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Opposition to blanket ban on fishing in highly protected marine areas

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Jamie Cook, Angling Trust CEO: Urged Environment Agency to reject ‘inaccurate aspects’ of the report.

A controversial government proposal to put a blanket ban on recreational sea fishing in Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in the UK has met with stiff opposition. 

The Benyon Review shows a lack of evidence, says the Angling Trust, the representative body for sea anglers in the region, which points to examples of successful multi-use marine conservation zones elsewhere in the world.

While agreeing with enhanced levels of marine conservation, the Trust’s response to the review argues that measures should include managed, low-impact sea angling to support communities and help with monitoring and compliance.

The Trust’s response, sent to all Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) ministers, highlights the fact that the review panel failed to include any representatives from the sea angling sector, and further points out that:

• ŸCommercial fishing has been allowed to drive down fish stocks and important habitats have not been effectively managed;

Ÿ• Sea angling generates considerable economic value yet is too often ignored or marginalised when decisions are taken;

Ÿ• The panel’s claims that the impact of rod and line fishing are comparable with dredging, trawling and drilling are wholly unsubstantiated;

Ÿ• There is a more rational solution to deliver conservation objectives and reduce economic pain for coastal communities;

Ÿ• Ministers should work with recreational angling to examine the potential for multi-use marine protection areas, including specific ‘recreational only’ buffer zones.

In a letter to Environment Secretary, George Eustice, Angling Trust CEO, Jamie Cook, requested the rejection of the ‘inaccurate aspects of the report’ and urged that recreational sea fishing become a key stakeholder in site selection, management and monitoring.

The Trust’s Head of Policy, Martin Salter, who compiled the response, said: “We were not only deeply disappointed to have been excluded from membership of the Review Panel, but to see how unduly selective it had been in its use of evidence. 

“Ministers now need to reflect on the best way to achieve much-needed marine conservation without triggering wholly unnecessary conflict.”

Further support has come from Sir Charles Walker, MP, Vice Chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee and a keen angler. “Following some of the strong representations already made, there is a growing understanding within DEFRA as to the very real concerns that some of the flaws in the Benyon Review have created,” he said. 

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