After ten years of stubbornly refusing recreational sea anglers any say in managing fisheries, the European Council has given up and agreed that the €8-€10 billion (£6-8 billion) they generate each year now qualifies them as a genuine part of the community’s fishing industry.

Sea angling has been denied a role in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) since it was set up 25 years ago to regulate commercial fishing.

Jan Kappel, who represents European sea angling interests, including those in Britain, through the European Anglers Alliance in Brussels, found the changed policy tucked away in a little noticed European Council Regulation issued on February 25.

This stated, for the first time, that Europe’s “fisheries sector” now includes both commercial and recreational fishing which it defined as “non-commercial fishing activities exploiting living aquatic resources for recreation or sport.”

Mr. Kappel said that while this level of recognition for angling was welcome, it was not the same as being fully recognised by the CFP and the EU Treaty.

“We still have work to do before we’re properly recognised at the highest level as a legitimate stakeholder in Europe’s fisheries policy,” he said. “However, this new regulation gives us new hooks to use in the waters of the Brussels fisheries directorate.”

The regulation* set up a Community framework for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector and support for scientific advice regarding the Common Fisheries Policy.

The National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) is pressing the British government to insist on the CFP embracing angling as well as commercial fishing.  

In evidence submitted to a House of Lords committee shortly to review the CFP, the federation puts the case for the CFP to commit to the regeneration of fish stocks to a healthy and sustainable level in a given timetable.

Richard Ferré, chairman of the NFSA said: “We need the CFP to endorse a sensible scale of minimum landing sizes to stop immature fish being taken.

“This would substantially increase the brood stocks which is an essential step in building-up fishstocks from the present perilously low level caused by years of carefree commercial overfishing.”

Commenting on the European change of heart, Malcolm Gilbert, a long time NFSA campaigner, said that unless Brussels fully recognised RSA, anglers stood no chance of exerting influence in fisheries management.

He recalled that on a visit to Brussels ten years ago he was met by a senior official in the Fisheries Directorate who stonewalled: “The activity you represent doesn’t exist with us, I don’t even know why I am meeting with you as the CFP doesn’t recognise recreational angling or sportfishing.”

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