Sea anglers voice their anger at plan for £22 annual licence
By Charles Clover and Stewart Payne
2nd August 2004
More than a million people who go sea angling without charge may have to buy a £22 annual licence under a proposal being considered by the Government.
The plan to charge sea anglers in England and Wales the same rate for a licence as freshwater anglers has dismayed hobby fishermen who believe the oceans have been depleted of fish by commercial vessels.
The licence scheme is part of a wide-ranging review of enforcement and charging in marine fisheries set in motion this year by a report from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit.
Sea anglers spend more than £500 million a year, though anglers point out that increasing numbers are drawn abroad as there are not enough fish worth catching in the seas at home.
Research shows that the demand for sea angling may be increasing, especially among higher income groups, partly because of the new enthusiasm for salt-water fly-fishing.
The Review of Marine Fisheries and Environmental Enforcement identifies these enthusiasts as a source of revenue in Government attempts to prevent over-fishing.
The deal it proposes is that the Government should pay greater attention to the needs of anglers, who it says are economically and socially significant, when it comes to apportioning fish stocks.
Anglers should be better represented in management organisations, such as fisheries committees or a proposed new marine agency and should have habitats where commercial fishing is banned, possibly the first mile from shore.
In return for all this, they should be charged a licence at the rate of £22 a year, or £8 for a week. The revenue would go towards supporting inshore fisheries management. But the authors concede enforcement would be difficult.
The report proposes licensing inshore fishermen - those who go out for the day or overnight in small boats. This could raise £3 million a year which could be spent preventing illegal catches.
The danger of the proposal is that it hits large commercial vessels last or not at all, even though they cause most depletion of stocks.
The report was greeted with dismay by the Southern Sea Fisheries Committee, which represents local authorities with coastal borders.
Vic Morey, Isle of Wight council's representative, said: "How is the scheme going to be policed? We have many miles of remote coastline."
Henry Adams, the council's other delegate, branded the proposal a "fishing-pole tax".
He said: "It is outrageous. Fishing is part of growing up not something to be taxed."
David Rowe of the National Federation of Sea Anglers said: "There is a case for licences if the angler got enough out of it. At present he gets nothing."