Making its mark

The world class potential of Scotland’s recreational sea angling

lochheadI am pleased as Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment to have this opportunity to share with you some of my ambitions for the Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) sector.

RSA has received increased attention from the Scottish Government over the past few years. This is to the credit of the sport’s many enthusiasts and champions such as those in the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN). Due to your efforts and those of others, government is increasingly better informed about the appeal, impact and potential of the sector.

2009 economic study of the benefits of RSA

I was particularly pleased that we could have the benefit of Alan Radford’s and Geoff Riddington’s research for the Scottish Government into the economic impact of RSA in Scotland, published in 2009. Their new investigations found that more than 3000 jobs are supported by the sector and that RSA brings in more than £140 million each year. I was especially interested to learn that the study estimated that more than 125 thousand adults and 23 thousand youngsters went sea angling in Scotland. That is the equivalent of one and a half million sea angler days.

This evidence base shows that sea angling already makes a significant contribution to Scotland’s attractiveness for home and visiting anglers keen to experience the range and diversity that Scotland’s existing sea angling centres offer.  It also highlights the potential benefits for Scotland from supporting growth in the range and quality of what is available in Scotland for present and new participants in RSA.

I am also encouraged by the commitment of our sea anglers to the conservation of Scotland’s marine environment and its fish and other natural resources. Sea anglers are increasingly making their voices heard for example in the marine planning process. I look forward to Scotland reaping the benefits of the sector exercising its stronger voice within the broader family of marine and fisheries stakeholders.

Recommendations for a Scottish Government Strategy for RSA

I will shortly receive the final report with recommendations from the stakeholder-led Recreational Sea Angling Strategy Group. The group’s innovative work offers us an exciting opportunity to develop an ongoing partnership with the RSA community and all those in the public and private sectors who can contribute to its present and future success. There is much to be gained from encouraging and enabling the RSA stakeholder community with the development and dissemination of good practice, and in the identification and implementation of priority actions for the sector. In this way Scotland’s many enthusiastic participants in RSA will be able to access high quality and varied opportunities for RSA in over 6,000 miles of iconic coastline. Sea anglers can take advantage of beautiful scenery, from Luce Bay in the south to Orkney in the north and east to Arbroath and Stonehaven. And we have amazing places all down our West coast and islands for sea anglers to practise their skills and enjoy the outdoors.

National Marine Plan for Scotland

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring the sustainable use of our coasts and seas and the resources they contain. This year, a priority is to put in place Scotland’s first National Marine Plan. The plan will be key in delivering the sustainable management of the seas around Scotland, ensuring the need to protect our seas is integrated with economic growth of our marine industries. We all want to see the promotion of development and use of the marine environment in a way that supports on-going efforts towards a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for all. The report from the RSA Strategy Group will provide valuable insight for the new planning regime into the potential contribution from sea anglers to Scotland’s economic growth and the careful stewardship of our valuable marine resource.

There can be understandable tensions with other users of the marine environment such as with commercial fishery interests. The challenge will be for us all to find a way of balancing the different interests to maximise the social and economic benefits for Scotland and our shared commitment to the sustainable management of our marine environment and resources. The National Marine Plan will help us address those and other challenges.

Shark tagging programmes

One of the most interesting examples of sea anglers’ contribution to the stewardship of the marine resource, and one that is attracting interest from all age groups, is the successful SSACN’s Shark Tagging Programme. I was delighted to learn that in the summer of 2010, over 200 volunteers attended Sharkatag from all over the UK, participating from the shore, boats and kayaks. I’m pleased to see that this event was supported by local businesses and organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage, the Coastguard and Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

We are fortunate that sea angling can take place right around Scotland’s coasts, and can be a 12 month sport for the very keen and hardy. Recreational sea anglers contribute to our coastal communities and their economies. Sea angling attracts visitors and offers lots of opportunities for a healthy leisure time activity for people of all ages and ability to enjoy.

I look forward to sharing with SSACN and others the report from the stakeholder-led strategy group and to government working with you to ensure that RSA takes its place in future growth and that the RSA sector can have even greater confidence to invest and develop.

Richard Lochhead MSP was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and 2003 via the North East regional list. During the second session of Parliament he stood down from his regional seat and was elected as constituency MSP for Moray in the by-election in April 2006. Prior to becoming an MSP Mr Lochhead worked for Dundee City Council, and was also Alex Salmond’s constituency office manager for four years. Mr Lochhead lives with his wife Fiona and sons Angus and Fraser.

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