• Angling Trust supports efforts to combat illegal fishing

    The Angling Trust is backing a new information campaign by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to tackle illegal fishing.

    Illegal fishing contributes significantly to the global problem of overfishing, which undermines attempts to manage fish stocks sustainably and threatens the wider marine environment, causing damage to livelihoods and society.

    The campaign was launched this week at Fishmonger’s Hall in Central London with the Angling Trust representing the rights of recreational anglers. Also at the event were key members of the MMO, representatives from the National Federations of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), and many of the regional Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs).

    The campaign aims to raise public awareness about the law and requirements to be registered through the Registered Buyers and Sellers (RBS) scheme in order to legally buy fish caught from licensed, powered, vessels.

    Illegal fishing encompasses a wide variety of activities. At one end of the scale it can consist of enormous quantities of illegal fish landings, such as the £62 million of illegal fish (170,000 tonnes of mackerel and herring) landed and sold from licensed Scottish fishing vessels between 2002 and 2005.

    Or the millions of pounds worth of illegal fish landed into Newlyn over more than six years by a well-known fishing company in the South West before the owners and skippers of the licensed vessels involved were finally prosecuted, in the largest case of its kind to date, in 2009.

    At the other end of the scale illegal fishing can consist of half a dozen fish caught by rod and line from an unlicensed vessel being sold for cash at a local quayside pub, the cumulative impact of which still negatively impacts all those fishermen, both recreational and commercial, who abide by the rules.

    Illegal fishing contributes to the wider problem of the historic mismanagement of our publically-owned fish stocks and since illegal sales are unrecorded, effective fisheries management is compromised.

    The illegal fishing campaign is also backed by the British Hospitality Association, which aims to ensure restaurants make more informed choices in regards to the source of their fish.

    David Mitchell, Marine Campaigns Manager at the Angling Trust, said: “The Angling Trust is supportive of any campaign to deal with illegal fishing, which contributes to overfishing and undermines scientists’, fishery managers’ and policy makers’ attempts to manage publicly-owned fish stocks sustainably.

    “We are disappointed that the focus seems to have already turned towards singling out recreational anglers for the illegal activity of a small number of illegal fishermen selling relatively small amounts of rod and line caught fish from unlicensed vessels. We still see from regular press reports prosecutions for illegal fishing from licensed registered vessels. However, we struggle to recall any reported prosecutions for illegal fishing from an unlicensed vessel.

    “It is important that the focus of the campaign remains about dealing with all sources of illegal fishing rather than targeting illegal rod and line fishing and referring to it as recreational fishing."

    He continued: “Illegal fishing is only one part of a larger campaign to deal with Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. We look forward to working with the MMO to help tackle illegal fishing and then moving on to address the loopholes in legislation that currently allow the unreported and unrecorded sales of fish, which undermine efforts to manage fish stocks sustainably.”