Anglers Accuse European Commission of 'Fiddling while Rome Burns'

The Angling Trust has reacted with dismay to the European Commission’s latest draft of the Common Fisheries Policy Control Regulations, and in particular the retention of Article 47 which could bring in regulation and unworkable bureaucracy for recreational sea anglers targeting cod. The Trust has lobbied the UK Government and the Fisheries Commissioner himself to call for these measures to be dropped, but the Commission has once again ignored these demands. It is not yet clear exactly how the regulations will be applied in the UK. Until that is publicly clarified, recreational sea anglers remain suspicious that this is the thin end of the wedge for the regulation of angling.

Mike Heylin, Chairman of the Angling Trust said: “We are disappointed that the European countries have again failed to introduce significant change to the common fisheries policy with these latest decisions. Sea angling has not been damaging fish stocks for the last sixty years. It is those who take fish and dump them, dead, back into the sea that have done that.”

Recreational anglers do not take all they catch. Angling by its nature is a highly selective way of taking fish for the table, small fish can be easily returned to grow bigger, large fish can be easily returned to breed successfully, dinner size fish can be taken for the table. What can be more sustainable than that? Article 47 with its imposition of sampling of catches is a sledgehammer to crack a nut and is indicative of all the other failings of the Common Fisheries Policy over many years.

The problems have arisen because of confusing definitions used in Europe, because recreational fishing is confused with recreational angling. The definition used in Europe covers all fishing by non-professionals, netting, dredging, potting, and angling. Fish caught by these fishermen may not be sold. Because of this confusion, recreational anglers in the UK who typically catch one or two cod could be regulated in the same way as artisanal fishermen who catch significant quantities.

The populations of fish in the sea have declined year on year since the turn of the nineteenth century. Anglers have not done that damage, it is overfishing, and damaging fishing practices, by commercial interests which have damaged stocks. It is time the politicians took that on board and managed our sea stocks for all the people, not just a few fleet owners and vested interests who constantly tell us how they fish sustainably. They do not.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: “It seems that the bureaucrats in Brussels are intent on imposing unnecessary regulations and research on recreational anglers rather than taking urgent action to take on the real problem which is the rape of our seas by vast factory ships. While thousands of tonnes of dead fish are dumped overboard, the sea bed is ploughed up by beam trawlers and fish stocks dwindle, the Commission wants to study the impact of anglers fishing with rod and line. They are fiddling while Rome burns.”