The Angling Trust will not be supporting a government backed-project to collect catch data from recreational sea anglers over the course of 2017.
Sea Angling 2017 has been commissioned by Cefas (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science) and will build on the results of similar data collection exercises carried out in 2012 and 2016.
The project is designed to fulfil 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. Anglers will be asked to use log books detailing their catches over the course of 2017.
Earlier this year the Angling Trust stated that its contribution to any future data collection exercise would be dependent on two factors:
A) Extensive improvements being made in the collection of accurate landings/fishing mortality data from all sources – not just recreational sea anglers;
B) Policy decisions being evidence-based and reflecting the social, environmental and economic impacts of all sectors in a balanced and proportionate way.
To date we have been provided with no evidence to suggest that either of these have been addressed and the Angling Trust’s Conservation & Access Group, which advises on marine fisheries policy, has been left with no option but to maintain the position to withhold support for Sea Angling 2017 until such a time that sufficient effort has been made to address the conditions set out above.
It was hoped that the results of a sampling project carried out by Cefas to sample the extent and impact of unrecorded landings by the Under10m fleet would have provided the evidence required for the Angling Trust to consider future participation in catch data by recreational anglers. However, the report has yet to be published. In addition, an audit by the EU Commission into the UK’s data collection and reporting from the Under10m fleet is still in progress.
The Angling Trust withheld its support for this year’s project, Sea Angling 2016, on the grounds 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 consistently failed to incorporate any of the findings or recommendations into its marine resources management policies thereby depriving the recreational sea angling sector of fair and proportional consideration.
The results of the first data collection exercise, 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 recreational 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.
In addition, trust between recreational sea anglers and Defra was further damaged when Defra stated at the launch of Sea Angling 2012 that, “If Sea Angling 2012 and similar surveys in Europe highlight circumstances where anglers should play an important role in conserving vulnerable or overexploited stocks, Defra would seek to agree voluntary measures to avoid having controls imposed from Brussels”. However, a year after the report was published the Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, went on to agree controls on recreational anglers imposed by the European Council.
David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Head of Marine, said: “It’s with regret that we currently feel forced to withhold our support for the Sea Angling 2017 project.
We do, in principle, support the accurate collection of data provided it is from all sources including all commercial fishing sectors as well as angling.
However, we made it very clear earlier this year what the conditions were for us to support any future data collection exercise. Unfortunately, no attempt has been made to seriously address these conditions and until there is we will not be encouraging sea anglers to participate in catch data collection.
Government and its agencies seem to recognise that there are serious deficiencies in landings data from commercial fisheries but apparently aren’t willing to do anything to address them. In the meantime, catches by recreational anglers get closely scrutinised and used to disproportionately restrict members of the public fishing for publicly-owned fish stocks.”