The Angling Trust will not be supporting Sea Angling 2016, a new project to collect data on catches from recreational sea anglers.
The project, commissioned by Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), follows up on the Sea Angling 2012 research project and fulfils EU requirements for the UK to provide data on recreational catches for a number of species listed under the Common Fisheries Policy’s Control Regulation and Data Collection Framework. The research will also collect data on how much is being spent on sea angling in the UK. Anglers will be asked to fill out log books detailing their catches over the course of 2016.
The Angling Trust believes that, despite evidence being collected as a result of multiple projects over many years – Net Benefits (2004), Invest In Fish South West (2005), Drew Associates report (2007), Sea Angling 2012, Defining The Economic and Environmental Values of Sea Bass (2014) – the government has refused to take on board any of the recommendations or results which would accurately or fairly represent the recreational sea angling sector in the management of marine fishery resources.
The results of Sea Angling 2012 were used to justify the EU 2016 fishing opportunities decision for bass which saw recreational anglers banned from retaining bass for six months of the year followed by a one fish per day bag limit for the remainder of 2016. This was based on the assertion that sea anglers were responsible for 30 per cent of total bass fishing mortality. However, illegal, unreported and unregulated landings of bass from other sources remain unknown meaning the impact of recreational fishing is suspected to be massively over-estimated.
This has caused widespread outrage amongst the many hundreds of thousands of recreational sea anglers who do not believe these measures are in proportion to their impact on bass fishing mortality.
As a result, the Angling Trust does not feel it can actively encourage its members to contribute to the collection of data through Sea Angling 2016.
However, the Angling Trust recognises that effective fisheries management requires high quality data based on accurate landings and fishing mortality from all sources including recreational anglers. Assuming this is achieved, policy decisions should then be evidence-based and reflect the results of the data collected.
The EU Commission is in the process of auditing the UK’s data collection and reporting from the under 10m fleet. In addition Cefas and the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) are in the process of carrying out a sampling project to assess the extent and impact of unrecorded landings. Once factored into landings data this could very significantly reduce the relative impact of recreational angling.
The active contribution by the Angling Trust to any future data collection exercise would be on the condition that:
- Extensive improvements were made in the collection of accurate landings/fishing mortality data from all sources.
- Policy decisions are evidence-based and reflect the social, environmental and economic impacts of all sectors in a balanced and proportionate way.
David Mitchell, Marine Campaigns Manager for the Angling Trust, said: “In principle we haven’t got a problem with asking anglers to provide catch data – it’s impossible to make a convincing argument without evidence on which to base it. What we do have a problem with is lopsided data collection which leaves gaps in commercial landings data big enough to drive a beam-trawler through.
"The results of Sea Angling 2012 contributed to recreational catches of bass being estimated to account for up to 30 per cent of all bass landed. Yet at the same time scientists tell us the landings data from commercial bass fisheries is inadequate and the real figures could be three times higher than the official figures.
"As a result, recreational anglers are perceived as having a much greater impact on bass stocks than is probably the case. Until this is addressed we can’t see how volunteering data on recreational catches is going to do anything positive for the UK’s sea anglers.
"We keep being told that Sea Angling 2012 helped local and national policy makers to make balanced, well-informed, decisions. Tell that to the UK’s sea anglers who’ve been stunned by the recent imposition of a ban and then one fish per day bag limit for bass while the under 10m fleet using fixed gill nets – whose landings fail to get accurately recorded – saw an increase in their monthly vessel limits."