RSA strategy – Trade view

[Comment – We reproduce below, an article which appeared in the June 2008 issue of the angling trade magazine ‘Tackle & Guns’ (a David Hall Publication). The article covers the tackle industry’s only trade body, ‘The Angling Trades Association’, suggestions for the future of sea fishing in the UK, in connection with the Government’s proposal for a Recreational Sea Angling Strategy. BASS is grateful to the Editor of ‘Tackle & Guns’ and the Chairman of the ‘Angling Trades Association’, for allowing BASS to publish the article on this website.]

The ‘Angling Trades Association (ATA)’ plea for more fish in our seas

image:photo of ATA chairman Sean )'Driscoll and the Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw MP

The Angling Trades Association, which represents our industry, has
produced its views on Government plans for a national Recreational Sea
Angling Strategy. Here’s what it had to say …

With many of the leading suppliers, retailers, press and fishery owners, the tackle industry’s only trade body is uniquely positioned to get across our views to Government.
When plans were unveiled for a Recreational Sea Angling Strategy, it made sense, for the sake of everyone in the business, that the association put across a strong and coherent argument.
Recent research indicates the trade is worth approximately £500 million per annum and employs some 24,000 full and part-time people.
Given that the Angling Trades Association (ATA) promotes, represents and protects the trade across all angling disciplines – including sea fishing – to achieve long-term stability and, more importantly, growth. T & G felt it was important that the entire industry could read its suggestions.

Sea angling
The popularity of sea angling is directly linked to the availability of suitable fish to catch. When fish are plentiful, angling participation increases markedly; conversely, there is a widespread perception among sea anglers that there has been a decline in the abundance of many marine species in recent years – attributed to commercial overfishing – and this has adversely impacted on sea
angling activity.
It follows that any meaningful recovery of fish species targeted by anglers will stimulate a rapid upsurge in recreational sea angling. More than any other, this branch of angling has huge potential for expansion and offers substantial opportunities to existing and new sea anglers.

image:photo of sea angling scenes

The development of recreational sea fisheries
For this reason, the ATA welcomes the development of a Recreational Sea Angling Strategy and the improved management of marine fisheries resources it could bring. However, it is vital for the future of sea angling that many of the measures in the strategy are reflected in subsequent policies that take into account the legitimate rights, needs and aspirations of all stakeholders.
Historically, the angling sector has had to exist on what fish stocks remained after exploitation by commercial sea fishing interests, an outdated, inequitable and inevitably unsustainable means of managing marine resources.
The ATA urges the Government to seize this perfect opportunity to firmly establish the principal of ‘how much can we leave’, rather than ‘how much can we take’ and to ensure that this ethos is given practical expression in the development of its strategy.
It is perhaps inevitable that any debate on the management of sea fisheries resources will focus on the control of use or exploitation, rather than development of sea fisheries. The most controversial issue – that of licences for sea anglers – has coloured the debate and would have dominated the
ATA’s response. We are pleased that, in his recent statement, the Fisheries Minister has ruled out the imposition of sea angling licences.
The ATA also expects the Government to act to ensure that, within the new legislative framework provided by the Marine Bill, the needs of sea anglers are an integral part of management and development policies, equitable representation is afforded to anglers’ representatives and organisations, and that the underlying scientific basis for sea fish management policies takes full account of the sea angling sector.

Strategy goals
We fully support the aim of the strategy and the four objectives it contains. However, the overarching principle is that recreational sea angling is dependent on the presence of more and bigger fish (objective 1). Improved stocks are
fundamental to the future of sea angling, the numbers who fish, the enjoyment that anglers derive from their sport and the trade that it supports. Without
more and bigger fish, the other objectives will not be met and the strategy will fail.

Fisheries management
Clearly, the reform of the Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs) is central to the strategy. In the same way that land and freshwater management policies have altered from simply exploiting the resource to protecting and conserving it, the
same change should be enshrined in the new committees.
It is vital that the SFCs are powerful, well funded and truly representative of those who use or enjoy sea fisheries and, specifically, that they work effectively to develop recreational sea angling. Indeed, the strategy will fail sea angling if the composition and work of the SFCs is dominated by
commercial sea fishing interests.

Species, stock impact and habitat management
We support the principle of specific management plans for fish species of particular interest to recreational sea anglers.
During the debate surrounding the decision not to raise the minimum landing size for bass, the most striking argument has been the need to ensure that fish are able to reach maturity and breed at least once. We endorse this underlying ethos.
There are other potential initiatives which would benefit the RSA sector and which we endorse. They include the establishment of a ‘golden mile’.
Much recreational sea angling takes place along or close to the shore, and measures to improve marine fish stocks will prove meaningless to sea anglers if inshore areas are so exploited commercially that anglers are unable to catch fish there.
We also agree that other areas could be reserved for recreational sea angling use only or managed in such a manner that commercial exploitation is restricted.
However, these measures alone will be insufficient: if commercial sea fishing effort increases around the edges of such areas, opportunities for fish to successfully enter or leave such areas will be reduced.
The ATA supports the principle of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and endorsed those sections of the Marine Bill that provide the powers to create them.
Nevertheless, MPAs can only deliver the benefits ascribed to them if they are managed in an enlightened manner, allowing non-damaging access and non- consumptive use.
Again, it is the association’s opinion that the underlying foundation of what to limit, and how, should be based on the conservation of fish stocks, not their maximum exploitation.

Codes of conduct and best practice
We strongly endorse moves to develop national codes of conduct that promote best practice by recreational sea anglers. As the strategy acknowledges, this will require considerable and positive dialogue with other bodies and agencies.

In conclusion
In this response, the ATA has highlighted some of those areas of specific interest. In the association’s opinion, all members of society have a right to enjoy the marine environment, and the actions of one particular interest group must no longer be allowed to subsume the enjoyment of others. Anglers have just as much right of access to marine fish as commercial fishermen, and the strategy – and the Marine Bill – provides great opportunities for the marine environment, and the fish it supports, to be managed sustainably and equitably.
For this to succeed, it is vital to move away from any automatic assumption that, because commercial fishing delivers a source of food, all other forms of exploitation must be subservient to it and automatically assume lesser priority in policy or implementation of management action.
But on purely financial grounds, it is also imperative that the Government recognises and acts on the huge financial value delivered by recreational sea
fishing.
The ATA is fully supportive of calls for regular monitoring of those financial benefits, via detailed socio-economic research, to both measure the current
economic activity associated with sea angling and to plot its increase as proposed in the Strategy.

[Comment – it is interesting to note, that the document that Sean O’Driscoll and Jonathan Shaw MP are seen holding in the photograph above, is a copy of the Bass Management Plan, produced by BASS.]