Fall in fishing licence sales trigger fears over angling's future

Angling was dealt a blow this week with news that sales of some categories of rod licence this year are down by almost 10 per cent.

Just weeks after one of the biggest names in tackle sales, Bennetts of Sheffield, closed its doors, concern is mounting that similar businesses could also fall victim to the UK’s current economic problems.

According to the figures, obtained by Angling Times and verified by the Environment Agency, overall sales of coarse and trout licences for 2010 have fallen by nearly four per cent compared to last year.

More worrying is the fact that sales of junior licences have dropped by almost 10 per cent, giving rise to concerns that the sport’s long-term health could also be in jeopardy.

Lanes of Coventry is just one of thousands of tackle shops across the UK being affected by the downturn.

“It’s definitely been a bit quieter in the shop this year, and it’s obviously all to do with the economic climate,” said Lanes’ sales assistant Wayne Sharman.

“The one thing we’ve noticed that also backs up the licence figures is the lack of younger anglers in the shop, but whether that’s to do with economics or the fact that kids have so many other distractions nowadays that they’re just not interested in angling is another matter. It is very worrying for the future of the sport, though.”

Blue Bell Lakes, near Peterborough, has seen a steady year in terms of numbers of visiting anglers, and owner Tony Bridgefoot believing that angling shouldn’t be too concerned about the recent figures.

“It’s not been a record year for us, but it hasn’t been as bad as we thought,” he told AT. “I’m expecting a decline next year but so are many other businesses in many other areas, not just angling. In a recession like this, you just have to cut your cloth accordingly and try to get through. I don’t think angling is any different to any other business area in that respect.

“I also think lower rod licence sales might indicate that more guys are risking fishing without one ¬ after all, no one seems to check them, do they?” An EA spokesperson added: “Without strong licence income, our ability to deliver important fisheries work and partnership projects could be affected.

“Junior sales are historically more volatile than other licence types, but we can’t yet fully explain why their sales have fallen the most.

“We are in a tough economic climate, but it’s not clear exactly how this affects fishing activity or licence sales. We have, however, noted the strong signals that the tackle trade has been hard hit this year.

“We will try to better understand these results and act as we can to help sustain angling activity and licence sales in the future.”