The European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) has welcomed the decision by UK Fisheries Minister, Jonathan Shaw, to scrap proposals for a national sea angling licence.
But the organisation, which represents the interests of more than 200 angling businesses across Europe, warned against complacency in the continued fight to ensure a sustainable future for recreational angling.
EFTTA President, Gregg Holloway, said: “Everyone in the fishing tackle industry, EFTTA included, is delighted at the decision not to proceed with a licence scheme in the Marine Bill.
“But it is vital that we do not allow this to overshadow all the other important factors under discussion in the ongoing Recreational Sea Angling Strategy.
“The recreational sea angling trade in England and Wales contributes around £600m to the economy and can only be sustained with sensible debate, open consultation and by listening to the valued opinions of those whose livelihoods depend on it.
“Healthy fish habitats, with more and bigger fish are vital to the sport’s future and we have to ensure that the government makes policy decisions that do not jeopardise those goals.
“Decisions on minimum fish landing sizes in the commercial sector are just as important as the sea licence debate.”
A provision enabling licences to be imposed was withdrawn from the government’s new Marine Bill due to be published shortly.
The news came in a written parliamentary answer to MP Martin Salter from the fisheries minister, Jonathan Shaw.
Mr. Salter who is the Labour spokesman for angling, said that he remained committed to the principle of a rod licence for all forms of recreational fishing but added: “Let’s first get in place the conservation measures necessary to stop the over exploitation by the commercial sector and give Britain’s sea anglers the chance of a decent days sport before we ask them to pay to catch fish that might not be there.”
The news has been welcomed by several UK organisations who have been lobbying fiercely against a sea licence scheme. And it comes just months after the introduction of a licence scheme in Portugal had catastrophic effects on the Portuguese fishing tackle trade.
Leon Roskilly of the Sea Anglers Conservation network (SACN) said: “It is a relief to get the distraction of a sea angling licence off the agenda so that we can talk positively and with confidence about the delivery of benefits and a better future for Recreational Sea Angling in the UK”.
Richard Ferré, chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers, said: “The minister and his civil servants are to be congratulated for listening to and analysing our arguments and now for taking this decision.
“Many angling businesses would have been badly hurt by an unpopular licence scheme deterring thousands of families who go sea angling on holiday every year often introducing their children to a fascinating, nature loving, outdoor activity.”
Added EFTTA President Gregg Holloway: “The sea licence scheme in Portugal has slashed 60% off the revenues generated by the tackle trade in that country. Any EU country simply has to think very carefully before introducing sea licences.”