The Angling Trades Association (ATA) has reacted strongly to the recent speculation about the number of bass which anglers catch and sell. Despite its inability to offer a scrap of evidence in support of the theory, some commercial fishing organisations have been attempting to highlight the illegal practice and exaggerate its likely importance. Now the Association is calling for independent research to uncover the real facts.
The topic of illegal fishing and unlawful sale of catches were key subjects discussed during a recent meeting between the Angling Trust and several national fisheries and fishing organisations. Despite the welcome agreement to denounce all forms of illegal fishing, there remains the spectre that the restrictions on anglers’ rights to retain the bass they catch could be used as a spearhead for the imposition of invidious catch restrictions on other marine species caught by recreational anglers.
Speaking on behalf of the ATA’s member companies, Chair Naidre Werner said: “The ATA has been steadfast in its support for the Angling Trust’s moves to build bridges with the commercial fishing sector, which we believe will benefit the recreational angling and commercial fishing industries alike. However, Government policies must be evidence-based and not founded on speculation or conjecture, such as the unsubstantiated allegations about the extent of illegal sales of captured fish by recreational anglers.
“We are urging the Government to initiate immediate, targeted research to examine and assess the extent of any ‘problem’ of illegal fish sales. This will help inform future policy decisions and enable organisations representing the recreational sea angling industry to initiate action to stamp out the practice.”
David Mitchell, Marine Campaigns Manager for the Angling Trust commented: “The Angling Trust is fully committed to tackling the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing which contributes to overfishing and undermines attempts to manage fish stocks sustainably. We are backing the Marine Management Organisation’s new campaign to tackle illegal fishing by raising awareness of the law. Selling fish from an unlicensed, powered, vessel is a form of illegal commercial fishing which damages fish stocks, damages licensed fishermen’s businesses and damages the reputation of the £2bn recreational angling sector which gets unfairly tarnished by these allegations. The problem of illegal fishing from licensed fishing vessels is much broader than the relatively small volumes of fish landed by unlicensed vessels – this is reflected by the prosecutions for illegal fishing reported by the press.”
Naidre continued: “The ATA is a strong supporter of the principle of sea fishing sustainability, and it stands squarely behind the campaigns to ensure that our sea fish stocks – a public resource – are available for enjoyment by recreational anglers. Research into the economic worth of those species captured by recreational anglers shows that the economic activity associated with recreational angling equals or exceeds that of commercial fleets.
“Policies based on whim and rumour would jeopardise not just anglers’ sport; they would also affect the livelihoods of charter boat skippers, coastal hotels and B&B’s, tackle shops, tackle manufacturers and all the other industry sectors who rely on plentiful fish stocks and the freedom to catch them.”