Sea anglers look set to become the latest victims of madcap European proposals with Brussels politicians calling for their catches to be included in the UK’s overall quotas.
With conservation of pressured fish stocks a growing concern throughout Europe Brussels is searching for a means to account for all catches of threatened species, by both commercial fishermen and recreational anglers.
But the Commission’s suggested solution could prove unworkable according to Angling Trust experts who insist that no framework exists for implementing and policing the proposals.
"How will Defra record catches made by over a million sea anglers? How will they register and police all the boats, both chartered and private, that recreational anglers go out in each and every day? What about fish that are caught and released? Are they counted?" asked Angling Trust’s sea fishing board member Richard Ferre.
"This all came out of Brussels without warning last November catching sea anglers and Defra unawares, despite EU claims that anglers were widely consulted. No one consulted us!" he insisted.
But the reality is that recreational sea anglers wouldn’t necessarily be adverse to such proposals if they were workable.
"If there’s proof that we’re impacting quotas then our catches should be included, but first let’s get the proof," said Richard, alluding to a three-year study begun by Cefas into the impacts of recreational angling on sea stocks.
But all the scientific evidence presently available points the finger of blame at commercial over-fishing and politicians’ failure to limit its excesses.
Scientists and experts are now arguing that a massive sea change is required in the way we manage our seas’ resources, after new, forward-thinking policies have begun reaping dividends in Australia, New Zealand and the Gulf of Mexico.
"Everywhere in the world outside Europe fish stocks are beginning to be viewed as a public resource," explained long-time sea angling campaigner Malcolm Gilbert.
"As a public amenity nobody has a stronger stake for managing and conserving these finite fish stocks than anglers. We need to impress upon Defra and Government ministers that sea fish are a public resource, not the preserve of commercial fishermen. If Brussels insists on carving up quotas then anglers have a strong case for receiving the first slice of the pie," he added.