A proposal for every recreational sea angler in Britain to report their luck to Brussels bureaucrats who could then stop them fishing if they were having too much, has been roundly criticised by English angling organisations.

“It would be a monstrous and inevitably chaotic intrusion of policing into the sport of a million men, women and children who contribute £1 billion a year to UK economy and support 18,000 jobs in England and Wales alone,” said Richard Ferré, director for sea angling of the newly-formed Angling Trust, and chairman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA).

Under the scheme thousands of ocean-going cruisers, yachts, private motor boats and even canoes would have to become registered fishing vessels if, even once a year, someone dangled a line over the side to catch their supper.

Brussels wants the fish they catch to be counted as part of the quota that British commercial fishermen can land.

Anglers on beaches and piers would have to admit their catches and risk being told to pack up their rods if Brussels thought they might be depleting fish stocks.

In a report requested by Defra (the environment department), Mr. Ferré says anglers are “suspicious and resistant” to the idea because it has suddenly appeared from the EU and generates serious contentious issues.

He denies an EU claim that anglers were “widely consulted”.

“No recreational sea angling organisation seems to have been consulted despite the potential for this to affect hundreds of thousands of people,” he has told Defra.  “Certainly, none of the angling organisations in England was aware of it.”

The NFSA and the Angling Trust are circulating the proposal among anglers and will send a final response to Defra in February.

Mr. Ferré said a precise definition of recreational angling was needed because it varied enormously among EU countries.

Some countries said anglers who used nets and sold their fish were recreational anglers.

In the UK they are those who fish with a line and hooks and only keep fish for their own consumption.  Any UK angler who sold fish was a commercial fisherman.

The Angling Trust and the NFSA “are generally in favour of increased data on recreational angling” but there was no mechanism today capable of administering and policing the proposed EU scheme.  Trying to collect data from thousands of private boats would only cause problems and additional cost. 

He said many boat angling competitions were run under “catch and release” rules so there would need to be clarification of what constituted landing a fish. 

“We are confident but recognise the need for hard data to support it, that the mortality on managed fish stocks caused by recreational angling is negligible, with the possible exception of bass,” Mr. Ferré told Defra.

The EU proposals would, his report adds, be as unpopular as the recently abandoned attempt to license UK sea anglers. There would be no apparent benefit for angling and recommends continuing present plans to gather evidence of the impact of angling on fishstocks which would establish whether “such a massive and potentially unpopular step is justified.”