The £1 billion a year sea angling industry, the growth area of British fishing, must play a full role in managing marine resources and continue to increase its contribution to the nation’s coastal economies.


This unequivocal message has come from the government’s own “think tank” , the Prime Minister’s strategy unit, after a 14 month investigation into the UK fishing industry.


The National Federation of Sea Anglers which, together with BASS and SACN, gave extensive evidence has welcomed the report. 


Chairman Ted Tuckerman said: “Such a level of government concern for recreational sea fishing was unheard of a few short years ago.  The two million men, women and children anglers attracted to the beaches and coastal waters of England and Wales in 2002 have been given a voice.


“These recommendations will encourage their numbers to swell bringing further benefit to thousands of coastal businesses.”  


Fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw said the independent analysis could take forward British commercial fishing and recreational sea angling. 


The report urged that responsibility for sea angling in England and Wales should be shouldered by a single government organisation.  Sea anglers representatives should be included in relevant fisheries management bodies at all levels.


Mr. Tuckerman said: “Recreational anglers are ready for an active and responsible role in marine resources management.  We await the government’s positive response to the recommendations from its own experts for this to happen.”


The report said that economic and social benefits of angling for specific species may provide a greater contribution to society than commercial catching.   A review of the evidence on whether bass could become the first European species to be designated as a sports fish reserved wholly for recreational fishing, could possibly begin by the end of 2004.


Anglers’ organisations should work with national fisheries departments to assess the case for bass.  This could, the report hinted, be followed by other fish now caught commercially being designated for recreational fishing.


The strategy unit said the quality of sea angling was reported to have diminished in line with the decline in local fish stocks resulting in fewer trips by serious anglers and an increase in trips overseas.  “This is blindingly obvious to every sea angler,” said Mr. Tuckerman, “and we will welcome being able to help to correct the problem.”


The report calls for more information on the impact of what recreational sea anglers catch, what they keep for their own use, what they release, and also suggests a voluntary licensing scheme and independent research. 


The strategy unit emphasises that its analysis is a report to government.  It is not government policy and must await the government’s response.


An NFSA spokesman added that the £1 billion a year value of sea angling comfirmed by the report, had been achieved with fish stocks at their present depressed levels. “With proper management of fisheries there is potential to develop to sea angling well beyond this figure,” he said