Recreational sea anglers should have just as much say in managing the fish they try to catch as the trawler fishermen who harvest the same stocks, Ben Bradshaw the fisheries minister said today (Sunday). 

Sea anglers “have been saying to me and my predecessors for years that something will have to be done to conserve the fish and that they want a greater say over the management of those stocks in comparison, for example, with the commercial trawler fishermen. 

“I think that is absolutely right,” he said.  Future management of sea fish would have to be paid for just as that of fresh water fish was paid for partly by a “very modest” licence fee.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask the sea anglers to make a small contribution towards the cost of managing the fish in our seas,” he told the BBC.

The chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers, Ted Tuckerman, said before agreeing to a sea licence, it would want to see the tangible advantages it would bring.   

Protecting fish would bring good fishing and he urged the setting up of a marine agency “that really looked after inshore fishing including the commercials fishing inshore, because we would like to see it probably banned within a mile of the shore. 

“Recreational sea angling is very important to the economy bringing in, according to government figures, £1.3 billion a year to the UK.”

Mr. Bradshaw said one reason freshwater angling had been growing rapidly was the money spent, partly collected by a licence fee, to improve the quality of the waters and therefore the population of fish.

“I would hope that exactly the same would happen in our inshore waters. There could be benefits from that from being more fish in the sea, more people coming to do sea angling and the sea anglers getting what they have been asking for many years and that is a real say in the management of our inshore waters.”

Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on fisheries and MP for St. Ives, said government should safeguard sea stocks and look after anglers’ interests before introducing sea licences.  “If those things are done then maybe at a later stage it might be appropriate to introduce licences,” he said.