Who do the nets benefit – Part 2.

That recreational anglers fish for fun is undeniably true but to then conclude that an activity based on fun, recreation, leisure or relaxation is in some way economically inferior to commercial fishing is patently not true.

As an angler, I fully understand how spending money on my leisure activity actually supports livelihoods. Many angling friends own boats, ranging from open 13 footers with a nine horse power outboard that cost them around £3,000, to 25-foot high-powered offshore boats equipped with all electrics and wheelhouses that cost over £35,000. These guys, and there are many of them, are the real spenders with fuel, insurance and mooring fees regularly topping £5,000 annually and that’s before tackle and bait are taken into account.

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Recreational sea anglers and charter skippers spend thousands of pounds every year maintaining their boats, not to mention what they spend on fuel, bait and tackle.

I don’t currently have a boat, but when I go for an early morning’s kayak angling, the petrol I buy to drive to my selected launch site, my parking and my breakfast on the way home at the beach café, all take place as a result of my angling activity. Then I’ve had to buy the kayak, the handheld VHF radio, the specialist waterproof clothing, the fishing tackle, the personal buoyancy aid and kayak trolley as well as many other bits and pieces.

Let’s not overlook shore anglers either as many will own tackle valued at thousands of pounds, spend hundreds of pounds a year on bait and travel hundreds of miles to fish.

Actually, when you think about it, isn’t ‘tourism’ all about leisure, fun and relaxation?  Activity tourism is the fastest growing sector globally and would anyone seriously suggest tourism is economically invalid?

So there’s no denying recreational anglers fish for fun, but in doing so they support thousands of livelihoods across many different sectors – not just the angling trade. These livelihoods are every bit as valid as those supported by commercial fishing.

There’s no denying recreational anglers fish for fun, but in doing so they support thousands of livelihoods across many different sectors – not just the angling trade.

What if our public marine fishery resources and marine environment were privatised? I’m not advocating this should even be contemplated but wouldn’t you expect decisions on the use of fishery resources to then be based on evidence as with freshwater fishery resources?

“I work on salmon and freshwater fisheries, where the economic arguments are firmly in favour of recreational usage and where management of the rod and line fishery is increasingly the prime concern.”  wrote a senior fisheries scientist (now retired) from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).  So if the evidence supports the use of freshwater fish for recreation, why not the same for some marine species?

Why do some farmers elect to use land that has traditionally been used for food production for camp sites and caravan parks and others use substantial acreages for sport shooting? Because they get a better return on their resources, that’s why! So the notion of utilising public marine fishery resources for the best return shouldn’t be too difficult a concept to understand.

What about the claim that commercial fishermen go to sea in order to put nourishing protein on our dinner plates?  Utter and complete nonsense I say. They go to sea to earn money and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just wish they’d stop dressing it up with all the romantic twaddle.

When foreign buyers from overseas markets push prices at the auctions up and trailer loads of sole, monkfish and bass go across to Spain and France, will you see local fishermen wiping away tears of sorrow as the fish they caught embarks on a journey that will see it ending up on foreign dinner plates? No, they will be spending the extra income from better prices by celebrating at the harbour side pubs.

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85% of all seafood consumed in the UK is imported. Even the seafood champions SEAFISH recognise the insignificance of the UK catching sector.  As long ago as 2006 their internal deliberations resulted in this conclusion. to quote: “The health of the UK catching sector is no longer of such central importance to the UK seafood industry.”

“The health of the UK catching sector is no longer of such central importance to the UK seafood industry.”

In other parts of the globe the use of marine fishery resources for recreational exploitation is far better understood, nowhere more so than in the USA where a number of recreationally important species are managed primarily for sportfishing.

In 2006, Southwick Associates examined the economic impacts on a State by State basis of all saltwater fin fish exploitation. They found that the total sales from Recreational fishing was $34 billion, the income was $13 billion and there were 360,000 jobs dependent of sportfishing. The figures for commercial fishing were $9 billion, $6 billion and 126,000 jobs respectively.

Now let me make it clear, I’m not an economist. But neither am I an imbecile! It seems entirely reasonable and desirable to utilise all our natural renewable marine fishery resources for the best possible return to UK plc, providing we do so sustainably and do not jeopardise the opportunity for future generations to utilise those same renewable resources.

Last year (2016), the European Angler’s Alliance, within which the Angling Trust is a key player, and the European Fishing Tackle and Trade Assocation (EFTTA) produced a public affairs film about bass management. Seabass – Crisis, Value, Solution was intended to show the public and decision makers how much more valuable bass are as a recreational angling resource than a commercial fishery. To me, it’s rather obvious.

So why, if RSA exploitation is a better ‘earner’ for some species (bass, for example), are successive Governments not managing those fishery resources for RSA, or at the very least implementing integrated management policies that take full account of RSA objectives/requirements alongside those of commercial fishing?

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Malcolm Gilbert | RSA campaigner, sea angler and Conservation Officer for the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers

 

Related article: ‘Net benefits: A Sustainable and Profitable Future for UK Fishing’

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