Government Backs Sea Anglers' Fight To Escape EU’s Net Of Rules

Recreational sea anglers have won crucial support from the government in the latest round of their fight to defeat an attempt by the European Union to extend its fisheries regulations to anglers and make them report every fish they catch.

Fisheries minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, weighed-in this afternoon (Monday, April 6) saying the proposals would be opposed by the government “…because of their potential impact on recreational sea anglers.

“I do not believe the EU Commission has made the case to support them and we will continue to seek further clarification and amendments,” he said.

His decision follows massive opposition to the proposed rules (known as Article 47) from Britain’s one million anglers who comprise a £1 billion a year industry.

The Angling Trust which promotes all forms of recreational angling, has lobbied, all the 76 UK members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Westminster MPs with constituencies where recreational sea angling is a substantial part of the local seaside economies, and several senior civil servants in the environment department (Defra).

Stuart McPherson, the trust’s director for marine matters, said the UK government’s support for its campaign against “this iniquitous EU proposal” was a major step forward.

“Our next move is making clear to the Commission that recreational sea angling in the UK is quite different from so-called recreational fisheries in other parts of Europe, at which these proposed regulations are really directed.

“Our aim is to persuade the Commission to remove all UK recreational sea angling from Article 47.”

News of the government’s backing for anglers in their spat with the EU, was given in a letter to Martin Salter MP (Labour, Reading West), the Government’s angling spokesman.

The minister said that while he supported the general need for new controls for, and reform of, the EU Common Fisheries Policy, he believed the Commission needed “to be very cautious indeed in seeking to extend controls to recreational sea angling.”

The move is in the wake of two significant adjustments to the proposed rules by the EU fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg, since they were published in November (2008),

In February he admitted that it would be “crazy” and “ludicrous” to try to control millions of hobby anglers. Last month he said anglers fishing from the shore or from kayaks would be exempted but those in boats, both privately owned and charter boats, would be subjected to catch returns on certain species and could be limited to the numbers they caught.

“These ministers must understand that these ludicrous proposals (as Dr. Borg himself now calls them) would seriously impact the economies of our coastal communities where sea angling supports 19,000 jobs, according to government figures.”

“The Angling Trust continues to make every effort to persuade the EU Council of Ministers, who will have the final decision, to drop these overbearing restrictions,” Mr. McPherson said.