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Angling Trust urges government to deliver a real ‘Brexit Dividend’ for UK fisheries


Fishing the Blackwater Estuary 2012

The Angling Trust is pleased to see the government bringing forward its long awaited Fisheries Bill setting out the future management of UK waters following our withdrawal from the European Union but doubts that it will deliver the promised ‘Brexit Dividend’.

The Trust welcomes the acknowledgement of recreational sea angling for the first time in UK legislation but is disappointed to see that proposals support the continuation of the existing system of allocating fishing quotas. An opportunity is being missed to radically reform how access to a public resource is allocated. We argued that the government should give notice of ‘reasonable expectation’ to existing quota beneficiaries in order that the UK can be free to allocate fishing opportunities based on the concept of optimal utilisation where social, economic and environmental criteria are assessed and fishing opportunities granted based on these principles. This would mean more fish for the economically significant sea angling sector and better marine conservation. 
The new Fisheries Bill, which was published today, states:
  • The Fisheries Bill is a major milestone in delivering our promise to take back control of our waters, and decide who may fish in our waters and on what terms.
  • It creates the powers to build a sustainable and profitable fishing industry, one which is in the best interests of the whole UK and future generations.
  • The Bill delivers a Green Brexit by extending powers to protect and enhance our precious marine environment. 
A recent Greenpeace report, Unearthed, revealed that failure to reform the system for allocating quota: “would leave 29% of the UK’s fishing quota in the hands of just five families on the Sunday Times Rich List – and around half of England’s quota in the hands of overseas interests.”
Back in July the Angling Trust produced a comprehensive submission to the Fisheries White Paper which argued for:
  • An end to the effective privatisation of a public resource into the hands of a few commercial interests.
  • A new fishery management regime that applied the optimal use of fishery resources recognising the far greater economic benefits of recreational sea angling over pure commercial harvesting.
  • Adopting best practice from overseas including the legal obligation to rebuild over fished stocks.
  • Sustainable public access to a public resource for both recreation and amenity.
  • More resources for enforcement and conservation and a reform of the IFCAs and MMO.
  • The designation of recreational only species such as mullet, wrasse, bass, tope, smoothound and flounder to deliver optimal benefits.
  • The incentivising of sustainable, low impact fishing, including angling, to support jobs and coastal communities rather than simply using additional quota as a financial instrument by allocating fishing opportunities to the highest bidder.
Martin Salter, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust said: “It’s abundantly clear that the Fisheries Bill has been rushed out this week to demonstrate that ministers have been addressing some of the future challenges and opportunities that will arise from the UK leaving the European Union. However, the disappointingly timid nature of this Bill as currently proposed means there is likely to be precious little by way of a Brexit dividend for either recreational sea angling or conservation. The failure to commit to reform the discredited quota system means that the privatisation of our publicly owned fish stocks continues as before. Leaving 29% of the UK’s fishing quota in the hands of just five rich families and around half of England’s quota in the hands of overseas interests is hardly ‘taking back control’.”
He added: “Whilst we welcome the recognition of sea angling on the face of the Bill and the commitment to consider allocating ‘new fishing opportunities” and grants our sector, without major reform of commercial over fishing we fear that this might see anglers and conservationist scrabbling around for ‘a few fish flavoured crumbs’ after the harvesters have filled their nets.”
The Angling Trust is shortly to meet with senior officials at Defra to go through the new Bill in detail to seek clarification and reassurance and to suggest potential improvements.

1. Read the Angling Trust Submission to the Fisheries White Paper here.

2. Read the Angling Trust's briefing on the Second Reading of the Fisheries Bill here.

3. Economics of Recreational Sea Angling
Sea Angling 2012, the study of Recreational Sea Angling carried out by CEFAS for Defra shows that total resident sea angler spending in 2012 was estimated to be £1.23bn, equivalent to £831million direct spend excluding imports and taxes. This directly supported 10,400 FTE jobs and almost £360 million of gross value added (GVA). The total economic impact was £2.1bn of spending, supporting 23,600 FTE jobs and almost £980 million of GVA once indirect and induced effects were accounted for. Coastal communities benefit when good fishing attracts anglers. Research suggest between 1,000 and 4,000 angling trips can generate one FTE job per year in those locations. 
To put this into context, the first sale value of fin fish species caught commercially but which are also targeted by members of the public fishing recreationally is only £33m. Even with generous downstream, multipliers applied it is clear that public access to recreational fishing opportunities generates vastly more economic activity than commercial fishing. 

In Europe 
On a European level a recent report produced for the European Parliament stated that marine recreational fisheries were worth €10.5bn supporting an estimated 100,000 jobs and that To put this figure into context, it is equivalent to 7 per cent of the annual EU budget of 145 billion euro or 0.07 per cent of the EU economy. It is roughly equivalent to the cost of the London 2012 Olympic Games (SMSI, 2013) and is similar to the contribution from golf (€15 bn). The 100,000 FTEs supported is almost four times the staff of the EU Commission. If this was a single company, it would be in the top 10 in Europe, in terms of number of employees, and the top 100 in the world.

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