Owners of the UK’s charter fishing boats have called on the fisheries minister, George Eustice, to give his full support to EU proposals which would mean a fairer deal for anglers when the 2017 bass fishing opportunities are agreed by ministers in December.
Last year Mr Eustice angered Britain's 800,000 sea anglers by caving into pressure and agreeing to restrict members of the public angling recreationally for publicly-owned bass stocks whilst increasing catching opportunities for those fishing commercially.
Charter boats are projected to lose approximately £2.8m in bookings over the course of 2016 – approximately 50 per cent of the value of all recorded bass landed commercially into the UK. Anglers spend up to £600 a day chartering specialist bass fishing trips but bookings have been down as a result of the disproportionately restrictive measures banning anglers from retaining any bass for the first six months of the year, and then limiting them to just one fish per day for the remainder of 2016.
Ian Noble, Chairman of the Professional Boatman’s Association (PBA), which represents many of the UK’s charter boat operators, has written to the Minister calling on him to support the livelihoods and businesses of charter boats by backing the European Commission’s proposals for bass fishing opportunities in 2017 including limiting commercial fishing to hooks and lines only, introducing a two-month closed period to protect spawning bass and agreeing a fairer and more flexible monthly bag limit for recreational fishing.
In his letter Mr Noble writes, “The UK’s charter fishing fleet contributes many millions of pounds to the UK economy and to many coastal communities by providing a service to recreational sea anglers. Businesses, like my own, are reliant on members of the public choosing to go angling recreationally for publicly-owned sea fish.
We are small businesses, just like the under10m fleet, whose livelihoods are reliant on fishing opportunities. However, we believe that no consideration was given to our sector when the 2016 EU fishing opportunities were agreed. It is essential that a fairer deal is reached for the recreational angling and charter boat sectors in 2017."
The decline in bookings has also affected other businesses in coastal communities who rely on visiting anglers. “Anglers may fish for leisure but it's a leisure activity that is highly valuable and one on which many small businesses and jobs depend.”
David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Head of Marine, said: “No one from government thought to consider how the very restrictive measures for recreational angling in 2016 were going to impact charter boats. Now that they are aware of the damaging impact it has had on the livelihoods of many people living in the UK’s coastal communities fairer and more flexible measures that support small business owners operating charter boats must be delivered by the fisheries minister for 2017.”