ANGLING boat skippers have reacted angrily to EU plans to introduce quotas on the amount of fish caught off the Dorset coast.

European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries Joe Borg wants bring recreational fishermen under EU quotas that currently limit the catches of commercial enterprises.

People in the industry claim amateur fishermen, who currently come from far and wide to visit Weymouth and Portland for day trips, will be put off from visiting the area.

Chris Caines, who is the skipper of Tiger Lily and chairman of the Weymouth and Portland Licensed Skippers Association, said the proposals were motivated by fishing practices on the continent but local charter boats will be the ones to suffer.

He said that the EU did not understand the difference between recreational fishermen in Europe, who use nets to catch large numbers of fish, and recreational sea anglers in the UK who do not sell any of the fish they catch and return much of their bounty.

He said: “They are getting completely muddled up with what we do and what is thought to be the norm in Europe.”

Mr Caines added that the value to the economy of each fish caught on locally-based charter boats was worth more than if they were sold on because someone has come down and spent money in the area on things like equipment and sometimes accommodation.

He added: “We have got the best selection of charter boats in the country and there has been huge investment here.”

Colin Penny, who runs angling trips out of Weymouth Harbour on Flamer III, said plans to bring in a quota could be ‘disastrous’ for the Weymouth and Portland recreational fishing industry.

He said: “To my mind they have not got a clue and don’t know what they are talking about.

“If it was to come in it would be disastrous from our point of view.

“They need to differentiate between pleasure and commercial fishing.

“We take anglers out for pleasure angling and we don’t sell fish.

“We also promote catch and release a lot of the time and, while we do keep some fish to eat, I would say about 70 per cent of our catch is released.”

Mr Penny said the impact on the trade could also have ramifications for the wider economy of the town.

“Weymouth is the top port in the country for pleasure angling boats.

“People come here come from all over the country and even from Europe.

“A lot of us have spent a lot of money, time and effort to get this trade as it is, then we get the EU coming along and they don’t understand what we do.”

Dave Gibson, skipper of the Lady Go Diver which runs fishing and diving trips from Weymouth Harbour, said: “In the UK recreational fishing is sports fishing and many sports anglers adopt a catch and release policy, some maybe take two or three fish home for the pot.

“For Europe to somehow decide that this needs capping is outrageous. Over the last 20 years recreational fishing has taken off and many commercial fisherman have turned to recreation.

“But figures show anglers do no damage at all to sea stocks and it is estimated that less than 0.1 per cent of commercial stocks are taken by anglers.”

Not all skippers were totally against the proposals though. Dave Pitman, skipper of Weymouth charter boat Atlanta, said he understood that the move would help put a stop to recreational fishermen selling their catch on the black market and he appreciated the need to conserve certain species of fish.

However, he said that any limits set on recreational fishermen would need to be reasonable and carefully thought out.

He said: “We need to wait and see what figures they actually come up with, but if they do it sensibly I can’t see why it would hurt and I think most people would be quite happy with it.

“But if they are silly with it and say you can only catch one or two fish of a certain kind then people might kick up a big fuss.”

Fishing limit fears

PLANS to limit the amount of fish caught by amateur sea anglers could have ‘devastating’ consequences for the local economy, Weymouth and Portland’s fishing community has warned.

Local businesses have warned that proposals put forward by the European Union to cap the hauls of charter boats taking day trippers and other recreational anglers could threaten a growing industry that brings in millions of pounds to the local economy.

The plans, being put forward by European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries Joe Borg, would see each EU state allotted a quota for protected species, which the government will then have to divide up between commercial fisherman and anglers.

Anglers would be banned from marketing their catches and recreational boat skippers would have to apply for a licence.

The EU believes a surge in popularity in recent years means anglers are now having a significant impact on populations of endangered fish species and is keen to control the impact.

Mr Borg’s proposals would see the boats monitored using a satellite inspection system and electronic logging and vessels would have to stop fishing when their quota is reached.

Andrew Selby, owner of the Weymouth Angling Centre in Trinity Road, said: “It would not be a bad thing if they put a sensible limit.

“If they put a limit of two or three fish per person it would be devastating to the charter trade and the local economy.”

Mr Selby said Weymouth was one of the top sports fishing destinations in the country and attracted huge numbers of people to the area, providing a significant boost to the local economy.

He said that during the European Championships around 160 anglers visited the area for the week and pumped thousands of pounds into the local economy.

Mr Selby added: “We have 20 boats with up to 200 anglers going out on charter trips every day.

“Each angler pays around £46 for the boat trip then they buy food locally, petrol and sometimes they stay overnight. It brings millions of pounds into the local economy and that’s just charter boat fishing, you also get people going out on smaller boats and yachts.”

Dave Gibson, skipper of Weymouth charter boat Lady Go Diver and secretary of the Weymouth and Portland Licensed Skippers Association, said a study carried out by Southampton University showed that the charter boat industry brought around £3 million into the local economy every year.

He said: “That was just from the charter boats in Weymouth alone and it was five years ago so that amount has probably increased.

“The latest figures from Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) show the industry brings in up to £1 billion a year to the UK economy.”

“If there are limits on what people can catch sea anglers won’t bother going and if they are not careful the whole industry could collapse.”

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for leisure, tourism and community facilities Councillor Brendan Webster said: “In the light of the decline in some species and the behaviour of some recreational fishing activity in some areas within the Union it is perhaps not surprising that the EU should discuss changes to the quotas. However, we should resist blanket bans or unenforceable quotas whilst taking a responsible line on nurturing fish stock.

“Recreational fishing is both a local leisure activity and is a notable draw for our tourism industry. In this time of financial stress we do not need a burden on Weymouth and Portland’s means of earning a living or way of life.”