The second reading of the long awaited and often delayed Fisheries Bill takes place in the House of Commons this afternoon (1st September). After years of no recognition for recreational angling while the UK was part of the Common Fisheries Policy, this Bill is designed to set up the framework for the management of fish stocks in UK waters. In the words of the government’s own explanation of the Bill, “The objectives [of the Bill] are the subject of the Joint Fisheries Statement which is provided for in clause 2. In this clause, as in the rest of the Bill, fishing includes recreational as well as commercial fishing unless otherwise specified.”
The result? Recreational sea angling will be seen as a “direct-user stakeholder”, meaning we will be part of the process for establishing the future management of fish stocks in our own waters. Or to put it another way. Alongside commercial fishing, recreational angling will have our say.
But that’s not all. Further into the Bill are sections that allow for the replacement of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. This was the EU money used extensively by the commercial fishing sector to fund improvements such as safety measure on boats, improvement to quaysides and improvement to infrastructure such as fish markets. Under the European fund, there was no funding for recreational angling. This Bill will allow the Secretary of State to provide funding for a range of activities, including in the Bills own words, “the promotion or development of recreational fishing”.
The Angling Trust will be carefully monitoring the progress of this Bill as it makes its way through the House of Commons. We are building a cross party consensus to support the inclusion of sea angling in the Bill and to support the creation of powers that will allow sea angling to access funding in the future.
We’ll be looking to improve the Bill where we can. For instance, the same part of the Bill that allows for potential funding of sea angling also provided money for healthy and safety improvements, training, and economic and social improvements. However, it specifically mentions commercial fishing and aquaculture when it comes to these funding opportunities. We see no reason why businesses that support recreational angling, such as charters boat, should not also be able to access such funding.
There is a long way to go before this Bill becomes law. We hope this will be the case by early next year. This could bring exciting opportunities for sea angling in 2021.