Also recent surveys across UK and Ireland make the socio economic case for RSA, results for Northern Ireland still being withheld one year on by DARD,update when available?


European Anglers Alliance

Recreational Fishing Included For The First Time As MEPs Vote For Radical CFP Reform
Angling Organisations across Europe survived a tense vote by MEPs on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) yesterday after it became apparent that Europe’s Greens were attempting to block the inclusion of “recreational fishing opportunities” from the final resolution.
In the end the reference was included when the Parliament voted by 502 to 137 in favour of sweeping reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy which will see, amongst other measures; an end to discarding of fish; a move to restoring depleted stocks and harvesting fish at maximum sustainable yield (the  maximum amount of fish that can be harvested without depleting the stock) by 2015; more long term management plans which will hopefully end the political horse trading that takes place in Brussels every December as Ministers ignore the scientific advice on how much can be harvested sustainably.
European anglers have been lobbying hard over recent years for recreational fishing to be recognised with specific reference in the reformed CFP after being invisible stakeholders in Europe’s fisheries policy ever since its introduction in 1983.
More recently recreational fishing has come under the spotlight for the perceived impact it has on commercial fishing opportunities without considering the huge socio-economic contribution recreational fishing (angling) makes to Europe and its extremely low environmental impact.
Late last year anglers’ efforts were rewarded when the EU Fisheries Committee included an amendment to the basic regulation text which would mean that the reformed CFP ensures that fishing activities are managed in a way that contributes to recreational fishing opportunities.
Jan Kappel, Secretary General of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA), representing approximately three million affiliated members across Europe, said, “I would like to congratulate all 502 MEPs who voted in favour of the final text. There will now be tough negotiations with the Council (the Member States) who will try and water down the reform measures voted through by the parliament. The explicit mention of recreational fishing in the CFP is great news. We expect the Council and Commission to accept the parliament´s opinion on this issue. Recreational fishers, like commercial fishers, are stakeholders in European fish stocks generating jobs and money. In many coastal areas recreational sea angling is by far the most important segment of the fisheries sector.”
Mike Heylin, Chairman of EAA’s Sea Sub-Group said, “Finally we have recognition of the needs of recreational anglers within the Common Fisheries Policy; that will mean that stocks have to be managed to suit anglers as well as commercial fishing. This is very welcome. New threats to recreational sea anglers´ access and their right to fishing are just around the corner. Recreational sea angling probably won’t be treated fairly without this clear mention in the CFP as suggested by the parliament. I’ll urge the Council to do as the parliament did, give recreational fishing an explicit mention in the CFP’s Article 2.”


Exciting new course with Scottish Shark Tagging Programme and MCNI! 

Booking essential

Opposite Grove Leisure Centre at Grove Housing Buildings, York Road.  Car park at rear.


MCNI visited Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) in Scotland.

arran article


Please see the link below reporting MCNI objections to the proposed Islandmagee Gas Project.



COAST inspire Northern Ireland’s Marine Conservation                                              24th February 2014

A team from Marine Conservation Northern Ireland visited Arran Island over the weekend to meet with Arran’s COAST members, Andrew Binnie and Howard Wood. The Northern Irish organisation have big plans to create a greater awareness of marine laws across the province, with the help of some recent government funding. The funding received will be used to establish the recovery of valuable indigenous species, whose current decimated stock levels threaten their sustainability. MCNI’s Garry Gregg said, “The issues facing marine conservation and restoration in Northern Ireland are very similar to those in Scotland, and there is a lot we can learn from each other in our fight to improve the health and productivity of our coastal waters.”

An Eye-opening Visit

MCNI’s primary concern are elasmobranchii, a subclass of fish which includes sharks, skates and rays, and their project aims to ensure that these species receive better protection under Northern Ireland marine laws. The organisation does not set out to be ‘all talk’, either, as they will be running a tagging and monitoring programme in order to establish base line data. While the focus will be on the distribution of the IUCN critically endangered Common Skate (Dipturus batis), the project will also involve the tagging of other elasmobranch species.

MCNI’s team visited the Isle of Arran to meet with Community of Arran Seabed Trust after meeting Andrew Binnie at a presentation in Northern Ireland in 2012 and being encouraged by their incredible achievement of Scotland’s first fully protected marine reserve in 2008. Their trip also incorporated a meeting with the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN), and provided the team with a fantastic opportunity to develop links and discuss their project with our Scottish neighbours. Last Sunday, the COAST team took MCNI out to see the No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay, and encouraged the Northern Irish team that progress towards a better protected marine environment is possible. It is a testimony to the work of COAST, that marine conservationists across the water are intrigued to find out more about the impact that our community on Arran has had on the broader scale.

 A Partnership for the Future

One major element of MCNI’s project is the running of an educational programme, which will be taking place in primary schools across Northern Ireland. Hearing from the COAST team about the education programme they are currently running on Arran, the Northern Irish team return home with a fresh perspective for approaching their own primary schools and plan to share educational resources. Aiming to reach schools, first within a 12 mile distance from the coast and then progressing inland, the sessions will be run by Kerry, Nicole and Zara. The three boast a great wealth of experience and knowledge on marine life – two of the girls having studied Marine Biology at university level – and promise an informative, fun and interactive progamme for the students involved. To find out more information on the Northern Irish project, email:


PDF version – report-overfishing fact or fiction

By Nicole Todd of MCNI


Fishing is a common practice across the globe, both on an industrial and recreational level. The sustainability of our fishing methods is most certainly questionable; however, humans have always had their impact on the population of fish species that are generally caught and consequently their ecosystem and other members of their food chain (Jackson, 2001). Constant and excessive fishing in certain areas combined with further advances in fishing equipment have led to a significant noticeable decrease, over several years, in the size of fish species and hence signs of overfishing are apparent (Daniel Pauly, 2002) (Orensanz, 1989) (Jackson, 2001). Overfishing may be defined as catching vast quantities of fish, such that the rate that they are removed is faster than the rate that stocks can rebuild themselves and hence resulting in low numbers of fish species. (, 2013). The aim of this report is to examine overfishing and the subsequent problems that it causes, specifically; in relation to the target fish species and by-catch. I am going to do this by undertaking a literature search.

Methods and materials:

In order to understand the issue of overfishing I collected information through a literature search on the topic. I made use of google scholar and web of knowledge to find scientific journals and papers that I thought were relevant to this report. I also utilised internet sources.

Results and discussion:

Overfishing is a growing problem that has been on the rise for many years now. It has not instantly come to our attention. However, huge enhancements in fishing gear occurred shortly after the Second World War (Daniel Pauly, 2002). Although it was thought that the El Niño event was the principal reason and causes for the drastic drop in numbers of the Peruvian anchoveta, however, further, more modern research, mainly through catch data, which amounts to around 18 million tonnes, along with other evidence suggests that it is actually overfishing which was the underlying problem (Castillo, 1987). In recent years, developments in fishing equipment have facilitated a substantial increase in industrialised fishing. New complex ships and fishing gear have provided researchers with an increased number of difficulties in monitoring catch analysis. It is hard to precisely monitor the depletion of fish stocks and to carefully assess their populations. Many fisheries haul in far more fish than they are legally allowed to, despite strict quotas being put in place. Hence, this takes the problem of overfishing to another level (Daniel Pauly, 2002) (David J. Agnew, 2013). Worldwide, the human population makes use of the sea as a valuable resource to sustain their communities, especially in some parts of Western Africa where fishing an essential sector of employment and is an important food source. Therefore in this area of the world the sea is an indispensable resource to the Western African population (Garcia, 2012). Certain fish are more commercially desirable than others. Some of these fish may be slow to mature or difficult to catch or even locate (Sadovy, 2001). People didn’t and still do not realise the threats they place on these fish species by routinely catching them for trade. It may seem like these fish are in abundance but, in reality, stocks are depleting very rapidly and there has been a sizable decrease of 90% in large predatory fish species particularly in the last 50-100 years. This includes those species that are most commonly recognised such as Tuna or Billfish. In fact, it was recorded that by the turn of the millennium that over two-thirds of commercial fisheries across the globe were in danger and had been classified as fully exploited, overexploited or seriously depleted (Ransom A. Myers, 2003). Fish stocks will definitely end up becoming smaller and harder to manage, if action is not taken. Management schemes such as restrictions in breeding season and quotas must be put in place to attempt to rebuild these stocks (Hutchings, 2000) (Gislason, 2000). Fishery management committees will also have to enforce more rules and regulations for fishing fleets and put in place fishing bans in sensitive areas, these may be areas where fish stocks are recovering or in marine protected areas ( these are zones in the sea which contain certain species that are under observation and need protected from danger)  (Russ, 2005) Apart from the obvious depletion in the stock levels of the target fish species, due to non-selective and destructive fishing methods, over fishing has a negative effect on many other species which are innocently caught as by-catch. By-catch is a major issue of conservation for the ocean. Taking the definition of by-catch as ’unused or poorly managed’, data from marine fisheries shows that by-catch amounts to 40.4% of global catches. This highlights the absolute necessity for management in this area. Occasionally by-catch may be sold but in many cases by-catch is dead or dying even before it manages to reach the deck so is usually discarded, and unfortunately it has been estimated that between 17.9 and 39.5 million tonnes (averaging 27 million tonnes) of fish are discarded each year in commercial fisheries, which is a diabolical waste. It is difficult to believe that such a huge proportion of our catches from fisheries worldwide originate from by-catch. Bangladesh trawl fleets are given guidelines to follow to filter the fish that they catch. These may include certain sized nets, denied access to waters which are shallower than 40m and zero discards, but despite these restrictions being put in place they are not strictly followed. For the shrimp fisheries a ratio of 4:1 catches to discards is given but in reality, shrimp catches only reach 4.8% in depths over 30m and 1.5% in depths less than 30m. The amount of by-catch is therefore 20.8% times larger in deep water and 67% greater in the shallow water (Davis, 2009). Bottom trawling causes a devastating effect on the ocean as it acts in a similar way to ploughing a field or clear cutting forests. Organisms found on the sea bed and many producers of the food webs (which are of vital importance in order for sufficient reproduction of the fish stocks and to maintain the ecosystem) are wiped out (Hall, 1998). This may hinder the survival of juveniles and hence leads to a decrease in numbers in the population of that (and many other) species (Turner, 1999). Trawl nets are usually huge and therefore are able to catch a large amount of species at one particular time. This is particularly worrying for commercially valuable and endangered species such as sea turtles, many of their eggs are caught as by-catch and this decreases the animals chances of survival due to a consequent decrease on the numbers of surviving young (A. Biju Kumar, 2006). The by-catch species are usually directly related to the target species being caught. In many cases the by-catch species is much larger than the target species and the target species is its selected prey. For example, research off North-West Africa has shown that the diet of local dolphins and minke whales overlap the catches of the commercial fish and hence they are in greater danger of being caught as by-catch by fisheries interested in the target species. Also, if the number of the commercially important target fish species was to decrease the number of dolphins and minke whales would likely decrease soon after.  (Morissette L, 2010). It may be surprising that incidental capture is the most common cause of death for cetaceans worldwide.  (Reeves R.R, 2003). Seabirds are also highly threatened by Longline fisheries. In Japanese longline tuna fisheries in the Southern Ocean, 44000 albatrosses have been killed each year. This problem is also apparent with the Southern Ocean Patagonian toothfish fisheries which have led to the death of over 25000 seabirds. These figures show that fisheries have shown a negative impact on the growth and survival of the population of these birds in different areas. This problem is so large that approximately 60 petrel species and 16 albatross species have currently been classified as threatened species. Although the true extent of the problem is still being investigated and several fishing methods are being assessed, it is evident that the management of fisheries must be improved (Bull, 2007). While in most countries by-catch is seen as useless and is discarded, in India, by-catch is kept, sorted and used in a number of different ways because of its economic value. In Gujarat, the largest marine fishing location in India, by-catch is mainly used for fish meals and the production of fish manure (Zynudheen, 2004). The shrimp trawlers follow a logical sorting process in order to made the best possible use of the by catch. Firstly, species with high economic value such as shrimp, lobster, large crabs and edible fishes etc. are separated from the haul and stored in ice. Shell fish in the by-catch are marketed fresh at local markets. Species such as anchovies, sardines, sole or mackerels found in abundance are sun-dried or salt-dried so they can be used for local consumption or exportation (George, 2004). However, the rest of the world has a lot of work to do to catch up to this level and to decrease its high percentage of by-catch and over fishing. As most fisheries are catching by-catch in vast amounts this makes over fishing much more serious as effectively target species and by-catch species are ‘over fished’. Analysis into the accurate catches and percentage by catch must be undertaken as fishery management is usually centred around the target species and hence the depletion of by-catch species may not be monitored and could go completely unnoticed (Brander, 1981)  (Casey, 1998)  (Baum, 2004).


When we look at the problem of over fishing it is apparent that some important and necessary management is needed to prevent the problem from deteriorating further. We may need to change the way we obtain our fish or the location of our fisheries across the globe, in order to protect our precious marine ecosystems. Despite many hard efforts our seas are continuing to battle a number of varying pressures. Overfishing in fact is not the only problem that leads to these serious declines in our fish stocks. We may be convinced from data provided that overfishing alone is emptying our seas but we must understand that climate change and pollution have an undeniable effect alongside over fishing. Therefore, we need to take this into account for future years if our fisheries are to be effectively managed and continue to provide for humanity.


A. Biju Kumar, G. D. (2006). Trawling and by-catch implications on marine ecosystem. Current Science, 922-931.

Baum, J. M. (2004). Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Golf of Mexico. Ecology, 135-145.

Brander, K. (1981). Disappearence of common stake Raia batis from the Irish Sea. Nature, 48-49.

Bull, L. S. (2007). Reducing seabird bycatch in longline, trawl and gillnet fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 31-56.

Casey, J. M. (1998). Near extinction of a large widely distributed fish. Science, 690-692.

Castillo, S. &. (1987). The Peruvian Anchoveta and its Upwelling Ecosystem: Three Decades of Change. Manila: ICLARM.

Daniel Pauly, V. C. (2002). Towards sustainability in world fisheries. Nature, 689-690.

David J. Agnew, N. L. (2013). Fish catch data:Less than what meets the eye. Elsevier, 268-269.

Davis, e. a. (2009). Defining and estimating global marine fisheries bycatch. Mairne Policy.

Garcia, S. a. (2012). Food security and marine capture fisheries: characterisitices, tren, drivers and future perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 2869-2880.

George, M. S. (2004). Bycatch of Shrimp Fisheries in India. Marine Fish, 3-13.

Gislason, H. e. (2000). Symposium overview: incorporating ecosystem objectives within fisheries management. Marine Science, 468-475.

Hall, S. (1998). The Effects of Fisheries on Ecosystems and Communities. Blackwell.

Hutchings, J. A. (2000). Collapse and recovery of marine fishes. Nature, 882-885.

Jackson, J. e. (2001). Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science, 629-638.

Morissette L, K. K. (2010). Ecosystem models clarify the trophic role of whales off NorthWest Africa. Marine Ecology Progress, 289-302.

Orensanz, J. M. (1989). Crustacean resources are vulnerable toserial depletion—the multifaceted decline of crab and shrimp fisheries in the Greater Gulf of Alaska. Reviews in Fish Biology, 117-176.

Ransom A. Myers, B. W. (2003). Extinction, survival or recovery of large predatory fishes. Nature, 280-283.

Reeves R.R, S. B. (2003). Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises 2002-10 Conservation.

Russ, G. R. (2005). Inferring versus measuring rates of recovery in no-take marine reserves. Mairne Ecology Progress Series, 1-12.

Sadovy, Y. (2001). The threat of fishing to highly fecund fishes. Fish Biology, 90-108.

Turner, S. T. (1999). Fishing impacts and the degradation or loss of habitat structure. Fish management Ecology, 401-420.

Zynudheen, A. N. (2004). Utilization of bycatch in Gujarat (India). World Fish Centre, 20-23. (2013, May 31). Home: Features: Overfishing Vs. Overfished. Retrieved November 25, 2013, from Fish Watch:


News Details


Marine Act now in operation – Durkan

Environment Minister Mark Durkan announced that the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 has come into operation.

This is the final piece of an ambitious marine legislative programme, which strengthens Northern Ireland’s ability to manage its marine waters in a better way.

The Act’s implementation will assist Northern Ireland in contributing to the aim of having clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

For the first time, a marine plan for Northern Ireland will be prepared. The plan will strategically manage the activities that happen in our waters now and in the future, in what is becoming an increasingly busy environment.

In addition, the Act provides powers to establish new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). These will form part of a wider network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which will ensure that Northern Ireland’s marine biodiversity is safeguarded.

In fact, the Act immediately establishes Strangford Lough as Northern Ireland’s first MCZ.

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, said: “I welcome this important Act. I know it has been a long journey for many, but the result is that we now have a strong Act in place that serves all who use and care for our seas.

“I am determined now to focus my attention on its implementation. I intend to drive forward the preparatory work already started to establish our first ever marine plan and to develop further the work that will lead to the establishment of MCZs.

“These will be transparent and inclusive processes. So, in the coming months, there will be further opportunities to engage in the marine plan process as it is being developed and on the identification of MCZs. I encourage everyone to make use of those opportunities as they are publicised.”


The Carrier Bags Bill is now with the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for the Environment for its Committee Stage. Over the coming months, the Committee will be scrutinising the Bill and its proposals.

The Bill proposes a 10p charge for all single-use carrier bags and will allow for the charge to be applied to the cheaper version of reusable bags as well. These proposals represent the second phase of the Department of the Environment’s charging arrangements for carrier bags. The first phase of charging arrangements came into effect on 8 April 2013, with a 5p charge for single-use carrier bags.

Over the coming months, the Committee will be considering how the Bill might affect customers and retailers, and how the Bill will work in practice. Issues that the Committee will want to learn more about include:  the impact on people’s shopping habits; the effect on retailers, particularly smaller retailers; exemptions; the proposed review; the administration and use of the levy; and proposals for interest charges for late payments.

The Committee is keen to hear people’s views on the Bill’s proposals and is inviting the public and stakeholders to send in written submissions on the Bill by Thursday 15 August.

A short video of Committee Chairperson, Anna Lo MLA, talking about the Bill and its proposals is available here:


Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 10 May 2012

Committee for the Environment

Marine Bill:  Sport Northern Ireland/Irish Federation of Sea Anglers

The Chairperson: Our next presentation is from Sport NI together with the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers (IFSA).  A briefing paper has been supplied, which is in members’ packs.

I welcome Mike McClure, outdoor recreation officer for Sport NI, and Garry Gregg from the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers.  You are very welcome.  If you could give us a five- or 10-minute presentation, members will ask you questions.  We have your written submission already.

Mr Mike McClure (Sport Northern Ireland): Good afternoon.  On behalf of Sport Northern Ireland and the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers, we welcome the opportunity to provide a briefing to the Committee on the impact of the Marine Bill on sport and physical recreation on the coastal and marine environment.

As stated, my name is Mike McClure, and I am the outdoor recreation development officer in Sport NI.  Garry Gregg is the voluntary liaison officer in the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers, which is one of the recognised governing bodies of sport that could be impacted by the Marine Bill.  We propose to give you a brief outline of the proposed impact of the Bill, and we will then welcome questions from members.

Sport Matters, which is the Northern Ireland strategy for sport and physical recreation, sets the policy framework for the work of Sport NI in developing sport and physical recreation.  Sport Matters recognises the importance of the natural environment, including the marine environment, for providing opportunities for increased participation in sport.  Recreational users of the marine environment are active proponents of the importance of keeping that environment as pristine as possible, and therefore Sports NI broadly welcomes the Marine Bill’s aim of protecting our coastal and marine environment.

The Department of the Environment (DOE) has signed up to the implementation of Sport Matters, and it is therefore aware of the scale of recreational users’ use of the marine environment and the importance of the coast to the general public.  Over the past six months, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Sport NI has been holding a series of public consultations on the development of new outdoor recreation action plan for Northern Ireland to replace the 1998 countryside recreation strategy.  Over 90 organisations have responded to that consultation, and one of the main recurring themes is the lack of access to the natural environment for physical recreation and the lack of rights of way on footpaths.  We believe that the Marine Bill could have presented an opportunity to help to redress that situation by making a commitment to developing coastal access in line with that in the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

The health benefits of walking are very well documented, and work by Walk England has highlighted that for every £1 that is spent on walking infrastructure, there is a £7 saving to health.  The Welsh Assembly Government launched their coastal path last week on 5 May and have recognised the economic benefits that that will bring through tourism.  The Northern Ireland coast is exceptional, with fantastic scenery and cliff paths on the north coast right through to the Drumlins scenery around Strangford lough.  Sport Northern Ireland, therefore, urges the Committee to consider looking at the issue of coastal access as part of the Marine Bill, as per the UK Act.

One of the main concerns that landowners regularly bring up is occupiers’ liability.  However, that has been dealt with through provisions in the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act, and it can also be dealt with through the Occupiers’ Liability (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, in which there is no duty owed to users for liability on a road and in which a road can be defined as a public right of way.  Currently, there is a public right of navigation on the sea, and Sport Northern Ireland is concerned that clause 24 could enable the Department to create by-laws that could remove that ancient right.  Sport Northern Ireland has concerns about other aspects of clause 24, including the restriction of sustainable and economically beneficial activities, such as sea angling.  However, at this stage, it is difficult for us to say any more about that because, until any proposed by-laws are created, we do not know what will be in them.  So, it is essential that the Department continues to liaise with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and Sport Northern Ireland, as well as with the governing bodies of sport, as and when by-laws are being proposed.

I will pass over to Garry, who will outline the views of the Federation of Sea Anglers specifically on clause 24.

Mr Garry Gregg (Irish Federation of Sea Anglers): Good afternoon, Committee and Chair.  I very much welcome the opportunity to address the Environment Committee.  My name is Garry Gregg, and I am the liaison officer for the federation, which is recognised as the official body for sea angling in all of Ireland.

The potential for job creation in recreational sea angling in Northern Ireland in unrealised, even though studies that have been carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers have identified the economic impact in Northern Ireland as almost £7·4 million in 2005, with an average annual spend by each sea angler of £1,459.  Under the best projections from PWC, that is estimated to rise to £23·1 million in 2015.  That survey was carried out in 2005, and we have moved a long way since that time, and we have seen our tourism increase greatly since then.  The real social and economic benefit would be even more than the figures quoted in PWC’s 2005 report.  The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) also carried out an inshore fisheries review in 2006, and the recommendations on improving and developing sea angling have not been acted on.

At a time when we need to attract and keep tourists, we have a great opportunity to achieve that through the full promotion of recreational sea angling.  We have a beautiful coastline with many sheltered bays that suit recreational sea angling very well and that will provide a much-needed boost to sea angling tourism and the creation of new, sustainable jobs.  We have serious concerns about the future increases in aquaculture in our waters, because that has the potential to damage our marine environment and reduce recreational sea angling availability in sheltered areas, which are often the only places accessible to sea anglers in bad weather.  Clause 24 of the Marine Bill has the potential to allow the Department to prevent access to those marine areas by introducing by-laws that could stop recreational anglers collecting bait or even angling there.  It is widely accepted that recreational sea angling has a low impact on the marine environment and on fish stocks.  We request that we are included as stakeholders in the formulation of any new by-laws that the Department proposes for any marine protected area (MPA) in the future.

DCAL has responsibility to promote and develop our freshwater angling estate under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966.  Our sea loughs that border the Republic of Ireland are being developed for all disciplines of angling by the Loughs Agency.  However, the area of sea between Lough Foyle and Carlingford lough is not being developed or promoted for recreational sea angling by anyone, and that anomaly is an untenable situation.  We believe that a legislative change to the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 is required to make a Department take on that responsibility.  We suggest that the Loughs Agency is best suited to that role, as it is doing well in its current areas of responsibility.

Without an effective licensing process, the retention of by-catch species relating to the inshore, such as wrasses, dogfish, conga eel or rockling, to name but a few, are routinely retained in crab and lobster pots, to be processed as pot bait there and then.  Those species, which are in rapid decline as a result of that practice, are important recreational sea angling species.  Their absences for the recreational angler from the shore have had a direct impact on the tourist angler and those who supply from them local coastal verges as that form of retail support base falls into decline.

The uncontrolled and apparently unmanaged proliferation of pots, the frequency with which pots are laid along the coastline, with little distance from each other, and their depth and distance from the shore make them a frequent hazard to recreational users of small boats and shore anglers alike.  An effective management framework would make a difference by enabling the local economies to benefit, through increased turnover, footfall and profitability.

For most recreational and tourist anglers, the sea angling season is a 12-month, year round season.  The number of anglers fishing the coast has been moderating over the past few years as the result of reduced availability of sporting species, caused largely by commercial fishing.  The immediate result would be negligible.  However, the medium- to long-term importance would be the rejuvenation of small coastal villages’ economies by injecting footfall and generating the associated coastal usage.

We believe that almost all the well-known areas of sea angling activity in Northern Ireland that used to be able to generate large incomes from angling-based tourism revenue have all but been destroyed through commercial fishing pressures.  To redress the balance of depleted recreational fish stocks, protection should be introduced to the 0- to 6-mile offshore area that Northern Ireland has authority over.  That would allow the repopulation of fish so that a healthy and thriving recreational sea angling tourism industry can be supported.

Labour’s ‘Charter for Angling’ refers to England and Wales, but is relevant and stated:

“A recent study of the sea fishing industry in England and Wales showed that recreational angling is worth £538 million a year (nearly as much as the commercial fleet at £600m).”

That was in 2005.  Since then, the figures for commercial sea fisheries have gone down the tubes, because the fish are not there.  The charter continues:

“Further studies by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit (P.M.S.U.) indicated that Britain’s 1.1 million sea anglers contribute £1.3 billion to the economy every year.  This prompted the government to state: —

‘fisheries management policy should recognise that sea angling may, in some circumstances, provide a better return on the use of some resources than commercial exploitation.’

Put simply, there is a better economic return in limiting the over exploitation of the sea by commercial fishing and allow sea angling to develop and prosper.”

The charter also points out:

“Angling in Britain is responsible for over 30,000 jobs with many more benefiting from the angling related ‘revenues’.  It also generates nearly £5 billion annually for the economy and makes a major contribution to tourism in the UK.  There are huge social benefits to be derived from angling”,

which has:

“advantages in relieving stress and helping people relax and unwind.”

The charter further states:

“Angling is a sport, which can claim to be truly classless and meritocratic, and is especially popular with disabled people.  The average angler can compete in angling competitions alongside national and world championship anglers whereas the average … footballer will never get the opportunity to play in the same match as David Beckham or Wayne Rooney. 

In recent years huge strides have been made in recognising the contribution that angling can make to divert young people away from crime and in promoting social inclusion.”

It explains:

“Labour has introduced the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) in such a way so as to ensure that there is a little or no impact on angling.  The Act gives a right of access, in defined circumstances to walk over mountain, moor land or heath.”

That was Labour’s ‘Charter for Angling’ in 2005.  Thank you very much.

The Chairperson: Thank you both for your presentation.  Angling is a big tourist attraction here in Northern Ireland, and it has been for decades.  It is a very important industry.  Mike, you mentioned coastal access.

Mr McClure: Yes.

The Chairperson: What was formerly known as the Ramblers Association came to talk to the Committee about that, as well as about the general lack of access in the countryside.  Your point concerned lack of access to coastal paths, from which the sea looks so beautiful.  Northern Ireland has such long coastal paths, yet they cannot be accessed.  That is certainly quite interesting and is something that I am keen to look into.  You said that Wales has a strategy and an action plan to have a route right round Wales.

Mr McClure: They have actually launched it.  They have gone beyond the strategy.  The strategy ran for the past few years, and they opened their path last week.  They are claiming that they are the first country in the world to have their entire coast accessible.

The Chairperson: You also mentioned that we have a lot of miles in private ownership.  How will we get over that?

Mr McClure: That is a real difficulty, and our existing legislation makes it difficult for local authorities to deal with that.  There is a similar situation in England, and they have made a commitment to work with landowners to create small corridors adjacent to the coast that are just 5 metres wide and that can be handed over to the local authority to manage as a coastal footpath.  However, they have said that they are not going to rush through it and that it is not going to be something that they will do in the next two years.  It is a 10-year programme to roll out a coastal path round England.  So, it is a commitment to work to do that.  We would welcome that commitment in Northern Ireland to work with private landowners.  One of the ways to do that is to have some form of compensation or to make sure that private landowners are not impacted by recreational users by ensuring that liability issues are dealt with.

The Chairperson: The Ramblers Association suggested that councils should not implement the legislation on access because some of them are more committed to opening access than others.  The association suggested that that should be put back to the Department.  What is your view on that?

Mr McClure: Under the 1983 access order, councils are empowered to create public rights of way and footpaths.  However, they are not required to, and that is one of the big issues that many users have with the existing legislation.  At the same time, the legislation does not require the Department to force councils to do create rights of way or to force it to happen.  It is more of an empowerment than a requirement, whereas, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 in England and Wales, which was a revision to their existing legislation, as well as under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, there is a requirement to open up land for recreation.

The Chairperson: If we updated our law, that may make it more enforceable.  I am a very keen walker myself, but I am not a hugely ambitious walker.  However, I love walking.  It is a shame that a lot of the beautiful paths and scenery are not accessible.

Mr McClure: I will give you an example.  We have about 130 miles of public rights of way in Northern Ireland, and England has over 200,000 miles of public rights of way.  For every square mile in Northern Ireland, there is 0·29 miles of public rights of way.  In England, for every square mile there are 2·2 miles of public rights of way.  So, we are considerably behind other parts of the UK.

The Chairperson: It is a huge potential for tourism.  There are walking tours all over Europe and America, and it could certainly increase the number of tourists.

Mr Hamilton: I apologise for missing the bulk of your presentation.  However, I have read through your submissions.  With regard to the angling side, your concerns with clause 24 seem to be very similar to those expressed in the first evidence session.  Obviously, there is a lot of crossover of membership.  You referred to clause 24(3), which deals with prohibiting or restricting the killing, taking, destruction, etc, etc in a marine conversation zone (MCZ).  It goes back to the same point that those witnesses were trying to make.  I think that It is incumbent on the Committee to seek clarification from the Department so that you can get the assurance that, if an MCZ is designated and, say, it is out at sea, just because there is something at the bottom of the seabed that is worth protecting and is worth designating, that does not mean that things cannot be taken above that.  I appreciate that there is always a concern that the worst will be done as a result of this, but I think that it is incumbent on us to try to get that clarification that it does not always mean that the most extreme restriction will be put in place.  Is that fair?  You are content with the notion of protecting habitats, because that adds benefit for angling and fishing in the longer term.

Mr Gregg: Yes, that is a great point.  My colleague and the Chair spoke about the pleasure of walking.  For anglers in general, be they involved in freshwater or saltwater fishing — I am involved in both — half the joy is just being in and enjoying the environment.  We value highly the myriad of wildlife, flora and fauna that is there.  We are not against protecting them.  We are worried about is being prevented from angling somewhere where we have been going and maybe collecting bait for recreational angling, not for commercial purposes, and to enjoy that recreation as it has been enjoyed since time began when we were fishing for our dinner.  We do not think that draconian measures against the recreational sea angling group are necessary in those by-laws.  So, we are very encouraged to hear that that is the way you are going to go.

Mr Hamilton: That is probably what all of us are thinking about or are worried about.  You could see the overly zealous interpretation of some of those clauses being restrictive of doing basically anything in the marine environment.  That is not where anybody wants to get to.  There may be some MCZs designated where, for legitimate reasons, nothing can happen.  However, that should not be the default position.  As the point was made earlier, there should be no more protection than is necessary.  I can see a lot of areas where there will be protection, but that does not necessarily mean that you cannot fish or shoot over it.  We have a responsibility to ensure that that clarity for the likes of you is in the Bill as it proceeds through the Assembly so that you can embrace the Bill and all its elements rather than see it as something that is there to stop you from enjoying your pastime.

Mr Gregg: All anglers, whether sea or freshwater, are custodians of the environment in their own mind’s eye.  They are highly involved now in monitoring pollution or reporting incidents.  Conservation is also uppermost in their minds.  They do not take home fish that they are not going to eat or use.  That maybe happened decades ago but not any more.  We have seen a massive reduction in the stocks that are available to recreational sea anglers in our inshore.  That is purely because the commercial fleet is twice the size that it should be.  They have now switched to prawns; that is the only fishery left.

Some sense needs to be made of the common fisheries policy.  They are now looking at by-catch, but the real issue is that there are no fish to populate the inshore if they keep taking out.  The way that it stands at the minute, any vessel that is under, I think, 15 metres that is registered in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or wherever has the ability legally to go inshore right to the dry sand and trawl if they want to.  That is why we have no fish in the inshore and why sea angling is dying.  People are walking away from sea angling in their droves.  They are turning to other forms of angling.  However, if the stocks were there, the anglers could fish.

I watch Assembly debates, and I know that they talk about how we are going to get tourism.  The Florida nature reserves have thriving striped bass fisheries.  Norway, Iceland and Scotland are going the same way.  We need to follow, because there is tourist money there for supporting jobs and for developing as a fishery.  However, we need to have the stocks of fish for anglers to chase.  If the stocks are there, the tourists will come from everywhere.

The Chairperson: I see from your submission that you support a maritime management organisation (MMO) as a result of your experience of dealing with DARD and DCAL.

Mr Gregg: You can see that I am not filled with a lot of inspiration.  Surveys were done that I took part in, and the recommendations came out the other side, but nothing happened.  Nothing has happened with even PricewaterhouseCooper’s recommendation.  Now, DARD in its wisdom, whether it has no resource or just wants to keep things moving, has commissioned Dr Carrie McMinn at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to do another sea angling survey.  I met with Dr Carrie McMinn a few times and spent a lot of time explaining things to her, but we just seem to be beating our head off a brick wall.

If you look at any other developed tourism and recreational-based fishery, you will see that it is making a lot of money.  The striped bass fishery in New York State is worth billions of dollars a year.  If we had the stocks of fish in our inshore, we could be raking in a lot of tourist money.

The Chairperson: Thank you very much for your time and input.

Mr Gregg: Thank you very much indeed.


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