On 25 March 2004 the Cabinet Office, Strategy Unit, published their long awaited report on the UK Fisheries, titled ‘Net benefits, A sustainable and profitable future for UK Fisheries’.

We publish below, an extract from that report, which is relevant to the UK Bass Fishery and the Recreational Sea Angling sector. It makes very interesting reading.

An Extract from the Cabinet Office, Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit Report on Fisheries, titled, Net Benefits – A sustainable and profitable future for UK Fisheries – March 2004

Section – 9.6.3 Developing the recreational sea fishing sector

Summary

The recreational fishing sector is a potentially high contributor to local economies in coastal areas

There is a need for better data on the value and contribution of this sector.

Fisheries management policy should recognise that sea angling may, in some circumstances, provide a better return on the use of some resources than commercial exploitation.

Role of the recreational sector

The majority of recreational sea angling takes place in the inshore zone. In 2002 around 2 million people went sea angling at least once in England and Wales; there is no comparable data for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The total expenditure by sea anglers in the UK on their sport (eg on fishing equipment, travel, food and accommodation, etc.) is estimated to be at least £1 billion annually.

The quality of the sea angling experience is reported to have diminished in line with the decline in local fish stocks, resulting in lower UK trip rates by serious anglers and an increase in angling trips overseas. It is likely that the recreational catch of commercially caught species is significant in some areas. In view of their impact on, and use of, commercial fish stocks it is necessary to include representatives of recreational sea angling interests in relevant fisheries management bodies.

In some circumstances the economic and social benefits of sea angling for specific species may provide a greater contribution to society than if they are commercially caught. This is the case in parts of many other fishing nations such as New Zealand, Australia and the U.S.A., where recreational sea angling has been aggressively promoted.

Governmental responsibility for recreational fishing is often unclear. For example, in England and Wales freshwater angling is managed by the Environment Agency, but responsibility for sea angling is shared by Defra and DCMS. A single government organisation should be identified to represent the needs of the recreational sector at the national level. Recreational sea anglers should also be represented in the fisheries management process at the local level.

There is limited information available to determine the true extent and national impact of recreational sea angling on local economies and fish stocks. To improve this situation it is recommended that a voluntary licensing scheme is introduced, along with provision for sea anglers to provide voluntary catch data via a web-based survey system, supplemented by independent research. It is also important to improve our knowledge of the impacts of recreational fishing through targeted research. Funding for additional research could be raised by a voluntary administrative levy administered through existing sea angling organisations. For example, a £10 per year levy raised from 40,000 anglers would fund £400,000 worth of annual scientific research.

Organisations representing anglers at the national level should work with national fisheries departments to assess the case for designating specific species for wholly recreational use, e.g. bass.

Recommendations

The UK Government and the devolved administrations should determine the most appropriate body in each region to represent the needs of recreational sea anglers by the end of 2004.

Fisheries departments should ensure that angling needs are represented at the local fisheries management level during their reviews of inshore management.

Relevant departments should determine the funding and administrative requirements of operating a voluntary licensing and catch record scheme for sea anglers, which would be developed in co-operation with representative sea angling organisations.

Fisheries departments should review the evidence supporting arguments for re-designating commercially caught species for wholly recreational sea angling, beginning with bass by the end of 2004.