Report sounds further alarm bells for industry in the UK
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A newly-published report has sounded further alarm bells for the UK tackle industry following the recent news of a near 15% drop in licence sales.
The study, A Survey of Freshwater Angling in England, funded by the Environment Agency, examines angling activity, expenditure and economic impact.
It reveals a significant fall in angling activity (22%) over a10-year period, although trip-related expenditure by anglers (£1.06 billion) was very similar when adjusted for inflation.
The report found that while anglers are fishing less frequently they are spending more on each trip and significantly more each year on items not related to specific fishing trips, such as tackle, club memberships and specialist clothing.
The survey compares 2015 with 2005, but there is clearly a feeling in the industry that the trend is continuing in a downward direction, as evidenced by the recently reported fall in licence sales.
“The fact that economic impact has remained the same over 10 years relates more to who is fishing than how many,” said Andrew Race, Managing Director of Reuben Heaton. “All the indicators point to an ageing angling community with more disposable income, nothing more.
“While it is important to promote to children, they can’t go fishing on their own. We should equally be targeting those who will take kids fishing. Anglers are best equipped to generate more anglers. We just need to give them the incentive to do so.”
Simon Pomeroy, Managing Director of Pallatrax, believes the industry is in denial over a contracting customer base. “The fact that so many companies are looking overseas for growth tells its own story,” he said. “The industry has built a paper house largely around carp fishing, where the high spend per capita is holding up the market spend.
“But the number of people who have the time and money to go carp fishing is relatively small. The cost of both carp tackle and access to waters is prohibitive to participation growth. And it doesn’t embrace children, who are the future of the sport.
“I would love to see a return to river and canal fishing because it would bring back the interest in other species, engender a greater appreciation of watercraft and the environment and breed anglers who will stay in the sport for longer.
“We all like to catch a big fish, but that is not the soul of the sport. Turning it around in today’s play station culture is going to be difficult. We seem to have lost the understanding of what fishing is all about.
“Fishing is on the back foot in the UK and the industry is not doing a great deal to change that.”
Race also believes that fishing destinations and target species are a key factor in any recovery. “We are already starting to see anglers priced off stillwaters as fish get bigger. The latest trend of urban carp is a direct reaction to this.
“The newest growth areas like street fishing should be encouraged because they utilise canals and rivers and promote angling for other species. This fits with modern lifestyle, low preparation and shorter fishing times.”
While concerned about the current situation, Mike Heylin, Vice Chairman of the Angling Trades Association (ATA), believes the industry should be looking for positives rather than negatives to encourage people into angling.
“Fewer anglers means more space for new people on the river banks. Let’s use the recent declines as an incentive to participation, where there is more space and opportunity for all.
“We need to create a pitch that angling is a winning sport, in much the same way that football, cricket and rugby do so well; that it has so much more to offer than TV or computer games.
“The various political campaigns of the last few years have shown us that stories don’t need to be accurate to win markets; they just have to appeal to the mindset of the target auduence.”
- The total number of freshwater angling days spent in England over a 10-year period fell from 28.5 million in 2005 to 22.3 million in 2015, a decline of 22%.
- Coarse fishing was most popular at 19.4 million days in 2015. Carp were the most popular species, accounting for 7.4 million days.
- Almost 70% of all angling days in 2015 were on lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
- Fishing on all water types was found to be less frequent, with the greatest decline on rivers and canals (down 43% and 39% respectively).
- While the popularity of river trout and grayling fishing increased slightly, the number of days spent fishing for salmon fell by more than half.
- Freshwater angling in England in 2015 contributed £1.46 billion to the economy and supported 27,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
- Total non-trip related expenditure in 2015 is estimated at around £680 million. This includes clothing, media, tackle and club memberships. More than half of this spend (56%) was on tackle.
- Anglers each spent an average of more than £400 on tackle and around £110 on club and syndicate fees in 2015.