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The Angling Trust has serious concerns regarding the evidence base used to support the prohibition of recreational sea angling within Highly Protected Marine Areas through the latest round of public consultation on the proposed byelaw. The consultation closes on 14th September 2023. We feel that the assessment was rushed anddoes not include adequate evidence to support that recreational angling is destructive and damaging within the designated sites and therefore undermines the sites conservation objectives.
Following nearly two years of representations led by the Angling Trust with the support of local angling stakeholders, the government announced earlier this year (2023) that two of their proposed highly protected marine areas where recreational angling would have been banned have been dropped. The sites that survived consultation include Allonby Bay, Dolphin Head and North Farnes Deep which were designated in July 2023.
Highly protected marine areas will effectively be ‘no-take’ zones for fishing activity – both recreational and commercial, including bait digging within inshore sites. The selected pilot sites cover a mixture of marine habitats and include important breeding and nursery grounds for recreationally and commercially important species. They also include key “blue carbon” areas, such as biogenic reefs like mussel beds and honeycomb reefs, that are important for sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon to curtail the impacts of climate change.
In her statement The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Thérèse Coffey said;
“For Allonby Bay and Dolphin Head, I will designate modified areas…The revised Allonby Bay HPMA boundary allows for an area of recreational angling, including access for disabled anglers…
I will not designate Lindisfarne, owing to the impacts on the local community raised during the consultation, nor Inner Silver Pit South, owing to the high costs to fishers identified during the impact analysis…I will proceed with designating Northeast of Farnes Deep as set out in the consultation.”
While the two offshore sites – Dolphin Head and North Farnes Deep – are far offshore and unlikely to be used by recreational anglers frequently, the Angling Trust particularly holds concerns regarding the designated inshore site – Allonby Bay.
Whilst these boundary revisions to accommodate recreational angling are welcome, they do not go far enough to support recreational sea angling which is an important economic driver for local coastal communities and integral to participant’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Local anglers to Allonby Bay are rightfully disappointed with the outcome. Paul Armstrong, owner of Cumbria Tackle and Guns had the following to say: “Whilst the national outcome is positive, with proposed sights struck from the list and recreational angling interests protected in many areas, the loss of the majority of Allonby Bay is a blow to the local angling community. These are prime angling and bait digging grounds that have not been declining, but showing significant improvement in quantity, quality and diversity of fish in recent years. Anglers were willing to support HPMAs and made the pro-active suggestion that instead of larger boundary changes, the site could start 200 yards past the low tide line. This would have had very little impact on the protected area, whilst continuing to ensure all socio-economic benefits enjoyed by the local community as a result of recreational angling continued. These won’t be the last of HPMAs and if we are to get our case across it is vital that we have the single and strong voice the Angling Trust can provide for us.”
Grant Jones, Sea Angling Engagement Manager for the Angling Trust, added: “Having spoken to local anglers about the impact this HPMA will have, it is apparent that such policy decisions continue to have a very short-sighted view to the impact on coastal communities. The Angling Trust wants to continue to support the over-arching aim of HPMAs, as our sport stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries if these are implemented in a sensible and well thought out manner. There are many miles of coastline inaccessible to the shore angler that have a level of biodiversity worthy of such protection. Spill-over areas are all well and good if they can be reached by all within our sport, including those with disabilities. It makes absolutely no sense to prioritise areas with a high socio-economic benefit from angling that are accessible and increase the diversity within our sport. The Angling Trust will continue to support these local communities by building the case that HPMA’s can succeed without interfering with recreational angling.”
The Angling Trust welcomes steps to recover our marine environment, but we strongly encourage the Government to adopt a collaborative co-design and co-management approach to highly protected marine areas that involves the local community. Sea angling depends on healthy fish stocks and many anglers are calling for better fisheries management to support their recovery. The Angling Trust are working hard to ensure the recreational angling community aren’t unfairly treated as we all work together toward the vision of a healthier marine environment that supports sustainable fisheries.
There will be more Highly Protected Marine Areas proposed and designated around the country in the future and the Angling Trust wants to set the precedent that recreational sea angling is part of the solution, not the problem.
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 sport. The Angling Trust is committed to fighting for fish, fishing and the environment.