Going fishing

We’ve all seen them at the sea side, in all weathers, throwing their lines out into the blue, well I thought I better get out there and see what it’s all about. So I borrowed a rod, and headed out sea angling off the North Norfolk coast. I may have failed to check the tide, and the weather forecast, and ended up soaking wet with not a tiddler to write home about, but being an outdoorsy type I had a great time and came home feeling refreshed and alive. However I know that some people don’t get the appeal. So what is it that attracts so many people to recreational sea angling?

I’m sure that many assume, as I did, that it’s all about bringing home a nice big fish for supper, and while this may motivate some, it is by no means the end of the tale. Indeed angling experiences seem to be valuable even if no fish are caught (which is fortunate for inexperienced anglers such as myself). Recreational anglers commonly quote being outdoors and relaxation as reasons for their participation, and from speaking with some of them during my Valuing Nature placement, it is clear that their angling experiences provide important opportunities to connect with nature and escape the hum drum of modern life. In this way recreational angling provides benefits to society which extend far beyond just saving a trip to the fish counter of the local supermarket.

Understanding how changes in recreational sea angling experiences can impact the benefits it provides to anglers and society is crucial to finding effective strategies for managing recreational fisheries. Do anglers value catching more fish over catching bigger fish? Does the extent to which regulations are enforced matter to anglers? These were just some of the questions I attempted to shed some light on in my valuing nature placement with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). This placement has given me a unique insight into the challenges of fisheries management and the role that valuation methods can have in assisting with these challenges. While I may have still not caught any fish, I now have the opportunity to continue this work, and I hope to be able to contribute to improving our understanding of how to sustainably manage recreational fisheries in the future.