ANGLERS on Felixstowe beach today reacted angrily to proposals to end one of the Britain’s oldest traditions – fishing for free in the sea.
Those who brave all weathers fishing from the beach or pier, or go out on special boat trips, are set to be penalised by new legislation which means they will have to buy a licence.
The scheme is being dangled on the end of the line by government as a way to tackle declining fish stocks – quashing a right to fish the coastal waters off Britain enshrined in law for almost 800 years.
Freshwater anglers already have to buy a rod licence each year – £24.50 for non-migratory trout and coarse fishing, and £66.50 for salmon and sea trout.
They also pay to fish in private lakes or as club members, but they point out that these charges pay for management of the areas and re-stocking.
Steve Chawner, who was fishing at Felixstowe’s Landguard beach said: “What I cannot understand is how they think they are going to enforce a new licence for people fishing off the beach – there are thousands of miles of coastline.
“I have fished for years in rivers and on beaches and it is just a bit of fun – if you fish in a lake you might catch 20 or 30, but in the sea it’s pot luck and you might get one or two. It hardly makes a difference to fish stocks.”
Mr Chawner, a manager of a home for people with learning difficulties in Colchester, said it was just another form of taxation.
Felixstowe portworker Clive Howe, 38, of Ranelagh Road, Ipswich, said: “It’s really ridiculous – the sea is no-man’s land, it belongs to everybody and people have fished it for centuries.
“Most beach anglers do it for pleasure, just for a bit of relaxation. I bring my whole family down and the children love, but does it mean my children will have to have licences just to hold a rod on the beach and try their hand at fishing?”
Other anglers blamed trawlers for decimating fishstocks – and said if they paid a licence they would expect the government to restock the sea.
Environment Secretary David Miliband believes the licence would raise funds to help manage fish stocks. It would also be used to improve shore access, car parks, and create launch sites for small boats and artificial reefs.
The government has invited comments on its proposals, expected to come into effect in 2009.