The announcement yesterday by the Fisheries Minister Huw Irranca-Davies MP that recreational sea anglers will not be excluded from Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) has been warmly welcomed by the Angling Trust.
The Angling Trust has always supported the concept of MCZs as a vital first step in the recovery of fish stocks. The unrelenting damage that has been caused to our coastal regions by overfishing, and especially trawling, has damaged the ecosystem to dangerous levels. Nature has shown that given a chance it can recover and the creation of the Conservation Zones will provide the sanctuary that it needs to start the process.
The Trust has argued strongly to maintain access to Recreational Sea Anglers (RSA) in MCZs and the buffer zones surrounding them. The RSA sector is the most sustainable method of catching fish; rod and line fishing doesn’t damage the habitat and unwanted fish can be returned alive to the water to go on and breed. Many of the fish caught by RSAs are documented and the information obtained will help scientists evaluate the benefits that these conservation initiatives are achieving. The areas that the RSAs frequent are in many cases remote, consequently regular surveillance by the authorities is impractical and the RSA sector can act as the eyes and ears and report illegal and damaging commercial fishing.
Officials from the Angling Trust met with Martin Salter MP, the government spokesman for angling, and raised concerns that RSAs would be excluded from the MCZs prior to the Committee Stage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill which will provide the enabling legislation for the creation of the MCZs. Mr. Salter raised this issue in the debate and the fact that the Minister has reacted to those concerns and announced that recreational anglers will not be excluded is very welcome news. We hope that this is a turning point where the socio economic value of the RSA sector is at last being recognised. Many Angling Trust members and the RSA sector in general have repeatedly complained to the Trust about more and more restrictions on their freedom to go angling. One of the Angling Trust’s fundamental aims is to oppose any unwarranted restrictions on angling.
Stuart McPherson Marine Director of the Angling Trust said, “This is a major step forward in the recognition that the RSA sector has a role to play in the protection of the Marine environment. In making this announcement the Minister has provided the RSA sector with a boost to their morale. Hopefully there will now be recognition that intervention and action by a representative organisation does work and that it will encourage more RSAs to join the Angling Trust.”
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: “We very much appreciate the time and energy Martin Salter devoted to our concerns and the Minister’s willingness to listen to a constituency which comprises more than a million people in the UK. Recreational Sea Angling makes a vital contribution to coastal economies all around the country, including during the winter when the holiday-makers have gone home and is the most sustainable way to catch fish to eat. We are delighted that this has been recognised by the Government.”