A simple pleasure enjoyed by millions of Brits is under threat with serious implications for the businesses and jobs it supports.
Business owners from Britain’s angling industry are writing to their MPs calling on the government to reject a proposal by the European Commission which would see members of the public banned from fishing for sea bass in the first half of 2018 and banned from keeping a single bass to eat for the whole of the year.
Tens of thousands of members of the public across the UK spend an estimated £200m a year fishing for sea bass recreationally, supporting many businesses and jobs across the fishing tackle and tourism industries.
Business owners fear the proposals – if agreed by the Council of EU fisheries ministers, including the UK’s fisheries minister, George Eustice – would devastate their businesses by banning the public from going fishing for sea bass and stopping them eating any of the fish they catch.
Charter fishing boats could be particularly hard hit.
David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, said: “Many people aren’t aware of the huge economic value of sea angling and how many jobs and businesses it supports. The angling and tourism industries rely on people being allowed to and choosing to go sea fishing. If they aren’t allowed to fish for or keep a single fish they catch then they simply won’t go fishing and many in the industry will lose their livelihoods.”
Ian Noble, Chairman of the Professional Boatman’s Association, an organisation representing charter boat business owners across the UK, said: “No targeted fishing for bass for the first six months of 2018 will see a number of charter fishing businesses go to the wall. Why should charter fishing businesses serving members of the public be put out of business while commercial fishing continues? The Commission’s proposals are totally unfair and will have a fatal impact on charter fishing businesses reliant on bass fishing.”
The proposals have been made in order to protect bass in EU waters. However, they still allow commercial licensed ‘hook & line’ boats selling their bass to land up to four tonnes each over the course of 2018 while members of the public fishing for pleasure and for the table are banned from keeping any at all.
The Angling Trust has called this unfair and disproportionate and have launched a campaign in response calling for anglers to be able to fish for bass throughout 2018 and to be able to keep one-fish-per-day from July until December – a proposal the angling industry is supporting.
Austen Goldsmith, Cornwall-based professional bass fishing guide, said: “This latest EU proposal to ban bass fishing for six months of the year and then ban my customers retaining a single fish could be a serious threat for my specialist bass fishing charter business in Cornwall, whilst a four ton per boat allowance represents business as usual for the commercial sector. This proposal is unbalanced and puts the livelihoods of fishing guides, charter boats and tackle shops at risk. The existing regulations have already effected my turnover This could be the final death blow.”
Paul Devlin, owner of the one of the UK’s largest fishing tackle retail businesses, said; “I was left speechless after these latest proposals. The government doesn’t seem to realise that there are many jobs at risk on the recreational side of fishing and I have no doubt, if the latest proposals go through, there will be many job losses not just in the angling trade but in the hotel, guiding and restaurant industries that rely on many anglers fishing for Bass. I think I can speak for most of the tackle trade when I say that I can totally accept there must be some protection to any species of fish that is under threat. However, these current proposals to ban anglers but at the same time allow commercial fishing of these fish are unjustified and wrong.”