More support for the campaign by sea anglers to stop overfishing of the UK’s fragile fish stocks emerged today as the Conservative party vowed it would make full provision for the million anglers who generate £1 billion of economic activity, if it forms the next government.


Owen Paterson MP the shadow fisheries minister, launched a party policy document at Looe in Cornwall, promising to take “full account of the needs of recreational sea fishing, limiting commercial activity if necessary to ensure that those needs are met.”


The Conservatives would “create a stable and equitable framework for the fishing and allied industries, including the recreational fishing sector and tourism, which would generally protect the interests of the United Kingdom.”


The National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) at Buckfastleigh, Devon, said the document reflected much of its advice.  “We are urging all political parties to recognise that men, women and children recreational anglers in the UK are an important and profitable sector of the fishing industry and their needs warrant equal consideration with those of the commercial sector,” its chairman Mr. Ted Tuckerman said.


“We want to work with whoever forms the next government to reverse the damage inflicted on valuable fish stocks by years of poor management decisions taken solely in the interests of commercial fishing and often to the detriment of sea anglers.”


In the last year the value of sea angling to the coastal economies of the UK has become widely recognised in government and parliament after vigorous lobbying by the NFSA and other angling bodies. 

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“The government is now seriously listening to our demands to protect and rebuild fish stocks to benefit sea anglers,” Mr. Tuckerman said.  “We have briefed the Liberal Democrat and the Conservative parties.  Now the Labour party is asking us for advice.”


Proposals, repeated by the Conservatives today, for sea angling licenses would only be supported by the NFSA if there was first clear and unambiguous evidence that they would benefit sea angling and not be just a tax. 


“That means real enforcement to stop overfishing and the absurd situation where fish can be legally caught and sold commercially before they had even grown big enough to spawn to rebuild depleted stocks,” Mr. Tuckerman said,


The document echoes many demands the NFSA has been urging the present government to adopt including the simultaneous protection of the marine environment and conservation of healthy fisheries and the fundamental principle that  fish are the property of the nation as a whole.


The Conservatives say existing local authority based sea fisheries committees are a good basis for future regulation of fisheries but must in future take into account the needs of “all interested parties, such as recreational fishermen and tourism.”


Recreational sea anglers and all organisations “which can contribute

usefully” to local management of fisheries should be on these committees.   They

should, the Conservatives say, draft management plans, hold public meetings and foster considerable local media coverage.