Sea Anglers Demand Fair Deal in new Fisheries Bill

The Angling Trust has called on the government to give sea angling a fair deal ahead of the publication of a white paper setting out proposals for a new UK fisheries bill.

In a briefing sent to the Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, the Trust has urged the government to follow the example of other countries and recognise the potential of developing world-class recreational fishing in the UK now that the country will no longer be constrained by the EU Common Fisheries Policy.


Approximately one million members of the public spend well over £2bn annually on sea angling in the UK, supporting tens of thousands of livelihoods, many in deprived coastal communities. English sea anglers pay as much into the Treasury as the entire value of English commercial fishing landings, for which they receive no acknowledgement or proper consideration in terms of resource allocation.

The Trust wants to see management objectives, or recreational fishery development goals, which support and grow recreational angling. An example of this from overseas is in the USA where recreational fishing for striped bass has been allowed to thrive as the major stakeholder in the fishery and is now valued at a staggering $6.5bn supporting an estimated 63,000 jobs.

Measures designed to support and develop angling, such as the restored presence and abundance of the UK’s inshore fish stocks, with naturally occurring age structures, including mature, adult, fish would motivate the angling public to fish more often and spend more money supporting coastal communities and businesses throughout the UK. The government’s objective of fishing at ‘maximum sustainable yield’ isn’t, on its own, a suitable objective for stocks most valuable to members of the public fishing with rod and line.

Despite the evidence of the importance of recreational fishing to people, communities and the economy, Defra still focuses its efforts on managing stocks wholly for commercial fishing, excluding the recreational sea angling sector from participating equitably in the process of formulating management policy or management measures.  Recreational angling nearly always gets overlooked in government policies about marine fisheries.

David Mitchell, the Angling Trust’s Head of Marine, said: 'There’s no reason why the UK couldn’t follow the path of the USA, New Zealand and Australia, to name a few countries, and officially recognise that the public, many of whom fish for their own pleasure or personal consumption, are, as well as being the owners of public fishery resources, also the major economic players in many fisheries and must be considered on an equal footing with commercial fishing in the management of publicly-owned fish stocks. The evidence in support of this is overwhelming. The only thing holding this back is a lack of political courage to make it happen.'

In a number of recommendations, the Trust is calling on the government to recognise the public’s right to access publicly-owned fish stocks and to allocate fishing opportunities based on the social, economic and environmental benefits to society, based on the principle of ‘optimal utilisation’.

Evidence already exists that for some stocks members of the public fishing recreationally delivers the optimal use of the resource generating the highest economic and employment benefits and contributing the lowest biological impact on stocks. This evidence now needs to be acted on and turned into policy so that the government’s objectives of leaving the environment in a better condition for the next generation and regenerating coastal communities can be delivered.

Hunt saboteurs target the ancient art of angling

The Hunt Saboteurs Association this week launched a misguided attempt to disrupt the Angling Trust’s Cormorant Watch website by encouraging its supporters to record bogus sightings of cormorants, goosanders and mergansers.

When the site was set up to campaign for greater controls of these fish-eating birds, which are now present in the UK in unsustainable numbers, the Angling Trust established a quality assurance protocol to avoid vexatious action such as this.

The Angling Trust, which is the representative body for all anglers in England and Wales, calls on Hunt Saboteurs to stop wasting their time by recording false sightings because they will not be included in the final figures.

The Trust urged them to understand the damage these birds are doing to fish populations and freshwater ecosystems. Cormorants were very rarely seen inland before the 1980s, but their numbers have increased enormously since and they are now a significant factor in the decline of many fish populations in the context of widespread pollution, over-abstraction of water and habitat damage.

Goosanders and mergansers are a particular problem on salmon rivers, nearly all of which are classified as being at risk of failing to meet their conservation targets due to declining stocks.

Research from the Atlantic Salmon Trust has shown that 40-50% of young salmon die on their journey down rivers, with predation the most likely cause. On the Hampshire Avon, a river once famous for its specimen roach stocks, the species was almost wiped out in the middle reaches of the river as cormorant numbers exploded in the 1990s.

The Angling Trust is encouraging anglers to continue submitting sightings to the database up to the 31st March when the survey is due to end so that it can build a picture of the distribution of the birds to support better management of predation at a national level. The Angling Trust will be backing up this information by contacting more than 2,000 angling clubs and fisheries it has in membership and asking them to contribute to a survey about fish-eating birds to provide more evidence to Ministers and statutory agencies to press them to take action.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: 'It is disappointing that these animal rights extremists have chosen to target angling with their hateful action. Online comments on forums associated with this movement have even called for anglers to be shot, which is appalling.               

He added: 'Anglers invest tens of millions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours restoring water environments, monitoring and reporting pollution and collecting litter.  We have never called for predatory birds to be wiped out but we do want to see sensible, proportionate management to control their numbers at sustainable levels that can support viable fish populations. Angling is loved by three million people, supports 40,000 jobs and generates £3billion for the UK economy. These people will not stop us fishing.'

Four record claims ratified by British Record Fish Committee

From the top: Chris Davey - Garfish, Robert Wheaton - Gilthead Bream, Tim Cotterill - Thin-lipped Grey Mullet, Geoff LePage - Thin-lipped Grey Mullet

From the top: Chris Davey - Garfish, Robert Wheaton - Gilthead Bream, Tim Cotterill - Thin-lipped Grey Mullet, Geoff LePage - Thin-lipped Grey Mullet

The British Record (rod-caught) Fish Committee met at The Natural History Museum, London, on 28th November, 2017. Present were: Mike Heylin OBE (Chairman), Nick Simmonds (Secretary), Oliver Crimmen (Scientific Advisor, Natural History Museum), Andrew Nellist (Freshwater Specialist), Paul Coulson (Freshwater Specialist), Nigel Hewlett (Scientific Advisor, Environment Agency) and Chris Clark (Marine Specialist).

The Committee inspected Nigel Ludbrook’s claim for the carp record with his capture of the fish known as “Captain Jack” from Holme Fen Fishery at a claimed weight of 68lb 8oz. The claim could not be considered because the original scales tests performed by Norfolk Calibration Services, using weights traceable to National Standards, consistently indicated that the scale used to weigh the fish was overstating the weight by at least eight ounces. This means that the maximum weight which the committee could accept for this fish was below the current record of 68lb 1oz.

The following claims were ratified by the committee as new records:

Chris Davey – Garfish (Belone belone), Shore-caught, Slapton Sands, Devon, on 22nd April, 2017. Chris’s fish was ratified at a weight of 3lb 9oz 8dr, overtaking Mr Williams’ 22 year-old record of 3lb 4oz 12dr and equalling the current boat-caught record.

Robert Wheaton – Gilthead Bream (Sparus auratus), Shore-caught, Kingsbridge Estuary, Devon, on 5th October, 2017. Rob’s fabulous fish was ratified at a weight of 12lb 2oz, beating Ryan Carter’s 2015 fish of 10lb 7oz.

Tim Cotterill – Thin-lipped Grey Mullet (Liza ramada), Shore-caught, east coast of Guernsey, on 1st September, 2017. The weight of Tim’s fish was ratified at 8lb 1oz 7dr, surpassing Mr Mabelson’s 7lb fish from Oulton Broad in 1991.

Geoff LePage – Thin-lipped Grey Mullet (Liza ramada), Shore-caught, Havelet Bay, St Peter Port, Guernsey, on 4th September, 2017. Tim’s record was short-lived as the next claim to be ratified was Geoff's Thin-lipped Grey Mullet of 8lb 3oz 8dr, caught just three days later.

The committee also considered a submission by Ben Taylor for his shore-caught Gilthead bream, caught from the shore in south Cornwall on 28th August, 2017 and claimed at 10lb 11oz. Further clarification is needed from the captor as to the exact weight claimed before the committee can ratify this capture as an interim record.

Four further claims remain to be completed by the captors as completed paperwork was not presented to the committee in time for the meeting. These are:

  • A Connemara Clingfish (Lepadogaster candollei) claimed by Tim Poat at 15.3 grams.
  • A Cornish Sucker (Lepadogaster lepadogaster) claimed by George Stavrakopoulos at 3.9 grams.
  • Paul Aldridge’s Dover Sole (Solea solea) claimed at 4lb 8oz.
  • Chris Buxton’s shore-caught Tope (Galeorhinus galeus), claimed at 72lb 4oz.

These claims will be considered for ratification in due course if completed claims are presented.

The committee had a discussion about a proposal to introduce specific criteria for future claims for the British carp record. After much consideration it was agreed that it would be impossible to
formulate rigid criteria as each claim has differing elements which must be considered. The committee concluded that it should continue to consider every record claim on its own merits.

The committee concluded that it would be helpful to advise potential record claimants, for any
freshwater species, as to some of the aspects of any capture which would come under scrutiny in the process of considering a record claim, as follows: 

  • The weight of the fish when stocked into the water from which it was caught.
  • The length of time the fish has been in the water of capture since stocking.
  • The origin of the fish and its history prior to stocking.
  • Whether the fish reached the weight claimed feeding on natural food and anglers’ baits only, without supplementary feeding or other treatments.
  • Evidence of the growth rate of the fish.
  • Consideration of whether the fish would be able to naturally sustain its weight in the fishery concerned.

The BRFC does not wish to encourage any attempts to introduce record-size fish via imports, or attempts to manipulate records by producing record-size fish through the use of deliberate fishery management practices. The committee has faced import and aquaculture issues in the past and ceased records for Wels catfish and for cultivated game fish as a result.  

The committee discussed the possibility of reinstating the record listing for Wels catfish, which was suspended in 2007. The catfish record listing was closed to future claims because, at the time, large catfish were being imported illegally from Europe with the deliberate intention of increasing the record weight. This undermined the legitimacy of the record and was providing a key pressure for the illegal importation of Wels catfish. Communications with Cefas and the Environment Agency suggest that the suspension of the record may be contributing to a reduction in import activity. The Wels catfish record listing will therefore remain closed.

The Committee would like to remind anglers that in the event of the capture of a potential record fish, the captor should first contact the British Record (rod-caught) Fish Committee without delay. 
Captors of potential record fish should contact the Secretary, Nick Simmonds, at the Angling Trust, on 01568 620447 or by email at

Nick will record the details of the capture and advise the claimant on progressing the claim. More information about what to do if you catch a record fish can be found on the BRFC web pages.

Angling Trust Slams Natural England for Delays with Cormorant and Goosander Licences

The Angling Trust issued a formal complaint in September to Natural England for its failure to issue renewal licences for the control of cormorants and goosanders by the 1st of September, as required by its own standards of service. Natural England has apologised to the Trust and promised to issue all outstanding licences by the end of October, now that it has hired more staff to do so.

The Angling Trust received a large number of complaints from its members about the delays.  Many members contacted the Licensing Unit in Bristol and reported receiving a variety of excuses for the delay from ‘under staffed’ to ‘licensing of great crested newts is taking priority’, although Natural England deny that newt licences were involved.

Picture credit: Mick Vogel

Picture credit: Mick Vogel

At one point, the problem became so acute that staff were apparently refusing to take calls on the subject.  The delays prevented many fishery managers from controlling cormorants and goosanders taking fish during low water levels in a dry September, which impacted on the capital and amenity value of many fisheries.

The Angling Trust's Chief Executive and Head of Freshwater have a meeting scheduled with Natural England Chairman Andrew Sells in November and will press him to ensure that the organisation improves its performance.

In its letter responding to the Trust’s formal complaint, Natural England said: 'I confirm that in recent months we have faced challenges in meeting our targets and although we have taken steps to address this, there are residual issues to resolve. A number of factors have combined to cause these delays and these include staffing issues as well as changes in how cases are now assessed.'

The spokesperson continued: “We started to address these delays by recruiting additional staff during September and appreciate this is poor consolation for the people you represent. However we would seek to reassure you that we are now assessing the outstanding cases (in order of the date that the return was sent to us) with the aim of issuing all decisions before the end of October.'

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust, said: 'The Angling Trust welcomed the new arrangements announced by the government for tackling cormorant and goosander predation through area based licences and the support for our new Fishery Management Advisors to help fisheries implement a range of measures to deter and control predators. However, these completely unacceptable delays by Natural England with the licensing process have been a backwards step and have undermined the new system we worked so hard to put in place. 

'Whilst it is good news that more staff have been recruited and outstanding applications will now be processed by the end of the month we still believe that the whole process remains unnecessarily bureaucratic and restrictive.  We will be raising the poor performance of Natural England with Ministers and pressing for action to cut through the red tape. We need common sense measures that are cost-effective and deliver greater protection for fisheries which are suffering from excessive predation. Cormorants are not endangered any more, but many fish populations are severely threatened.'

National Fishing Month 2015 - Fabulous fun so far

Since it began on 19th July, National Fishing Month (NFM) 2015 has proved to be a major attraction at events throughout the country. It was launched at ‘Parklife’ in Milton Country Park, Cambridge, on a gloriously sunny day where nearly 90 people tried angling for the first time - even Counsellor Sue Humphries had a go. The event was staged in partnership with Cambridge Sports Lakes Trust, and it allowed visitors to explore a variety of ways to improve their health and wellbeing, as well as trying a range of sports (including fishing) to inspire them to become more active.  

The highlight of second weekend of NFM was the inaugural ‘Carp in the Park’ event, held at Billing Aquadrome, Northampton and very well organised by David Hall Publishing Ltd.  The venue proved to be superb and, despite the inclement weather, nearly 100 people were coached in angling over the two days. Many of them had come camping for the weekend and did not expect the wonderful bonus of being offered free fishing lessons by trained, nationally-accredited angling coaches.

The traditional NFM showcase event took place at the CLA Game Fair, held this year at Harewood House, Yorkshire. Over 200 lakeside coarse coaching sessions were delivered by members of the Professional Anglers Association (PAA), and their pupils had fabulous fun catching carp to more than 18lbs! On the Angling Trust stand, junior fly coaching run by the Game Angling Instructors’ Association (GAIA) was equally popular. The National Fishing Month coaching area was visited by a number of dignitaries and celebrities including Rory Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DEFRA, who thanked everyone for their hard work in raising the awareness of the health and social inclusion benefits of angling.


Feedback from people already has clearly indicated the joy of participants at learning the angling basics under expert guidance: ‘What a brilliant session which my son really enjoyed – his first experience of fishing and he will definitely try it again’; ‘A great experience for the children. The coaches were super and helped them catch fish;’, ‘A fantastic introduction to fishing. My son caught five fish and both John and Adam were very patient and kind with him. He’s now asking where our nearest river is (to fish!).’

Thanks to the headline sponsorship support from tackle manufacturers Daiwa, Pure Fishing and Leeda – all members of NFM organisers the Angling Trades Association – National Fishing Month continues to be an overwhelming success. Along with the support received from the Environment Agency, the Angling Trust, Angling Cymru, the PAA and GAIA, NFM 2015 is maintaining its enviable position as a leading participation initiative attracting thousands of new people to the sport of angling.

There are still hundreds of other events across the country throughout August, and they are open to everyone. To find a NFM event near to you, visit



A ‘Brilliant’ New Website Helps Anglers Find the Perfect Fishing Spot

A new mobile-friendly interactive website has been launched today (9th June) to help anglers, and would-be anglers, find the best spot to fish. provides everything needed for a fishing trip, from searching for fishing spots to what the weather is doing and live water levels to information on buying a rod licence and where to buy kit.

With so much information available to anglers, provides a vital source of reference to all things fishing within a single website. It also gives information on tackle shops, angling clubs and coaches. Free registration allows anglers to receive all kinds of useful information, save their favourites and build up a series of links, which will help them to make the most of their day’s fishing.

Produced by the Angling Trust in partnership with the Environment Agency, Met Office and Post Office, is part of a major nationwide drive to increase participation in angling.

Launching on 9th June will initially be fronted by the popular comic actor Paul Whitehouse.  Paul, an Angling Trust Ambassador, was very keen to get involved, even reprising the ‘Brilliant Kid’ character made famous by the hugely successful BBC comedy series ‘The Fast Show’.

A special launch film starring Paul as the ‘Brilliant Kid’ talking about how ‘Fantastic’ fishing is will be available from the launch date at Advertising in the national angling press plus a social media campaign will support the launch.

Paul Whitehouse commented:

'It was a pleasure to get involved and put something back into a sport that I have loved since I was a kid. I enjoyed playing ‘Brilliant Kid’ again in what will probably be his last hurrah. I hope that anglers and fans of the ‘Fast Show’ will enjoy the film, If we can encourage any more people to take up fishing then it will have been worth it.'

Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd commented:

'We are delighted to be launching This new website will really make a difference for anglers looking to find new places to fish or getting back into fishing after taking some time out due to the pressures of family life.  We urge all anglers, clubs and fisheries to use the update feature on the site to ensure that information is correct.  We also want to make buying a rod licence as quick and simple as possible so our direct link to the Post Office website should help with that.

Our launch is made even more special in that Paul Whitehouse is fronting our campaign. Paul is a very keen angler who supports the vital work carried out by the Trust. We hope our ‘Brilliant Kid’ film will appeal to anglers and non-anglers alike, attracting a wider audience and growing participation in the sport we all love.'

Sarah Chare, Head of Fisheries at the Environment Agency, said:

'The Fishinginfo website is a fantastic new resource for all anglers and those wanting to get started. We are really pleased to have contributed to this initiative – another great example of how rod licence money goes back to benefit those who go fishing. Fishing is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors, has great health, welfare and educational benefits and it is important to our economy.  A coarse and trout rod licence is only £27 for the year and it is easy to buy online from the Post Office website which can be also be accessed through' is designed for use on mobiles and tablets as well as your home or work computer.

Election 2015 - Where the parties stand on Angling

Party Manifesto analysis – by the Angling Trust

With the outcome of the General Election on a knife edge and polling just a few days away, the Angling Trust has completed a review of what the main political parties are offering to do for fish and fishing. A trawl through the manifestos of the Conservative, Labour, LibDem, UKIP and Green parties has revealed strengths and weaknesses in them all.

Last month the Angling Trust published a comprehensive Manifesto for Angling and invited the five main parties to sign up and comment. Labour was the first to sign and Shadow Fisheries Minister Angela Smith said:
'Labour is proud to have a strong tradition of support for Angling.  We recognise not only the economic contribution that anglers makes but also the role they play up and down the country in working to improve our water and marine environment. The manifesto for angling contains some positive ideas for how the next Labour Government can both improve our natural environment and support Britain's most popular sport. We worked constructively with the Angling Trust when Labour was last in Government and we look forward to doing so again.'

However, Labour's own environmental policy is one of the weaker on offer and their own manifesto makes almost no reference to fish or fishing.

The Conservatives have been keen to point out their record in government with new controls on cormorants and support for angling projects. They did agree, following a meeting between the Trust and the Prime Minister, to include a promise to deliver a sustainable bass fishery. The Tories are also committed to concluding important projects like the Thames Tideway Tunnel to improve water quality.

Whilst they've yet to sign up to the Manifesto for Angling the Conservatives' most prominent angling MP and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group George Hollingbery said:
'Angling is one of the biggest participant activities in the UK and important to the country at many different levels.  The Angling Manifesto hits all the right notes:  we know how beneficial angling can be to those that are involved and should encourage more people to pick up a rod; with so many people involved already, we know that a number of areas of government policy should always recognise this very large interest group; and we know that angling is a force for good when it comes to the environment and the health of our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.'

As expected the LibDem and Green manifestos are strong on the need for greater environmental protection with commitments to reduce water abstractions through wider water metering and construction of new reservoirs. However, neither party has anything to say about angling and has not yet responded to the Angling Trust's manifesto.

UKIP has the most comprehensive manifesto section on fishing of all the political parties but is exclusively focussed on the marine environment with strong support for continued exploitation of sea fish stocks by the UK commercial sector. They support measures to conserve bass stocks but oppose the three fish bag limit on recreational sea anglers. UKIP have acknowledged, but are yet to respond formally to the Manifesto for Angling.

Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said: 'We are pleased to have secured strong responses from both Labour and Conservative parties ahead of what will be a finely balanced election result. This means that anglers can be pretty confident that we will continue to receive good support from whoever is the major party in the next government. However, there is still a long way to go before we can get all politicians to recognise just how important it is for the nation’s 3 million anglers to look probably look after the rivers, streams, lakes and coastal fisheries upon which our sport depends.'