Natural England’s Marine Director, James Marsden, took a crash course in sea angling on July 28th when he took to the Blackwater estuary in Essex for a day’s charter boat fishing with the Angling Trust.
Mr Marsden, who is responsible for overseeing the delivery of the Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) project in England, joined a party of anglers and representatives on the regional MCZ projects in order to understand recreational sea angling better and the concerns that many anglers have over the MCZ process.
Those onboard included angling journalist and former charter skipper Bob Cox, and Angling Trust Marine Committee Chairman John Amery. They used the opportunity to make sure Mr Marsden was left in no doubt about the economic importance of recreational angling as well as discussing the fears among anglers that unnecessary restrictions could be imposed on them by MCZs.
The timelines of the MCZ projects, the possibility of charter skippers having representation at management level, and how to secure appropriate representation for the RSA sector at a national level were also discussed as the group caught smoothounds, thornback rays and mackerel from Stuart Belbin’s boat, Razorbill II.
The need for RSA to be represented on the new Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) and the lack of communication between Government departments and anglers was also pressed home to Mr Marsden who was given plenty of food for thought by the end of the day.
“It was high time to redress the balance of the many days I’ve spent with commercial fishermen by arranging for me to join the RSA sector and listen to their views, on their terms and territory,” said Mr Marsden. “We covered a lot of ground and I now have a much better understanding of the issues, concerns and psyche of sea anglers.”

Angling Trust Marine Committee Chairman John Amery said “It is not often that RSA representatives can have the marine director of Natural England ‘hooked’ for six hours with no escape and we took full advantage to express our concerns, which were listened to with genuine interest.”
Natural England has since agreed to make every effort to engage sea anglers at a regional and national level in the MCZ projects and in developing management measures for marine protected areas as a whole.
The Angling Trust is urging all sea anglers to get involved in the MCZ process and upload their own data on where they fish to the interactive map at before the deadline of September 30th.