Defra study says 2% of the population are recreational sea anglers

The Westminster Government has published, November 2013, a Defra/MMO report [Sea Angling 2012] which states: “Sea Angling 2012 was established to find out how many people go sea angling in England, how much they catch, how much is released, and the economic and social value of sea angling.

This was to help local and national policy makers make balanced, well-informed decisions on sustainable development of all forms of sea fishing, and help other organisations — such as sea angling bodies — to develop their own policies. The surveys also met UK obligations under European law to estimate recreational catches of several species including bass and cod. Data were collected from over 11,000 sea anglers in England through an Office for National Statistics (ONS) household survey, face-to-face interviews with anglers by inshore fisheries and conservation authorities (IFCA), catch diaries and online surveys.

The full Report may be seen here Sea Angling 2012 – a survey of recreational sea angling activity and economic value in England (PDF 7.5 MB)

Summary of findings

The surveys estimated there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy — in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million of gross value added (GVA). Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million of GVA.

Sea angling also has important social and well-being benefits including providing relaxation, physical exercise, and a route for socialising. Anglers felt that improving fish stocks was the most important factor that would increase participation in sea angling.

Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling — almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore.

The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish.

The Sea Angling 2012 surveys of shore and boat catches give the most comprehensive estimates ever for England, and have been carried out using rigorous statistical protocols. Estimating total annual catch weights of species proved particularly challenging for shore angling and private boats due to difficulties in estimating the number of days fished from the ONS household survey, and in encountering private boats whilst landing. Total annual catch estimates for bass and cod, as required for the EU Data Collection Framework, are shown in the table below.

Total annual catch estimates for cod and bass

Annual catch weight (tonnes) Shore Private and rental boats Charter boats Total
Bass Total                98 to 143              194 to 546                        44               380 to 690
Kept                  38 to 56              142 to 367                        31               230 to 440
Cod Total                95 to 138              172 to 595                      175               480 to 870
Kept                75 to 109              158 to 582                      159               430 to 820

Figures in normal or bold type for shore or private boats are from the same estimation method.

The figures for shore and private boats are the extremes of a range of estimates from several different approaches to analysing the data. The charter boat estimates may also have some bias if the sampled boats had different catch rates, on average, to boats not participating in the survey. These uncertainties should be taken into account when using the results.

Recent surveys in France indicated that recreational fishers caught and kept around 940 tonnes of bass in the English Channel, of which 80% (750 tonnes) was by sea anglers. This is of similar magnitude to the Sea Angling 2012 estimates for England, given the uncertainties in the estimates. The total annual kept catch of North Sea cod taken by recreational fishers in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands is estimated to be around 1,200 tonnes.

The information and knowledge acquired in conducting this project will be valuable in determining the design of future data collection surveys

Source: Marine Management Organisation, November 2013,

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