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Industry fears consequences of sea fishing lock-out

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Among other areas, anglers would be banned from fishing Dogger Bank, a prime angling location, under the latest MPA proposals.

Recreational sea anglers could be locked out of some of the best fishing grounds in England if the Government implements the recommendations in a new report.

The Benyon Review of Highly Protected Marine Areas, published this week, identifies 46 sites in a network that would exclude anglers from 10% of English seas.

If approved, the move would rule out fishing in favourite venues including Poole, Langstone and Chichester harbours in the south; the Dogger Bank, the Wash, North Norfolk coast and Blackwater and Crouch Estuaries in the east; Plymouth, Falmouth and the Severn Estuary in the south-west, Morecambe Bay in the north-west; and Flamborough Head in the north-east.

The review, chaired by former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, would have serious consequences for the tackle trade if its recommendations are approved. 

The UK currently has a range of protections in place through a network of 355 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). But the review panel proposes to take things further by: “…taking a ‘whole site approach’ and only permitting certain activities within their boundaries, such as vessel transit, scuba diving and kayaking. Activities that could have a damaging effect on habitats or wildlife, including fishing (both commercial and recreational), construction and dredging would be banned.”

The Review claims the introduction of such areas could lead to a significant biodiversity boost for our seas by giving our marine life the best chance to recover and thrive.

The Angling Trust, the representative body for anglers in England and Wales, gave evidence to the panel highlighting good practice from around the world where, far from excluding recreational fishing, many MPAs are actually designated as recreational-only zones in acknowledgement of the light impact that rod and line fishing has on fish stocks when compared to commercial netting and trawling.

And the Trust spoke out against the review in a press release this week. Martin Salter, The Trust’s Head of Policy and author of Keep Australia Fishing, a study into marine park policy, said: “Whilst the Angling Trust welcomes any attempt to rebuild fish stocks and reduce the unsustainable commercial exploitation of the oceans, we are deeply disappointed that no recreational fishing representatives were appointed to the Benyon review panel.

“As a result, no distinction has been made between the negligible impacts of rod and line fishing and the devastation caused by the dredging, trawling and drilling industries. Excluding sea anglers from Highly Protected Marine Areas is not just unfair – it’s counterproductive.

“My experience from Australia, where the government tried unsuccessfully to lock out anglers from these zones, showed that such an approach actually damaged rather than improved progress in delivering marine protected areas.”

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said it would be submitting recommendations to ministers to address the failings in what is hoped will become an important and widely supported marine conservation plan. 

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