Sea Angling: A Key To Restoring Our Coastal Economy

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns, sheds light on the vital role of recreational sea angling in providing socio-economic prosperity to coastal communities and questions why recreational sea anglers aren’t being given the same support as commercial fishermen from the government.

It would appear this lockdown has some weeks to run.  The government advice to stay at home is advice we should all follow.  There are early signs we may be over the peak of both new cases and of fatalities.  But the science is not clear and caution is the name of the game.

The economic impact of this lockdown is enormous and, for many, devastating.  At some time we will come out of this and we will need to rebuild our economy, get the money flowing again, and work to bring all those jobs back.  Our coastal communities, many of whom were already suffering, have been among the hardest hit.

There is no magic bullet to restore the economy of our coastal communities.  It will take the support and promotion of many different economic activities.  Tourism and hospitality will be key.  We need visitors, we need people to come and stay in guest houses and hotels.  We need people to spend money.

But what is often overlooked is just how important recreational sea angling is to our economy and to coastal communities.

The District Councils’ Network, which represents councils for many of England’s tourist and culture locations, recently warned of the threat of our tourist towns and seaside resorts becoming “ghost towns” as people stay away.

The government needs to do more to help coastal communities and the businesses key to their economic wellbeing.  While the support to business, sole traders and the self-employed is welcome, it simply isn’t enough.  And the government’s announcement of £10 million to support commercial fishing sector has missed the point.  Despite the government rhetoric, our commercial fishing sectors contribution to our economy simply does not compare to the contribution recreational sea angling makes.

While commercial fishing is estimated to contribute around £209m in landings (2018), recreational sea angling, according to the government’s own report in 2012, contributes a massive £1.2 billion, with a gross added value of £980 million to the UK economy.  It directly supports over 10,400 jobs, and indirectly many more.  And most of that money stays in coastal communities, spent in local shops, local restaurants, and in hiring local angling charter boats.

Here at the Angling Trust, we’re pushing the government to do more.  Working with the Professional Boatman’s Association, we’re highlighting the impact this lockdown is having on the jobs and livelihoods of charter boat skippers up and down the country.  Why we asked, are the commercial fisherman getting this special treatment, when it is not available to charter boat owners?  The response was that charter boats have access to other measures, such as salaried crew and self-employed support. True.  But these measures are also available to commercial fisherman.  So, the question remains, why are they getting the extra support and charter boat businesses aren’t?

As the lockdown is lifted and we can begin to return to the sport so many of us love, it will be important for the government to recognise the vital contribution recreational sea angling makes to our economy as a whole and to coastal communities in particular.  The Angling Trust, will continue to fight to make sure the government, both nationally and locally, understands this and gives appropriate support to our sport.

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