“What about recreational fishing!?” Angling Trust highlight concerns for shore angling if quota finfish licence cap removed on English Under-10s

Today (Fri 18th August 2023) the Angling Trust submitted a response to the Proposed removal of the quota finfish licence cap on English 10 metre and under vessels” consultation. The Trust’s response sheds light on several crucial concerns regarding the removal of the licence cap from commercial fishing boats under 10 metres, and its potential implications on marine ecosystems and recreational fishing experiences. You can read our response in full here. 

Unforeseen Consequences for Recreational Fishing 

The Angling Trust is concerned about the potential for unintended consequences stemming from the removal of the licence cap. The current proposal is perceived as lacking due diligence in evaluating the impacts on recreational fisheries, especially shore angling. We highlighted that the removal of the cap could lead to increased commercial fishing pressure on inshore grounds, jeopardising the health of fish stocks, the quality of recreational fishing experiences, and the socio-economic benefits sea angling delivers to coastal communities. 

Economic and Environmental Considerations 

The Trust acknowledges the challenges in the commercial fishing industry due to fluctuating market conditions, but in our view focusing solely on increasing catches during such times will invite overfishing, further endangering marine ecosystems, and damaging the long-term viability of both commercial and recreational fishing. In our view, the proposal prioritises appeasing the commercial fishing industry over safeguarding wider coastal communities and promoting ecosystem-based management. 

Following Scientific Limits 

With many fish stocks already overfished, or on a trajectory towards depletion, our concerns are rooted in the poor state of the marine environment and the impact the removal of the licence from the English under-10m fleet vessels will have. Recent scientific advice for many species emphasises the necessity of reducing commercial fishing pressure across various quota and non-quota species. The proposal appears to disregard this scientific advice and raises doubts about its compatibility with the UK Government’s goal of establishing “World-Class Fisheries.” 

Loopholes and Illegal Fishing 

We also believe the proposal presents loopholes that could enable larger vessels to exploit uncapped licenses, risking illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and undermining fisheries management efforts. We emphasise the importance of maintaining a strong focus on preventing such activities. 

Key Questions and Recommendations 

The Angling Trust’s response poses a series of crucial questions for further consideration, including on the anticipated impact of the license removal on recreational sea angling – particularly shore anglers, if an assessment of impacts on targeted finfish stocks and non-quota species has been undertaken, the provision of bass entitlements for uncapped license holders, fees for upgrading licenses, evidence of market support, contingency plans for overfishing, incentives for environmentally friendly commercial fishing gear, and the source and verification of data presented in the consultation. In our view, none of these issues have been sufficiently addressed or considered in this rushed consultation. 

A Path Forward 

The Angling Trust underscores the importance of engaging in discussions to identify the best course of action that balances the interests of coastal communities and the marine environment. We are deeply concerned about the sustainability of both targeted quota species, non-quota stocks and bycatch species which are subsequently discarded. Regardless of the outcome of the license cap proposal, we call for an evidence and science-based approach to protect these vital marine resources and for the UK Government to consider the impact of this proposal on recreational anglers.

As recreational sea anglers, it’s essential to stay informed and engaged in matters that directly impact the health of our ocean and the future of our sea angling experiences. The Angling Trust’s response reflects our commitment to fighting for fish, fishing and the environment. 

The Proposed removal of the quota finfish licence cap on English 10 metre and under vessels” consultation closes on the 30th of August 2023, and we encourage all members of the recreational sea angling with views to respond. 

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