The Fisheries Bill

The introduction of a new UK fisheries law once we leave the EU could mark a watershed moment for UK sea angling if the opportunity is taken. David Mitchell explains why it is so important and why it could be a gamechanger for the future of UK sea angling.

Why is it so important?

For over 40 years Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy has dictated fishing policy right across the EU. The CFP has generally considered to be a disaster and despite being reviewed on a number of occasions it has always prioritised the short-term fishing interests of commercial fishing fleets across Europe which it was designed to support.

For the first time in generations the UK now has the opportunity to break free from the CFP and develop a new UK Fisheries Policy which suits the UK. The opportunity to get it right is a once in a lifetime one. We must get it right.

What does it mean for YOU?

The biggest failure of the Common Fisheries Policy for anglers was its willingness to control recreational fishing when it might be having a negative impact on commercial fishing opportunities but the unwillingness to recognise recreational fishing as a an equal stakeholder in how our fish stocks are managed.

The new UK Fisheries Bill provides the opportunity at last for angling and al its benefits to be properly recognised alongside commercial fishing. This will give you a say on how UK fish stocks are managed and will mean recreational fishing will have to be considered when decisions are being made.

What were the government’s proposals for recreational fishing?

We will consider the establishment of a reserve of quota to be managed and allocated by

the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in accordance with new criteria to meet the

future needs of the industry. This could include allocation of some fishing opportunities

specifically for recreational angling.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


“To consider whether some fishing opportunities should be reserved for the recreational

angling sector.”


“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.”

When will it become law?

The Bill didn’t become law during the last parliament. Unfortunately, it now needs to start from scratch again when a new parliament is formed. MPs and the House of Lords review it and propose amendments which are then considered by the government. We are expecting the new Bill to make its way through parliament over the course of 2020.

How has the Angling Trust been involved?

So far the Angling Trust has:

  • Lobbied MPs and produced a number of briefing documents setting out the case for including recreational fishing in the Bill.
  • Worked with other UK angling groups and the angling trade to respond to a government consultation leading to a draft Bill.
  • Given oral evidence to the influential House of Commons EFRA Committee making the case for including recreational fishing in the bill.
  • Submitted written evidence making the case for recreational fishing to be included in the Bill.
  • Met with ministers and government officials making the case for recreational fishing to be included in the Bill.
  • We secured amendments to the Bill ensuring recreational fishing was explicitly referenced and qualified for future funding through the new Bill.

Wouldn’t sea angling be better off trying to fly under the radar

No! Like it or not, fisheries managers around the world are now turning their attention to the impact recreational fishing might be having on fish stocks and the environment. This will be the focus over the next 10 years in just the same way that the attention has been on small scale fishing over the last 10 years – and aren’t we glad that this happened and small scale commercial fishing is now better regulated and monitored than it was? Trying to go unnoticed would be a strategic disaster for the future of recreational angling. We would not escape notice, nor would we have no say over how our publicly owned fish stocks are managed. What would this mean? We would be in exactly the same position we are now with the CFP!

The absolute priority is to take the opportunity to turn the UK into a world leader in fisheries management and take best practice from countries like New Zealand and the USA where recreational angling, and the public’s right to fish, is protected and enshrined in legislation.

What happens next?

The Angling Trust is tracking the passage of the Bill through parliament before it is made into an act of parliament and becomes law – including explicit reference to recreational fishing as a stakeholder and allowing recreational fishing, like commercial fishing, to qualify for funding to develop it. The Bill is now being debated in the House of Commons having been debated in the House of Lords earlier in the year.

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