The Case for the Conservation of Grey Mullet through “Recreational Only” status

National Mullet Club �” Publicity Release

On Tuesday May 15th 2007 the Vice Chairman of the National Mullet Club, Steve Smith, made a presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling. This meeting was attended by MPs of all parties and by members of the House of Lords and the chairman was Martin Salter MP.

Steve provided an introduction to the Grey Mullet species, outlining their fighting qualities, ready accessibility and importance as an entry species into recreational sea angling. He outlined some of the challenges faced by the species, among them being their particular vulnerability to local netting, slow growth and a bi-annual breeding cycle.

The low commercial price of Grey Mullet and their poor culinary qualities, make this species an ideal starting point for recreational-only status �” there is in fact no species better positioned for such protection.

Articulating the importance of progress via the Marine Bill, currently in the White Paper discussion stages, Steve argued strongly for real and visible progress on the protection of the inshore fishery around the UK coastline. He cited the successful pilot programme on the Yorkshire and North East coast which has benefited recreational sea anglers and commercial boats alike.

Steve stressed the need for the Bill to provide more comprehensive empowerment for Defra in managing fisheries. Currently the only provision available is to restrict fisheries on Conservation grounds. Whilst necessary, this policy requires a lengthy timeframe for collection of data, research and analysis and subsequent decision making. During all of this time the fish stock continue to be exploited. Powers to restrict, even close, commercial fisheries on socio-economic grounds to benefit recreational sea angling were powerfully presented and received analysis, scrutiny and a good measure of acceptance from the meeting. The economics behind this align closely with those of other recreationally important species such as Salmon and Migratory Trout.

If the Government is to convince recreational sea anglers that it intends improving their fishery then significant measures need to be included in the Marine Bill to benefit recreational sea angling. Defra must take powers to introduce management plans for recreationally important species such as mullet and effective controls on commercial fishing such as the Golden Mile as a pre-requisite to convincing anglers that their sport will improve. Whilst the NMC recognises that measures such as the Golden Mile might require further primary legislation, demonstrable improvements are absolutely essential if the vexed matter of licensing is to become a realistic consideration.

Some interesting facts that arose during the meeting included the recognition that there are about 14,000 jobs genuinely dependent upon commercial sea fishing in UK. Half of these jobs are afloat, the others ashore and relatively few are in competition for recreationally-important species in inshore waters. Government figures suggest there are one million households that have at least one person who goes sea angling at least once a year and recreational sea angling supports around 19,000 livelihoods (source: Drew Report). 

The Angling APPG Chairman, Martin Salter added

 â€œIt was a fantastic presentation from Steve on behalf of the National Mullet Club and provided a good opportunity for Parliamentarians to learn more about the potential of this sporting species. I have asked Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw for a meeting with myself and the Mullet Club to discuss measures to protect the species and promote recreational angling.”

The full presentation materials can be found on the website of the NMC at  www.thenationalmulletclub.org

Steve Smith, Vice Chairman National Mullet Club.

May 2007