Sea angling is a fast growing pastime in England and Wales with 1.9 million men, women and children over 12 taking part last year.
In a report out this week, the Environment Agency says this is a rise of 26 per cent since the Government’s Drew Report in 2003 when the figure was 1.5 million including children under 12.
In the past two years 2.8 million people over 12 said they had been sea fishing.
John Amery, chairman of the marine committee of the Angling Trust, the governing and representative body for all angling, said the sharp increase would mean that the number of full-time jobs directly generated by sea angling would have risen substantially above the 19,000 in the 2003 survey.
“Sea angling continues to increase its contribution to the coastal economies of England and Wales at a rather faster pace than we had expected. It has become a vital part of the much larger tourist industry and is of particular benefit to coastal economies outside the peak tourist months, as anglers fish through the winter.”
The Trust would, he said, continue to lobby ministers and every MP and MEP with a coastal constituency to support measures to improve the sport, particularly by restoring declining fish stocks.
“In particular we want the government to ensure sea angling is fairly represented on the ten new inshore fisheries and conservation authorities which will begin operating next year and not lumped in together with commercial fishing.
“The aspirations of commercial fishing have often been over-emphasised at the expense of recreational sea angling and the substantial economic, environmental and social benefits which it alone brings.”
The report shows that even more people, 3.3 million, went freshwater angling last year of whom 940,000 or 28 per cent also went sea fishing.
The social profile of the sea anglers had an AB C-1 bias with 56 per cent in those groups. Freshwater anglers were more evenly spread in terms of social group.
A quarter of sea anglers live in the South East and East Anglia while 18 per cent reside in the East and West Midlands. This latter figure supports the assertion that many anglers travel to the coast to practice their sport, bringing revenue to coastal communities.
The Environment Agency concludes that overall, attitudes to both sea and freshwater angling remain generally positive, and in some aspects more positive than in 2005.
Higher levels of agreement were recorded for “angling is an acceptable pastime”, “anglers care for the environment” and “angling fits in well with other activities such as walking and cycling”. Lower levels of agreement were recorded for “angling is a cruel pastime”.
Young people (12-16 year olds) are more likely to have positive rather than negative perceptions of angling, however they are likely to be less positive overall than adults. Perceptions of angling as an “OK thing to do” had increased since 2005.