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)
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.
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.