Defra Looking Into ‘Governance Structures’ For Recreational Sea Angling

There was no shadow of doubt about it. I was alarmed when I first heard that Defra had commissioned a piece of research into ‘successful governance structures and legal instruments’ for recreational fishing. It sounded threatening. What were they planning? Why? And what does ‘governance structures’ even mean?

The Angling Trust has now been consulted by the team from the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Environmental Law & Governance which is carrying out the work on behalf of Cefas and a clearer picture is beginning to emerge.


The overall aim of the project is to describe the structures governing marine recreational fishing at both a local (state), national, and international scales, and how this is balanced against the need for sustainable development and integrated into the ecosystem approach.

The team at Strathclyde University will Identify countries with strong governance structures and development plans for marine recreational fishing. This is likely to include: USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. They will then review the history of local (state), national, and international legal and governance frameworks for marine recreational fisheries in these countries before assessing how marine recreational fisheries are incorporated into the broader ecosystem approach and balanced against sustainable development goals in key countries.

Finally, they will develop guidance for the creation of appropriate governance structures for marine recreational fishing and deliver a report, expected to be published in November 2018, describing the background, describing the research methods, documenting the results, and outcomes.

The background information to the project recognises that. “In Europe, the main governance instrument for recreational fisheries is the Common Fisheries Policy and associated EU Control Regulations, alongside national legislation that allows for recreational fisheries management (e.g. Sea Fisheries Act for the UK). It is unclear how management is balanced against fishery development goals because marine recreational fisheries is not recognised as a sector. Hence, the most effective governance structure for marine recreational fishing that balances trade-offs between conservation and development goals has not been considered in the UK.”

Why now?

So, why is this being done? If, as part of developing a new UK fisheries bill, the Government ever wants to bring recreational fishing into the fold they want to know how this has been done elsewhere and what the best practice examples are which can be applied to the UK.

The Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, told the Angling Trust last year that he was interested in seeing what could be done to support ‘totemic’ species for recreational fishing. But in order to do this the government is looking at examples from other countries around the world where this has already been achieved.

Should anglers be worried?

Like mine was, a typical angler’s reaction might be one of suspicion and wariness. Nothing come s without a risk, even getting out of bed in the morning, but the key is to weigh up the risk against the possible benefits. In this case I truly believe that the fact this piece of work is being carried out is, on balance, a positive thing. Imagine if nothing was being done to look at this; If no attempt was being made to consider ‘development goals’ for recreational fishing in the broader context of how we manage our sea fishery resources.

This would be a complete and total dismissal of hundreds of thousands of members of the public and thousands of jobs and businesses who rely on the billions of pounds generated right throughout the economy from you and I going fishing.

It’s essential that if we leave the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy that fishing ends up in a better place than it was before. The CFP has prevented recreational fishing from being considered for ‘development goals’ but we now might just be seeing the embryo of a more positive future for recreational sea angling in the UK. Change won’t happen overnight, and there will be inevitable setbacks along the way, but if this piece of work helps lock the rights and expectations of members of the public who enjoy fishing recreationally into law, in a positive way, including development goals for recreational fishing, then the future of your fishing will be heading in the right direction.

Keep your eyes out for updates and more information from the Angling Trust on how the project is progressing.

David Mitchell

Head of Marine