Great news for sea anglers

East coast sea anglers were celebrating a marvellous victory this week following the government's announce-ment that the proposed sea rod licence had been abandoned for the time being.

East coast sea anglers were celebrating a marvellous victory this week following the government's announce-ment that the proposed sea rod licence had been abandoned for the time being.

Labour's spokesman for angling Martin Salter said he was still in favour of a rod licence for sea anglers, but not until there could be guarantees for “a decent day's sport.”

While his statement will hardly endear the Member of Parliament for Reading West to the local beach boys, there was still good reason for congratulations to be exchanged for the steadfast stance they had taken against the government's pedalling the case for the sea rod licence that was supported by the nation's angling press and commercial radio, writes Roy Webster.

“To be honest, I'm not surprised the government has backed off,” declared Gorleston's well-known beach man Paul Tovell. “I think they have realised they were in the process of creating a monster they could not manage, and this has forced them to back down.

“At one time I believed they would try and push it through no matter what, but I think the negative responses they heard at the various meetings they organised sent them a clear message.”

At two of these meetings between anglers and officials of the Eastern Sea Fisheries joint committee acting on behalf of the government and the Environment Agency, attempts were made to win anglers over with vague promises of better sport to come in return for forking out some £25 per annum for the privilege of casting a bait into the sea from beach or boat.

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But when pressed for further details of any conservation measures on the table there was little forthcoming beyond a mention that fish stocks would be boosted.

This rhetoric came over about as stable as thistledown in a force four gale and did not fool the great bulk of rod and line anglers who have always been aware that little can be achieved to conserve North Sea fish stocks without the full consent of other European interests, not least the trawling industry.

One of the most vigorous local campaigners against a sea rod licence without copper bottomed guarantees in return, is Keith Morley, the Kessingland-based National Federation of Sea Anglers representative and competitions organiser.

“I have to say this is brilliant news which we have been waiting for. We have forced the government to back down on this licence issue and that is a real triumph for grass-roots anglers who have not been taken in by the propaganda.

“At consultative meetings we asked the government's representatives for details of what we would get in return for our licence money, and demanded larger mesh sizes for the trawling industry, increased size limits for threatened species and a ban on industrial trawling in our sensitive territorial waters.

“They never came back with any concrete proposals and the plain fact was that they could promise us nothing. We are all bound by European fisheries policy and that is why they could not bring in the increased size limits for bass this year,” he concluded.

Tony Thomas, who organises the East Anglian Division of the National Sea League in which a number of town beach men compete, declared the government climb down was a victory for commonsense.

“The complications of policing a

sea rod licence along hundreds of miles of beach and out to sea would have created a costly administrate nightmare. It would have led to mass civil disobedience along the shoreline and, worse still, it would have driven many beach anglers to hang up their rods for good,” he declared.

He continued: “An example of what we would have been paying for was evident in a pairs match at Aldeburgh when not a single fish was put on the scales because none caught was above the statutory size limit.

“That's how bad beach angling has become, and would anglers in their right minds want to pay for a licence for that? Of course they would not.”

The Fisheries Minister Johnathan Shaw confirmed that the sea rod licence proposal had “been shelved.” And that suggests the government may well try again at some later date.

However, with commercial cod catch quotas increased by 11 per cent this year while breeding stock remains in decline, anglers are hardly impressed by any of this rhetoric.

“This government cannot offer us anything to improve our sport,” summed up Keith Morley. “We know it, and they know it.”

This of course reaches the whole crux of the matter and the justification in resisting what really is a fishing tax rather than fishery funding.

Catches have been on the decline for years now, especially from local beaches where any angler lucky enough to reel out half-a-dozen small codling can be guaranteed to make the news.

It was a rotten Easter along the shoreline with the best catches again noted from Suffolk marks where one outstanding fish of 10lb was beached at Dunwich.

The weather was a huge deterrent for fresh water anglers but even so a fair attendance visited Burgh Castle for the open won by K Barfield of Lacons with 27lb 4oz then Rob Silverwood, Jollyboys, 18lb 10oz and D Grimwood, Nisa, 12lb 2oz.

The Melton Ponds open was won by Dave Agass of Stalham with 55lb 1oz and Ray Kent, Jollyboys, was runner-up with 47lb 12oz.

Tony Anderson of the Yarmouth Pownalls match squad won the Barford silver fish open with an event record of 81lb 13oz of bream while at Melton Ponds the Stalham club result was: P Pope 24lb 12oz, R Austrin 19lb 5oz and D Pyecroft 17lb 2oz.