Government hooking into sea angling

Sharper focus on recreational sea angling is promised by the government today (October 12) to ensure fish stocks in the inshore waters of England provide long-term economic returns. A team which will work on sea angling policy will be set up by the end of this year.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says maintenance and restoration of fish stocks will continue. Sea anglers have repeatedly told the government this action would help realise the huge economic and social potential of sportfishing.

By the end of the year the fishing industry will be consulted on increasing the size of bass which may be landed. These are particularly important to recreational sea anglers but they believe the move will also benefit commerce fishing.

Immature fish only 36 cm (14 inches) long may currently be landed. Anglers want the size raised to 45 cm (18 inches) when most females will have spawned once.

A further package of measures to produce more and bigger bass will be discussed next year.

Defra promises a decision by the end of the year on ways to modernise inshore fisheries management, currently done by 12 sea fisheries committees set up by parliament nearly 120 years ago.

“At last the Government is listening to the million men, women and children who go sea angling each year and generate £1 billion for the UK economy,” said Richard Ferré chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers’ conservation
group. “We welcome the government acting on the advice anglers gave earlier this year.”

To improve policing, Defra will identify the areas at greatest risk from illegal fishing and the location of the most vulnerable fish stocks, then concentrate its surveillance of fishing accordingly.

Research will be funded into minimising the quantity of undersized fish caught and thrown back dead into the sea (known as discards) from commercial fishing vessels. It will also develop with stakeholders including the NFSA, ways of using marine protected areas to help wider conservation of the seabed.

In South West England it proposes to appointment a regional manager in the new Marine Fisheries Agency to test the possible role they might play elsewhere in the future.

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[comment – for full details of the Government’s fisheries action plan read the news release on Defra’s website.]