for 2014, and that STECF advice in March will come too late. The Commission have noted our concerns and are the situation considering further.

    The UK position, supported by most other Member States recommends short term action at EU level with a package of technical measures to address the decline. Potential measures include the closing the major bass spawning areas to all commercial vessels that target bass during the spring months to protect spawning fish and capping the allowable monthly catch per vessel as an EU standard.

    Defra will consider the need for domestic management of bass in context of these discussions and the implications of potential delays to European action.

    Yours sincerely,
    Defra – Customer Contact Unit

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