Anglers now have a new voice in Europe thanks to the establishment of the ‘Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment’ in the European Parliament.

The event was the first opportunity for the many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) present to meet representatives of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) to hear about the importance of angling to the economy, environment and rural development. The Angling Trust played a lead role at the launch which took place in Brussels on the 25th of March and which follows the publication of the Angling Trust’s Manifesto for Angling, which was sent to all major UK political parties last week.

The event was chaired by the President of the Forum, MEP Norica Nicolai (Romania, ALDE). Angling Trust Vice-President Mike Heylin, who is a Board Member of EAA said in his speech at the event: “25 million people regularly fish across the EU, the biggest EU constituency. They must be better taken into consideration by their EU representatives”.

Mark Owen, Head of Freshwater at the Angling Trust, gave a presentation on the role of anglers as “guardians and protectors of the aquatic environment”, using the Voluntary Bailiff Service as an example of partnership working with the Environment Agency in England. He also pointed out the social role of fishing organisations through projects such as Get Hooked on Fishing to benefit young people and those with physical and mental disabilities.

Jean-Claude Bel, CEO of EFTTA explained the purpose of the establishment of this informal Forum in the EP and stressed the economic and social importance of angling in the EU. He highlighted some important economic figures about the sector (1 kg of fish caught by a recreational fisherman brings 200-300 EUR to the economy and the economic ripple effect sees more than 39 billion EUR annually and 800,000 jobs). Mr. Bel then explained how the development of these low-environmental impact activities can be an important tool for rural development:

“Angling tourism brought 280 million EUR into the Irish economy in 2012, more than golf”. In her presentation, Anna Gueorguieva, senior Advisor at the World Bank presented the World Bank development strategy currently being implemented in the Danube delta region, in which recreational fisheries proved to be a sustainable driving force to tackle the fisheries management and rural desertification problems. MEP Norica Nicolai concluded the event by insisting on the economic potential of recreational fisheries:

“Our passion can also be a key for job creation and economic development”, she declared. The next event of the Forum, “The European sea bass recreational fisheries and its long term management”, is scheduled on the 14th April. It will be chaired by MEP Alain Cadec and the Angling Trust’s Marine Campaigns Manager David Mitchell will be attending the event.