Changes in the last 5 years

Improvement relative to 2011

In 2011 we summarized the Scottish sea angling position as:

  • Anglers are willing to spend significant amounts of their disposable income in pursuit of their particular goals, around which they may also arrange other vacation activities.
  • However, they also have high expectations of the quality of the catch, the angling service businesses, the supporting service industries and the overall local supporting infrastructure.
  • Unfortunately the gap between those expectations and the actual experience is continually widening due to the constant depletion of stocks and lack of investment.
  • Government fails to understand the complexity of sea angling, its relationship with the inshore environment and the impact of destructive commercial activities.

and the following diagram was used to show the major issues impacting sea angling.

Issues affecting sea angling

The overall conclusion therefore was that without new management thinking in Marine Scotland, the interests of Scotland’s sea anglers would continue to be ignored, its economic contribution of £150 million per year would dwindle and Scotland would have squandered a terrific natural resource and sacrificed a long term economic contributor to many fragile coastal economies.

Now 5 years on let us summarize on a scale of 1 (significant decrease) through 5 (no change) to 10 (significant increase) where we believe what change, if at all, has taken place.

Habitat – 5/10 MPAs offer potential but can the government be relied on to ensure the integrity of the management plans in the face of pressure from the commercial fishing sector ? Outwith the MPAs, the historical issues of environmental impact, ineffective management and lack of inclusion remain.

Species and stock levels – 5/10 The east coast has seen some improvement but the west coast situation, especially the Clyde, is still quite dire.  NB:: The Clyde Fisherman’s Association were offered the opportunity to contribute a paper, unfortunately none was forthcoming.

The recognition of sea angling – 5/10 Great support for SSACN’s Outreach activities by the government has not been matched by the inclusion of any sea angling bodies in either policy development or the management of the near shore environment.

Investment – 3/10 Unfortunately The Scottish Government still has no officially documented strategy for the development of sea angling and the sea angling experience in Scotland continues to decline due to lack of investment. There is some hope that the Scottish Marine Tourism Strategy will ‘kick start’ an improvement but it cannot make significant change in isolation.

Infrastructure – 3/10 The past 5 years have seen no serious investment in the promotion of sea angling, angling service businesses or supporting service industries and no development of the overall supporting infrastructure.

The overall conclusion for 2016 – 4/10 Though there has been some progress, a  lot more needs to be done to maximise the experience and economic potential of sea angling.

The Scottish Government really seems not to have grasped that it is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.

Ceasing to follow failed fisheries management policies, especially in the near-shore environment, will allow stock recovery at a far enhanced rate and actively supporting and promoting sea angling will encourage and enhance both the internal and existing tourism sectors which will in turn provide much needed income to coastal communities.

In a little more detail:

One positive step forward has been the introduction of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Over the last 5 years, many groups and bodies, including SSACN’s unpaid volunteers, have expended a substantial amount of time and effort in seeking to reach consensus on the introduction and management of MPAs which we hoped would help address the stocks issue.

Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the efforts to help protect inshore stocks have met with resistance from the commercial sector, however, we have been surprised by the lengths officials have been willing to go to to ensure the wishes of certain mobile commercial sectors are met, if not exceeded.

Overall, there has been little significant change in the quality of fish being caught by sea anglers and even though some areas have shown slight signs of improvement, in several others there has been a decrease in both quality and quantity.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the Clyde continues to demonstrate the impact of years of continued mismanagement and excessive exploitation and how a once top European sea angling destination offering fish up to 20 kilos can be reduced to one where 200 grams is considered a major achievement.

Cabinet Secretary Lochhead has been supportive of activities such as SSACN’s Outreach Programme and the cross-discipline Angling Working Group; unfortunately that is not backed by a government strategy for the overall development of sea angling.

The Scottish Government constantly states it’s ambition is to protect the marine environment to ensure it remains a prized asset for future generations and provides a means by which to grow the economy, yet at the same time they continue to exclude sea angling representation in policy making at all levels regarding the inshore marine environment.

We believe that if that is to be successful, it is time for marine management to be inclusive and for decisions to be made for the benefit of all the communities they impact.

Several other countries have recognized sea angling tourism as a significant socioeconomic contributor to fragile coastal communities and have actively included sea angler representation at all levels of policy making in order to determine practical solutions to stock management and infrastructure provision.

Through their tourist boards, they have also provided sector marketing support as well as advising dependent businesses on suitable promotional strategies and techniques. Support at that level has created a sector which is dynamic with constantly increasing revenues and employment.

Will we see any advances along those lines by 2021 ?

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