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Angling Trust challenges Benyon Review over sea angling exclusions

25.06.20

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The Angling Trust has published its formal response to the government’s Benyon Review on the establishment of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) which had controversially proposed a blanket ban on recreational sea angling in these new zones.

In their detailed and evidenced based response, the Trust challenges the Review’s lack of evidence for excluding anglers and draws on examples of successful multi-use marine conservation zones established in other parts of the world.

The Angling Trust agrees with the Review Panel on the need for enhanced levels of marine conservation but argues that these measures should include a role for managed, low impact, sea angling which would not only deliver increased community support but also provide a level of monitoring to aid enforcement and compliance.

The paper makes the following key points:

  • The Angling Trust welcomes the establishment of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) and is concerned at the parlous state of the oceans in general and of the seas around the coast of the UK in particular.
  • In Britain we have allowed commercial over-fishing to drive down fish stocks to unsustainable levels and failed to effectively manage important habitats for fish and other wildlife.
  • Sea angling generates considerable economic value to the UK economy yet too often it is ignored or marginalised in the decisions taken about the management of our seas upon which our sport depends and this was certainly the case with the Benyon Review which failed to include any representatives of the sea angling sector on the Panel.
  • Whilst the Angling Trust can support many of the Panel’s recommendations we strongly object to their deeply flawed recommendation for a blanket ban on recreational fishing in all HPMAs and their wholly unsubstantiated claims that the impacts of rod and line fishing are comparable with extractive, commercial exploitation such as dredging, trawling and drilling.
  • Rather than exclude recreational anglers (in favour of more expensive activities such as powerboating and scuba diving) we suggest a more rational way forward that will deliver marine conservation objectives, improve stakeholder engagement, reduce economic damage to coastal communities and provide a network of willing volunteers to aid compliance and assist enforcement.
  • The Angling Trust is calling on ministers to engage the recreational angling community in examining the potential for the introduction of multi-use marine protection zones which allow for low impact and recreational activities and which protect fish stocks and restore seabed habitats including the creation of specific ‘recreational only’ buffer zones to operate alongside any new HPMAs.

The Trust’s response has been sent to all DEFRA ministers.

Jamie Cook, Angling Trust CEO, said in his letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice:

“As you move to implement the recommendation of the (Benyon Review) report, and to select the five pilot sites, we ask that you reject those inaccurate aspects of the report, which wrongly equate the impacts of modern recreational sea angling as equivalent to damaging industrial activities such as trawling, dredging and drilling, and ensure that recreational angling interests are a key stakeholder in both the site selection and the management and monitoring of those sites once established. Furthermore, we are calling for the introduction of multi-use marine protection zones which allow for low impact and recreational activities and which protect fish stocks and restore seabed habitats including the creation of specific ‘recreational only’ buffer zones to operate alongside any new HPMAs.”

The Angling Trust response was compiled by Martin Salter, Head of Policy, who said:

“We are passionate advocates for marine conservation and not only were deeply disappointed to have been excluded from membership of the Review Panel but to see how unduly selective they had been in their use of evidence. Our response, corrects that imbalance and sets out clearly the wealth of evidence that shows recreational angling can not only protect HPMAs but how anglers are often their biggest champions and guardians. Ministers now need to reflect on the best way to achieve much needed marine conservation without triggering a wholly unnecessary conflict.”

Political support for the Angling Trust’s position is growing in Westminster following the intervention of Sir Charles Walker MP, Vice Chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee and a keen angler.

Sir Charles said:

“Following some of the strong representations already made there is a growing understanding within DEFRA as to the very real concerns that some of the flaws in the Benyon Review have created. I am hopeful that common sense will eventually prevail and all of us with an interest in conservation, a cause about which anglers have always championed, will be able to work together to improve our seas and the life they contain.”

Tim Macpherson, Angling Trust board member and sea angling publisher added:

“I have always supported the idea of setting up a network of marine protected areas in UK waters partly to restrict damaging commercial fishing practices but the way this report has been put together will not achieve the objectives it sets out to do. It is also likely to alarm and alienate recreational anglers, the largest stakeholder group in terms of number and economic value. Anglers are also likely to feel that the members of the panel who compiled this report, including scientists and conservationists, have shown a complete lack of understanding of what recreational angling is all about and what it contributes to the nation.”

Angling Trust response to Benyon Review

Benyon Review available here

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