The £1 billion a year the economy receives from recreational sea angling will start to dry up unless commercial overfishing in UK inshore waters is stopped and outlawed.

This is according to a new poll among sea anglers and angling clubs.  It shows that the prime objective of the country’s million sea anglers is to fight for a government ban on commercial overfishing which, they say, has devastated sea fish stocks for 30 years. 

In the poll conducted by the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA), they said that lobbying the government to protect fish stocks was the most important of the federation’s work.  It scored 4.55 points out of a possible five.

“Their top concern by far was conservation,” said Richard Ferré, chairman of the NFSA. “Unless the ruination of marine stocks is stopped and stopped quickly, there will scarcely be any fish for anglers to go after and people will simply turn away from this healthy outdoor sport.  

“It will be the same for commercial fishermen and the fishing fleets will continue to wither away.

“Before there is any thought of an angling licence there must first be effective steps to regenerate fish stocks,” Mr. Ferré said.  “These must be actions which can be plainly seen to be increasing the number and the size of fish in the sea.”

More than 600 anglers and clubs responded to the poll.  Nearly half (49 per cent) opposed any form of licensing for recreational sea angling.  Nearly as many (43 per cent) said they would only agree if government action first improved fish stocks and if licence fees were invested to continue to produce better sea angling. 

Only 7.5 per cent of respondents agreed outright with recreational sea angling licences now.

Mr. Ferré said legislation for licensing was foreshadowed in the Marine Bill White Paper earlier this month, also limiting the number of fish anglers could take home for their own consumption and banning or limiting angling in marine protected areas
“We have very serious reservations on all three because successive governments have allowed the commercial decimation of fish stocks and totally neglected recreational sea angling until very recently when they realised its economic value.”