Fisheries Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Angling Trust (FISH01)

Fisheries Bill 2018

Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Fisheries Bill Committees

The Angling Trust is very pleased to be able to submit evidence to the EFRA Committee’s inquiry and to the Fisheries Bill Committee. This follows our submission to the Defra White Paper ‘Sustainable fisheries for future generations’ and previous briefings to MPs ahead of the Second Reading.

Approximately 1 million members of the public go recreational sea fishing each year. Their activity contributes an overall economic impact to the UK of well over £2bn each year as well as employing over 20,000 people.

Yet, despite this, recreational fishing has never been considered as a legitimate stakeholder in the management of European fish stocks through the Common Fisheries Policy. The immense economic value has never been taken into account in the management of stocks or the setting of fishing policy. This is at odds with other World-leading countries in sea fisheries management such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

As a direct user stakeholder of UK fish stocks recreational fishing is reliant on access to abundant and sustainably-managed fish stocks. Restoring fish stocks as soon as possible and managing them sustainably is therefore in the national interest. The Common Fisheries Policy has consistently failed to manage stocks sustainably due to politics rather than fisheries science setting catch limits. There must be a binding duty in the Fisheries Bill for fishing limits to be set using scientific advice.

1. Recognition of recreational fishing

DEFRA’s own studies show that nearly a million UK citizens a year go sea angling every year for recreation and/or personal consumption. Annually their activity generates total economic activity of well over £2bn supporting over 20,000 jobs and thousands of coastal and other businesses.

The sovereign right of the UK public to fish for publicly-owned fish stocks and the livelihoods of thousands of people supporting the multi-million-pound sea angling industry are wholly reliant on access to sustainably managed fish stocks.

In some fisheries evidence suggests that recreational fishing is in fact the largest economic stakeholder generating more money and supporting more jobs per tonne of fish removed than commercial fishing.

On this basis it is critical that recreational fishing is explicitly included in the bill as a direct user stakeholder of UK sea fisheries and considered part of the catching sector.

Failure to do this will only serve to repeat the failings of the Common Fisheries Policy which excludes recreational fishing from being considered as an equal and legitimate stakeholder in the management of EU fish stocks.

Over recent years the EU has focused intensively on the ‘significant’ impact of recreational fishing on European bass yet taken no account whatsoever of the socio-economic contribution of recreational fishing for bass which, according to evidence, per tonne of bass removed, generates more money and supports more jobs than commercial fisheries. This failure to recognise the most significant employment and economic segment of the catching sector is certainly not world-leading fisheries management.

As long ago as 2004 the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Strategy Office conducted two years of research into the UK fishing industry and the report recommended that Defra should examine the proposition for designating some species recreational as this may generate the best return to UK plc. Further evidence of greater benefits from utilising some species for recreational exploitation is provided in a more recent report commissioned by the Blue Marine and carried out by MRAG. The research focussed on the sea bass fisheries in Sussex and concluded that sea bass caught recreationally are at least forty times more valuable to the economy than if caught commercially. Both the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man now manage sea bass stocks exclusively for recreational exploitation.

Recreational fishing is considered to be an equal and valid stakeholder in other parts of the World (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). If the UK truly wishes to develop ‘world leading’ fisheries management then the UK Fisheries Bill must do the same.

See Recommendation A

2. Science-Based Catch Limits

The single biggest failure of the Common Fisheries Policy has been the failure to adhere to scientifically advised catch limits. Year after year the Council of Ministers have agreed catch limits which have exceeded scientific advice and resulted in overfishing and the depletion of stocks. Even in 2018 a staggering 44% of catch limits exceeded scientific advice.

The Angling Trust is concerned that the UK Fisheries Bill will not see an end to political short termism to allocate fishing opportunities resulting in overfishing.

The most successful fisheries management regimes in the world – including the US, Australia, New Zealand and many others - place a duty to ensure that fishing mortality is not set above the FMSY level and some restrict fishing mortality to lower levels. Perhaps the best example is the USA’s Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act which sets statutory targets for the rebuilding of threatened over fished stocks – something the EU’s fishing industry-centric Common Fisheries Policy currently prevents.

If the UK really wants to become a world-leader in fisheries management the Bill must not allow the failure of the Common Fisheries Policy to be replicated with short term political appeasement taking precedence over the restoration and sustainable management of stocks.

See Recommendation B

3. Further Measures

The government has made clear that further measures in support of recreational sea angling not requiring primary legislation will follow on. However, the Angling Trust would like to see confirmation of these put on the record during the passage of the Bill. The Fisheries Bill White Paper made the following additional references to recreational fishing:

"We will learn from best practice in other fisheries nations, such as Iceland and New Zealand, where the commercial fishing industry and the recreational sector works in closer partnership with government while making a greater financial contribution."

The internationally recognised ground-breaking piece of fisheries legislation is the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which establishes the legal provision for promoting optimal exploitation of U.S. coastal fisheries. Enacted in 1976, it has since been amended in line with sustainability policy.

Eight regional councils of the   National Marine Fisheries Service   (NMFS) determine when a stock is overfished, and apply both regional and individual catch limits. The NMFS has implemented the Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI), which measures key stocks according to their overfishing status and biomass levels.

The Act has seen 40 separate over exploited fish stocks successfully rebuilt. The USA is ending over fishing in its federal waters, actively rebuilding stocks, and providing fishing opportunities for both recreational and commercial fishing and the communities which they support. It should be the building block for a new UK fisheries settlement.

" To consider whether some fishing opportunities should be reserved for the recreational angling sector. "

Resource sharing is commonplace in other jurisdictions. In the United States for example scientifically approved harvest levels are allocated between the recreational and commercial fishing. In the case of those of particularly high importance to recreational exploitation, a larger proportion of the total harvest is utilised for recreational angling. Recent recreational allocations in terms of percentage by weight of total harvests are: Striped bass 75%; Black Drum 80%; Black Sea Bass 59%, Bluefish 60%; Red Drum 90%; Spotted Sea Trout 83%, Tautog 90%

The political difficulties of designating a fishery resource wholly recreational are understood and whilst the Angling Trust do not rule out such an approach, the evidence is overwhelming for the recreational sector to be afforded a full and equitable role at the table when fishing policies and measures are being determined for species of interest to RSA and for allocating a ‘ fair ’ share of any scientifically approved harvest to the recreational fishery.

" Recreational angling is a popular sport in England bringing both economic and social benefits to the UK. Defra will look at how to further integrate recreational angling into fishery management governance and decisions. This could include managing some stocks specifically for the recreational angling sector only ."

Further evidence of greater benefits from utilising some species for recreational exploitation is provided in a more recent report commissioned by Blue Marine and carried out by MRAG. The research focussed on the sea bass fisheries in Sussex and concluded that sea bass caught recreationally are at least forty times more valuable to the economy than if caught commercially. Both the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man now manage sea bass stocks exclusively for recreational exploitation.

  The Angling Trust believes that prime candidates for whole or partial recreational management in the UK would be Mullet; Bluefin tuna, Wrasse; Tope; Smooth hound; Bass and Flounder

4. Recommendations:

A. Recreational Fishing as a recognised stakeholder

Recommended amendment –Specific reference to recreational fishing in the Secretary of State Fisheries Statement (SSFS) and Joint Fisheries Statements (JFS) recognising its roles as a direct user stakeholder of UK sea fisheries – part of the catching sector – and as part of the UK leisure and tourism industry.

White Paper Reference: "We will consider how we can further integrate recreational angling within the new fisheries framework recognising the societal benefits of this activity and impacts on some stocks. "

New sub Clause (j) - Section2 (2) (j)

Promoting the sustainable development of public access to recreational fishing opportunities as both part of the catching sector and the leisure and tourism industries, taking into account socio-economic factors.

B. Binding duty to fish to MSY

Recommended amendment In addition to the objectives in 1 (5) (b) base fisheries management policy on the best available scientific advice a binding duty should be inserted.

White Paper Reference : " The sustainable exploitation of stocks is vital to the existence of the fishing and recreational sectors. Achieving MSY may involve short term costs to these sectors from a reduction in catch for certain species, but results in longer term benefits from a more sustainable level of fishing. "

Section 18 (1) (c)

placing a binding duty on ministers to ensure that fishing limits cannot be set above the scientifically recommended MSY levels that would deliver the objective of restoring fish stocks to a healthy and sustainable biomass

November 2018

 

Prepared 6th December 2018