Angling Trust joins Fish Fight campaign to give Sea Anglers a voice in discard debate and reform of Common Fisheries Policy

Over £600 million is spent annually by recreational sea anglers in England and Wales supporting an industry of over 19,000 jobs. The limited number of fish species upon which this expenditure depends accounts for only £30.3 million to commercial fishing.
Sea anglers are direct stakeholders in fish resources and The Angling Trust has joined the Fish Fight campaign to give recreational sea anglers a voice in an issue that concerns them and the future of their sport. We hope to open up the debate surrounding our depleted public fishery resources.
There are at least four reasons why commercial fishermen discard fish:
1. Fish are too small to be legally landed.
2. Fish for which there is no market.
3. Fish of a size and type for which there is a market but a vessel has no quota.
4. Fish for which a vessel has quota but chooses to discard small or low value (albeit legal) fish in favour of utilising its quota allowance to land larger fish which are worth more money. A practice referred to as ‘high-grading’.
Each of these categories of discards have their own complexities but are only symptoms of decades of systemic failure of European Governments to take their responsibilities for looking after our public fishery resources seriously.
For decades, the Common Fisheries Policy and the UK Government have functioned to protect the short term well-being of those who catch fish commercially rather than the well-being of the fishery resources themselves.
The real irony is that this ‘industry centric’ approach has actually been devastating to the very sector it has sought to protect because it is fundamentally flawed.It fails to recognise that the single most important ingredient in the debate is quite simply – FISH!
For many species, the EU minimum landing sizes are set below levels that allow fish to reproduce. Minimum mesh sizes are far too small. Not only do we not have closed seasons for shoals of spawning fish stocks – when they are most vulnerable – but this is often when many stocks are targeted most by commercial fishing vessels. For decades, politicians seeking short term popularity have disregarded the science. Close to shore nursery areas and estuaries are still subjected to trawling, one of the most indiscriminate methods of fishing. Gill netting and tangle netting have no linear restrictions so some inshore vessels are now working up to 40 miles of net.
The 2012 Common Fisheries Policy reform desperately requires a 180 degree turnaround that places FISH FIRST. Such a change in cultural mindset would be the best news over the long term for all who rely on our marine fish resources