GOVERNMENT figures showing the value to the economy of recreational sea angling in Britain last year was between £1 billion and £1.3 billion have astonished sea fishing interests.
It is nearly twice the £640 million annual value to which the commercial industry may grow by 2013 -2018.

The surprising figures are in an interim report from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit which will report by the end of the year on the medium to long-term issues facing UK fishing and a strategy for a sustainable future.
One stakeholder told the unit: “Recreational fishing can bring greater returns to local communities than commercial fishing.” Another said: “[Commercial] fishing is a tough job and it requires a premium to attract good people. In recent years the returns have not been present to offer that premium.”
The interim report of more than 100 pages, was given to a meeting of 60 representatives of sea fishing and other concerned organisations at Newcastle upon Tyne on October 1.
Afterwards Malcolm Gilbert who represented the National Federation of Sea Anglers, said that had the study been held a few years ago he doubted “if recreational anglers would have been included.” That they were was a direct result of political lobbying by a few activists.
“That demonstrates the potential of the changes we could make if everyone in the recreational sea angling industry joined together to provide resources for professional full-time representation.
“References to the recreational sector throughout the meeting and in particular the assertion that recreational sea angling may be worth up to £1.3 billion sent a powerful message to everyone.”
The value of the recreational industry had been calculated when fish stocks were desperately depleted and consisted mostly of small and immature fish. “If those stocks were restored and more and bigger fish allowed to develop, the potential value of sea angling would be very much higher.”
Because some fishery resources generated massively higher economic value from recreational angling than commercial fishing, it raised the question of whether DEFRA (the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) should retain sole responsibility for fisheries management.
“DEFRA is the sponsoring department for commercial fishing so it is responsible for implementing policies for its benefit rather than for recreational anglers whose requirements may be significantly different.”
The terms of reference for the Strategy Unit’s project include taking into account the need for the sustainable management of marine resources, the diverse and changing circumstances of the fishing industry and the social and economic development of communities that depend on fishing.
“The phenomenal growth of recreational sea angling in Britain is an example of these changing circumstances and the benefits it is bringing to the coastal economies of this country,” said a spokesman of the National Federation of Sea Anglers.