Although relating to other areas of the world thefollowing received from Capt. Tony Allen makes one think!

Hi Fishingowl,

No problem, you are welcome to reproduce the article as I am the originator

I formally used to fish in the English Channel from the port of Plymouth. My experience is the I have owned both commerical and sportfishing vessels and have seen the gradual decline of the fish stocks in the English Channel. Unfortunately now in the UK it has reached a desperate state and the EEC are still taking the wrong course of action. Quotas will never stop the fishing effort, that's unless of course you ban landing every specie!

Here in Florida fishing is great, because conservation measures have been taken which ensure the species have a chance to breed. In the EEC the species are given no chance because the fishing effort continues through the breeding seasons. One of the big differences is that no static netting is allowed in Florida state wates. What a breath of fresh air that would be in UK.

Capt. tony Allen


When I was a youngster I always thought that the sea was an endless resource for fish. Even as I grew older I never really took too much notice of other peoples dwindling catches as I always managed to catch fish, with just the occasional glitch.

I did notice, that fishing inshore was becoming increasingly difficult, especially finding large species that I was accustomed to catching. And over a period of years the fishing offshore also became more sporadic and the large catches of fish were not so prolific.

So what has happened you may ask yourself? The answer is easy. We plundered the sea with gay abandon, with total disregard of any future considerations. That goes for both commercial and sports fisherman alike. As sport fisherman when the fish were spawning we caught them, trying to catch that monster for the record books. Ling, pollack, coalfish we did not care, as long as it was big. Any excess was landed on the fish market. The memories are all to vivid…I can recall some 20 years ago, myself and three friends landing 400 stone of pollack daily from a wreck just a few miles off Start Point, on the south coast of the UK. This we did for a week and the majority of the fish were full of roe. What damage we must have inflicted on the species.

Technology to has played a large part in the decimation of the fishing industry, together with politicians who have given our resources to the other members of the EEC since our joining in 1973. They in turn have raped our waters after depleting their own resources through over fishing and catching undersized species. You can still see these species in the markets of France & Spain today, if you care to look. Spain being the perfect example of a mismanaged fleet in the waters, which once were our seas. Even today they are using small meshed nets to catch young Hake stocks in the Bay of Biscay and are responsible for depleting those stocks, whilst British vessels are forced to cut their catches and use large meshed nets.


UK fishing vessels in the NORTH SEA

Foreign fishing vessels in the NORTH SEA

Men employed in the UK fishing industry










NORTH SEA COD landed by British Vessels

NORTH SEA COD landed by Foreign Vessels


1970-----345,186 tons

1970-----21,488 tons


1999----    33,361 tons

1999-----46,169 tons


So where are we today? The answer is in complete and total disarray and with no working CONSERVATION policy in place. The finger must be pointed at the politicians, for it is them who make the laws by which we have to abide. The T.A.C (Total Allowable Catch) is determined by the scientists from collected data and is recommended to the politicians. But this is where the scheme or system goes absolutely crazy by coming up with a conservation method they call “Quota Management of the Species”.

Quotas are supposed to be the system of CONSERVATION. But even a school child can see the system is totally flawed. Perhaps that is an understatement, as it does nothing for CONSERVATION. For one, it does not stop the fishing effort; it only controls what you can land on the market. In 1998, John Gummer, former UK Fisheries Minister, described the process of fisheries management as doing nothing for conservation, "if you are a Fisheries Minister you sit around a table arguing about fishermen, not about fish. You are there to represent fishermen, you are there to ensure that if there are ten fish left you get your share and, if possible, a bit more. The arguments are not about conservation". And therein lies the problem - political expediency.

So today we have a real crisis with a savage cut in quotas, which all of us could see coming, but none of us raised a hand to do or say anything, me included. It’s only been in the last few years or so that anglers have started petitioning against the French and now the Scots with regard to Bass catches. But what are the anglers doing about conservation themselves. From where I stand, I see nothing and very few suggestions either. This is where I believe the P.B.A (Professional Boatman’s Association) in conjunction with N.F.C.S (National Federation of Charter Skippers) could take a lead and suggest to the government a CONSERVATION package for sport fishing, before all is lost.

My belief is that we have to be proactive and make a start with M.A.F.F and the government, by suggestions. It’s unlikely we will get our way in all matters but we can use other countries proven methods as examples. We then need to tackle the matter of Quotas with the government and M.A.F.F as there has to be a better way of managing fish stocks. Quotas as I have already said will never achieve that goal. I have always had my own ideas but that would make this article much longer.

Having lived on the other side of the pond in Florida for nearly 3 years I have seen how it manages the fishing resources. Maybe it does not suffer from the same commercial fishing effort, but the results would be the same if not controlled. Even here, where they appear to have measures under control they are not satisfied with the effort in CONSERVATION. However the systems that are in place, seem to be working, which cannot be said for the UK.

The UK Sportfishing Industry I am told is larger than the UK Commercial Fishing Industry so therefore it is in the interests of the government to offer this industry some sort of protection from the ravages that are taking place in that commercial sector. After all they are collecting large revenues in V.A.T and there is also a large employment sector in this field from where they collect taxes from the employer and employees.

It is my proposal that sea anglers and angling sportfishing charter boats should put their own house in order before pointing their finger at others. So where do we start? How about bag limits? These measures are used in freshwater sport fishing where the stock can be managed easily so why not in salt-water sport fishing? Already I can feel people smarting from the suggestion. Before you jump to defend your position why not examine the Florida/USA experience.

I should mention what I am about to suggest with regard to Sea Sportfishing will be unpalatable for some, primarily because there is a conflict of interests. Some angling vessels are also registered fishing vessels, so here we have the first problem. But we need to start with a clean sheet.


 1. No angling sport fishing vessels should be registered fishing vessels. That is the case in all other countries I have examined, otherwise there will be a conflict of interests. 

 2. It will be illegal for any angling sport-fishing vessel to sell fish, punishable by law. (We all know it goes on and it undermines the commercial fisherman and his getting a fair price for his fish.)

 3. It should be illegal for any angler to sell fish punishable by law. This may be the case already, but what happens to all those Bass that those greedy anglers catch. I know, “they are returned to the sea”. I wish that was the case, but most end up on the restaurant table depriving the real commercial fisherman of his market and also a fair price. You only have to look around the websites of sport fishing vessels in the UK to realize they cannot possibly eat all the fish they catch. The photos are the evidence, a boat full of dead Bass. Or even a boat full of Pollack, the difference is the same but perhaps not the monetary value. So in reality, we are over fishing and therefore my next suggestion is that there should be a BAG LIMITS.

4. DAILY BAG LIMITS for all species under pressure in the UK. The Captain/Skipper of any sportfishing sea-angling vessel will be restricted to the same BAG LIMITS as ANGLERS. (In Florida we have limits for 71 species, which are under pressure, and it does not stop people going fishing.  Some fish require the angler to have special daily TAG or permit. If this were introduced for BASS, the selling via the back door would stop overnight. In the USA a Tarpon TAG costs $50 daily). The penalties for failure to comply with the regulations here in the USA are harsh, but they seem to work. Usually the vessel is confiscated !

5. SIZE LIMITS for all fish landed. All fish must be LANDED MUST BE WHOLE CONDITION, no filleting or gutting at sea! To save any confusion all fish length limits should be measured as OVERALL LENGTH.

Released fish: The argument may be that fish released won’t survive, this argument is not well found and a large percentage survives provided they are not mishandled on capture. (In Florida we have these regulations.)

6. Everyone should pay a small charge to fish in the sea, whether it is from the land or a boat. Say 10 UK pounds per annum. From sea angling sportfishing vessels the charge we be say 250 UK pounds per annum. This money collected, minus a small amount say 1.5% for administration, should be put back into the sport in the form of building artificial reefs, fish breeding, policing etc.

The Policing when set up  could be used by the  M.S.C (Marine & Coastguard Agency) for the checking of charter sportfishing vessels documentation and those who are trying to operate vessels illegally for sportfishing as well as checking catches etc.

EXEMPTIONS FROM CHARGES: would be for less than 16 years of age and pensioners. (In the USA you have to pay to fish in the sea whether it be from the shore or your own private boat. Charter boats are also regulated with an annual charge in Florida its $400. Foreign Nationals have to pay as well.)

7. A SPORT FISHING TAX should be levied on all angling products manufactured in the UK or imported. Say 5%. This tax should be levied at the point of manufacture. The money collected from the manufacturers would go back into angling, both fresh and seawater. (In Florida and the whole of the USA we have the Dingle-Johnson tax with a national 10% charge on all fishing products at the point of manufacture or importation. All taxes collected are re-distributed nationally for the benefit of angling.)

 8.The banning of ALL GILL NETTING, within the 12-mile or 6-mile limit. (In Florida all gill netting is banned in state waters.)

 9.The exclusion of all sea angling sportfishing vessels from commercial fishing regulations. (It should be remembered in Florida we have a total ban, which extends all year around on some sea species that under severe pressure due to over harvesting i.e. Jewfish.  The same restrictions should also apply to sea angling sportfishing vessels in the UK for designated species. Species like COD could be controlled under the DAILY BAG LIMIT giving sport fishing an exemption.)

10. CLOSED SEASONS for certain species. i.e. Pollack, Ling etc. (This would be the winter breeding months for these species. In Florida as an example we have closed seasons for certain species such as Snook from Dec 15th until Jan 31st and the months of June, July & August.)

11. No commercial fishing within 3 or 6 miles of the shore. Exemptions Crab, Lobster and Handline Mackerel Fishing.  

12. Setting up of a Marine UK Sportfishing Fishery Patrol.

13. Maximum administration cost 1.5%. All other monies collected will go back into sport fishing, both seawater & freshwater.

14. Construction of artificial reefs under the direction of Marine Biologists from the MBA or another body of a similar type.

15. Sea Fishing licenses would be available from all Post Offices.

16. Distribution of funds would be under the control of the sport. A committee consisting of (NFCS, PBA & government).


Well I think that’s enough to digest but you can see where I am going. These are all ideas and the controls suggested may seem tough but if you don’t act now, you won’t have to act at all.

 If you have any doubt about my suggestions take a look at the Florida experience, here we have thriving sport fishing industry, a controlled and regulated commercial fishery and an increasing fish stock situation. Some of the species like Mullet & Redfish have made such remarkable recoveries that people say they cannot remember it being so good. Even the JEWFISH is making a recovery and it may be soon that the restrictions are lifted and he specie put under a controlled daily bag limit.

All sections of the industry may not be in harmony and I am not saying the system is perfect, but it all started some 7 years ago and to me would appear to be gaining in strength each year.

 If you are in any doubt about my suggestions purchase a copy of the FLORIDA SPORTSMAN or SALTWATER SPORTSMAN for another view of the state sportfishing in the USA.

 In the meantime all anglers need to write to the fisheries minister and protest

  • That quotas do nothing to aid conservation and that an alternative system needs to be introduced quickly. If a species is under threat, a ban should exist for all countries at least. I can remember there being a ban in the English Channel for Cod, but the French were still allowed to land them ! Where is the sense in that. Anyway the message is “quotas do not stop the fishing effort”.

  • A massive decommissioning program funded by the EEC needs to be implemented to reduce the fishing effort. Boats should be selected rather than applications made by fisherman to “get rich quick” on vessels, which contributed little, or nothing to the fishing effort. Examination of Track Records or Logbooks of vessels would be a method.

  • Decommissioned vessels would become the property of the EEC. Once engine oils, lubricants have been removed they could be sunk in designated area as an artificial reef program to enhance specie habitat.

  • No future subsidies by governments within the EEC for rebuilding fishing fleets until catches are under control.

 Finally act now or you will pay the price with no future sea angling sportfishing industry……….you have been warned!

 Have you noticed how the number of sea angling sportfishing boats in the UK has reduced?

That must be a warning to all.

Capt. Tony Allen.

(US. Coastguard Certified No: 894767)( R.Y.A Yachtmaster Offshore C.O.S.)