A big thanks to the people who left comments on my Monday blog post about sea fishing licences, and also to those who left all kinds of comments on my Facebook page where I posted a link to the blog - as I thought might happen, a few people on FB seemed to take great offence that I even mentioned the words "sea fishing licence", and yes, a few comments were somewhat uncalled for I guess, but I am a grownup and I can deal with it. I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that a number of comments on my FB page especially were left by anglers who did not even bother to read my blog post and instead simply reacted at seeing merely the title - without actually understanding where I was coming from..............
So does anybody have any sensible and logical ideas as to how we might secure a future where there are more and bigger fish to catch from "our" seas ? If it helps, I have no interest in "let's ban all commercial fishing", because it ain't going to happen. As long as mankind wants to eat fish there will be commercial fishing. Supply and demand. I also have zero interest in the somewhat pathetic arguments I hear from time to time, along the lines of "what's the point of returning any fish I catch when they are just going to get scooped up in a net anyway", and of course the classic "we recreational anglers never make the blindest bit of difference to fish stocks when compared to the commercials" - most likely written in garbled text speak of course. Innit m8 ?
Nick Marlow from Marukyu UK came up with a very interesting point on my Facebook page, and I hope he won't mind me naming him on here, but I was really interested in what he was saying. Nick's point was along the lines of we have no leg to stand on as a sport/hobby/pastime until we can be counted - and then these numbers translate into what is being spent on sea fishing and what then what it is actually worth when compared say to commercial fishing. Licensing aside, I just can't see a way in which sea anglers en masse could ever make real and meaningful calls for proper protection, management and conservation without the powers that be knowing how numerous and thus potentially powerful we are in terms of spending, influence etc.
Or is it simply selfish that as anglers we would love to have more and bigger fish to catch from the sea ? Well I reckon it could be construed as that, but my argument would be that if we were catching more and bigger fish then that would firstly mean that the seas were getting healthier, and secondly that en masse we would be spending more money on going fishing because the fishing was better and we caught more and bigger fish. A vicious circle it might be, but anybody who has fished in saltwater in UK waters for a number of years must surely dream about the good old days that I am guessing were before I was even born - and then were the anglers back then dreaming about good old days further back again ? I come back to those old black and white photos of something like cod fishing at Dungeness, for whichever way you look at it, that was some world class shore fishing. More and bigger fish equals more anglers out fishing equals more money being spent equals more clout because we are more numerous - if we are standing together that is. But what are the chances of that happening ?
This might be incredibly simplistic, but many of you I am sure from time to time ponder on why some aspects of life have to be so frigging complicated (go and book a train ticket for a perfect example) - surely everybody knows deep down that one of the most logical ways to protect and build stocks back up is to leave fish the hell alone when they are breeding. More fish has to be better for everybody in the long-term, but I suppose that votes, elections and power tends to rule out long-term planning. Politics and money aside, I mean how hard would it really be to do the right thing as human beings and work on preserving the oceans as a resource instead of doing all we can to ruin them ? Out of sight, out of mind. Bring up the subject say of lion hunting in some countries and you'll be shot down in flames - even if rather perversely I always feel the controlled and managed hunting of lions can actually be helpful towards their own conservation. Lions are cuddly whereas fish are cold and slimy and live in an alien environment to us.
I am inclined to agree with Nick's thoughts as I outlined above and say that perhaps as a group of people (that being UK saltwater anglers) we simply don't have a leg to stand on until we can be counted, measured and I suppose valued. Yes, in purely ethical terms I can't help but feel that having to be measured is sad beyond belief when so many of us do what we do and are quite happy to fly below the radar with our fishing, but the simple fact is that we should be stakeholders in this resource that is the sea, yet we aren't because we are where we are and we want to cling to the (out of date ?) fact that sea fishing by rights is free and that any funding from a potential sea fishing licence would only be another tax anyway. So what gives us the right as we currently are to call for more and bigger fish when nobody has half a clue how many of us there are and what our potential stake within the resource is actually worth when compared to other groups/sectors ?
I am going to quote a line from a comment left by Keith Arthur on my Monday blog post - ".....the deduction I arrive at is that by paying for a world class fishery one gets a world class fishery". Forget for a moment that Keith does all his TV and magazine work and instead note that he has been visiting the Florida Keys at least once a year since 1992. Interesting how Keith says that in the Keys "there is no commercial netting within approximately 11 miles from shore". My assumption has to be that recreational fishing down in the Keys is worth so much money (and yes, it's always going to come down to money, and yes, I would love it to be down to ethics, but we are human beings and we don't do ethics en masse) that the powers that be simply can't risk incurring the wrath of anglers and the businesses that support them by allowing anything to happen that would harm the fishery and/or result in anglers catching less or smaller fish. What more needs to be said ?