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Recreational sea angling

Recreational sea angling is one of the country's most popular sports, with up to 2 million people going sea angling every year.

Sea fishing

Sea anglers are known to contribute substantially to local economies, and support many businesses. These might include fishing tackle retailers and manufacturers, bait suppliers, boat sales and suppliers, charter boats, specialist magazines, and local tourism and accommodation.

Yet very little is known about current sea angling activity and economic value compared with other uses of marine resources around our coasts.

The move towards more regional management and spatial planning of human activities in the inshore zone around England - for which the new Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) will play a pivotal role - provides new opportunities for the needs of recreational sea anglers to be taken into account in policy development alongside the needs of other stakeholders.

For this to happen, it is important to know:

  • how many people go angling and how often
  • where they fish
  • the extent to which they support local economies
  • how many fish are caught and how many are released alive.

This applies to all forms of sea angling - from the shore, and on private or charter boats. It is only with such information that balanced decisions can be made, which take into account the needs, sustainability and socio-economic benefits of different human activities in the marine environment.

The absence of data on quantities of fish retained or released alive by sea anglers is also an impediment to assessing the conservation status of some important recreational angling stocks such as bass. Cefas contributes to scientific assessments of bass and other species through the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

Many sea anglers consider bass stocks around the UK to be over-fished. The current assessment published by ICES, which is based only on UK commercial fishery data, paints a different picture - of an expanding stock being fished sustainably. Accurate data on recreational catches and releases is needed to give us a clearer evaluation of the status of bass stocks, as the basis for formulating management policies aimed at meeting the needs of both the recreational and commercial sectors.

Sea Angling 2012

The government is embarking on the biggest-ever national survey of English sea angling to provide information on sea angling activity, catches and releases, and on the importance of the sport as a socio-economic activity.

Sea Angling 2012 - a survey of recreational sea angling activity and economic value in England is being carried out by Cefas, the Marine Management Organisation and the new IFCAs.

We will collect information, via surveys throughout England, about sea anglers and businesses that are partly or wholly dependent on sea angling. The survey results will enable angling bodies to develop their own views and policies, and to collaborate with the government and IFCAs to make informed decisions about fishery management at local, national and European levels.

The project will also enable the UK to meet the needs of European legislation, which requires EU member states to collect and report data on recreational catches of certain species:

  • the EU Control Regulation requires the reporting of recreational catches of stocks subject to recovery plans (charter boats only)
  • the EU Data Collection Framework requires the reporting of catches of bass, cod and sharks (covering all forms of recreational fishing from boat and shore).

Cefas' purpose, as an executive agency of Defra, is to play a vital role in securing healthy marine and freshwater environments for everyone's well-being, health and prosperity. There is a huge potential for sea angling activity and economic value to be boosted if fish stocks are restored to healthy and productive levels.

The government needs evidence-based advice to decide how to achieve this whilst meeting the specific needs of both recreational and commercial fishermen and other stakeholders.

The results of the project were published in November 2013.

For more information about this project:

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Last Modified: 27 April 2014