A ringing endorsement for livebaiting has come from a powerful lobby group representing some of the biggest names in fishing.
The Angling Trades Association – whose members include tackle giants Daiwa, Leeda, Masterline, Middy, Mustad, Shakespeare, Sundridge, the angling media and major retailers – is supporting the Pike Anglers Club and its allies in their campaign to retain the method.
Scottish MPs meet to discuss new fisheries legislation which includes a livebait ban later this month.
Ministers believe banning the method will prevent illegal fish transfers between waters, though an increasing number of Scottish MPs are indicating their opposition.
Pike anglers on both sides of the border maintain all that is needed is a similar system to that already in place in England and Wales, coupled with effective enforcement.
ATA chairman Sean O’Driscoll said: “‘The Angling Trades Association appreciates the need to protect rare, isolated populations of whitefish from threats caused by the release of non-native fish species.
“However, it does not agree that moves to achieve this through livebait bans are justified or that they will prove effective.
“Bans impose unwarranted restrictions on the freedom of predator anglers to use livebait as a traditional, productive and legal method of capturing fish in fresh water and, indeed, in the sea.
“Unauthorised fishery-to-fishery movements of fish are already illegal, be it for angling or any other purpose, and they can only be prevented by effective enforcement of the existing laws.
“The association endorses the codes of conduct issued by the Pike Anglers Club and others, specifically by encouraging all anglers to act responsibly and use livebait caught on the day from the water being fished.”
A recent survey revealed the tackle trade contributes more than £500m to the UK economy and supports 18,000 jobs. Insiders see a livebaiting ban as the thin end of a wedge which threatens a sport enjoyed by 4m people of all ages, from all walks of life, across the UK.
PAC chairman Colin Goodge said: “We are grateful that main trade association in the tackle industry, which supports thousands of jobs and contributes millions to the economy is willing to back us.
“This shows the importance of this issue for the whole of angling, which we have been stressing from the outset. It’s a powerful endorsement for what we and a lot of other people have been saying all along.”
Scottish MPs meet to discuss new fisheries legislation later this month.
Members of the PAC, the Pike Anglers Alliance for Scotland and Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling have been lobbying hard against a last-minute amendment to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, proposing a blanket livebait ban.