MSPs, councilllors and local business operators join environment minister, Richard Lochhead, at Drummore, for the report's launch
MSPs, councilllors and local business operators join environment minister, Richard Lochhead, at Drummore, for the report's launch

SEA ANGLING  in Scotland is to have its first strategic development plan, environment minister Richard Lochhead pledged today.

A working group will be set up within the next three months to examine how best to promote the sport –revealed in a major study published today to be be worth more than £140 million a year to the Scottish economy and to support over 3100 jobs, many in rural areas.

The commitment, which took angling campaigners by surprise,  was made as the minister joined members of the Scottish Sea Anglers Conservation Network (SSACN)  to sample sea angling at first hand off the Mull of Galloway.  Speaking aboard  vice-chairman Ian Burrett’s charter boat Onyer Marks as he captured and returned pollack and mackerel, Lochhead said:

“This report is the first to examine the economic impact of sea angling in-depth and the results are significant.  It shows there are 125,000 regular participants in Scotland with an average annual spend of more than £1500.

“But the potential for further development is huge and the next step must be to set up a group to take forward a development strategy.”

The group will comprise anglers as well as local authorities, tourist agencies, marine scientists and commercial fishery representatives.   It is expected to be tasked with delivering a strategic plan before the next Holyrood election.

However, hopes that the Government might be ready to create special zero fishing “regeneration zones” to boost dwindling inshore  stocks, proved unrealistic.  Lochhead said any special protection status for coastal areas would be based on scientific evidence and would be managed under the forthcoming Marine Bill, now going through parliament.

The report on the Economic Impact of Recreational Sea Angling in Scotland, was commissioned by the Government last year from the public policy division of Glasgow Caledonian University under senior lecturer Alan Radford and forms the last in a series examining the value of all types of angling.

Researchers carried out exhaustive surveys across Scotland last year and the report’s findings show that sea angling is more valuable than all freshwater fishing, including salmon and trout combined, and well in excess of incoming golf tourism, valued last week at £97 million by Government minister Jim Mather.

It concludes that the sector has “significant potential for growth” noting that “if Scotland were to achieve a 50% increase in sea angling activity levels this would secure a minimum of 1675 jobs, and could possibly add a further 840.”

The key to unlocking this potential it states “is to ensure the availability of fish stocks for anglers to catch.”

The study was delivered yesterday to a meeting in Drummore, on the Mull of Galloway one of the Solway’s prime sea angling areas. Politicians from all sides, business leaders and SSACN welcomed the results.  Alex Ferguson the Galloway MSP, said: “I am delighted the report recognises that the potential for the rural Scottish economy is considerable.”

Shadow rural affairs minister, John Scott, MSP for Ayr, said: “The creation of a development strategy is absolutely vital for all the communities which depend on sea angling and we will be following its progress with great interest.”

Wolf Richthofen, of Stranraer and district Chamber of Commerce said they would be working with other chambers in coastal areas to put pressure on the Government to deliver its strategy and ensure that the potential identified in the report was fully realised.

Steve Bastiman, SSACN chairman which hosted the environment minister’s sea fishing trip yesterday, said tonight:

“We are very encouraged by the minister’s statement and attitude and are looking forward to playing an integral part of the strategy plan.”

SSACN is leading the way in marine conservation around Scotland and has founded a shark tagging programme to present evidence to the Government of the threat to key species at the heart of the sea  angling industry.

Bastiman said: “ As recently as the 1980s, Scotland was a major European destination for sea anglers looking to catch specimen examples of a wide variety of species.  However, due to poor fisheries management over the last two decades, the stocks of many of those have been almost totally depleted.

“Apart from the tragic loss of biodiversity in our seas, this has caused hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds to be lost from the economies of many coastal communities.”

The new study confirms for the first time that the Firth of Clyde has been deserted by anglers largely because of the decline in fish abundance.  SSACN says that the lifting in the 1980s of the three-mile limit on trawling in the upper Clyde, “has simply emptied the area of fish and cost hundreds of sea angling jobs.”

Bastiman concluded: “The Government must stop talking about ‘sustainable’ fishing and start talking about ‘regeneration’ policies.  The cost of inaction will be a worsening ecological disaster and a multi-million pound missed opportunity.”

The main report will be available in two days at: You can read the executive summary here right now.

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Pollack politics on the Mull