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Angling Trust supports new MCZs and encourages US-style approach to strengthen recreational uses

05.06.19

British sea bed trawled into a wasteland

An area eight times the size of greater London has just been designated by the government as a series of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones designed to expand England’s ‘Blue Belt’ and protect nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species.

There are now 91 MCZs in total contributing to a network of marine protected areas around the UK.

Of the 41 new sites, three have been directly designated to protect mobile fish species of interest to anglers. The Angling Trust will be monitoring the development of the management measures for the new sites to assess what the impact on angling could be.

Fishing, bait digging and anchoring have all been activities which have come under scrutiny during the agreement on management measures for MCZs sites designated in 2013 and 2016.

The Angling Trust supports the protection of seabed habitats which can recover from damaging activities, such as scallop dredging and trawling, allowing ecosystems to recover, biodiversity to increase and support healthier and more biodiverse fish populations.

The Angling Trust will be seeking to be provided with evidence of the impact of recreational sea angling (rod & line) on the objectives of any MCZ before any management measures for recreational fishing are introduced.

Less than one per cent of Marine Protected Areas prohibit recreational angling. In fact, some MPAs have as a specific objective to preserve and support good recreational angling in the MPA area. Angling is very rarely a limiting factor in achieving favourable conservation status in Natura 2000 marine areas and other MPAs’ objectives. Legal human presence in MPAs can help avoid or keep down illegal human presence and use of the MPA.

The Trust recommends the US approach and model of designating MPAs which acknowledges the importance of recreational activities: MPAs share conservation as a primary goal but many were also established to encourage recreational uses.

On top of bringing millions to the local economy and communities, as witnessed by the case of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in which 400,000 recreational fishers bring over $274 million per year, recreational anglers become ocean stewards, teach the public how to care about the oceans, and take part in conservation initiatives.

Recreational anglers fishing in the Lyme Bay MCZ have seen a dramatic increase in the species present since bottom trawling was banned and the seabed habitat was allowed to recover. After initial scepticism about the potential impact on angling the recovery has come much more quickly then almost anyone expected showing that the improvements in the marine environment can take place quickly if damaging activities are stopped.

David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, said: “We fully support measures to protect England’s incredible marine environment which has been degraded so badly over the last century. Protecting seabed habitats and species from the most damaging activity is essential whilst allowing the public to access and use these sites for leisure and enjoyment.

"We’ll be keeping a close eye on how the management measures for these sites develop to ensure they are effective and not just ‘paper parks’ but also to ensure they do not unnecessarily restrict the public’s ability to fish for recreation and their own consumption of publicly-owned sea fishery resources.”

In 2018 the Angling Trust co-authored a report with members of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) on recreational fishing in Marine Protected Areas following a conference in the European parliament. You can read it here

Contact: Angling Trust Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ
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