An Irish Anglers World

Recreational Sea Angling – No Longer the Poor Relation

Interested in how Ireland’s sea angling product has been marketed and developed since my early teens, close on forty years later careful analysis of the Inland Fisheries Ireland commissioned report entitled; Socio – Economic Study of Recreational Angling in Ireland, researched, surveyed, produced, and finally delivered over a twelve month period by Tourism Development International (TDI) puts to bed once and for all the notion that recreational sea angling in economic terms is an add on benefit to be enjoyed just because Ireland has a marine resource on its doorstep.

Tourism Development International Report on Irish Recreational Angling.
The evidence circa 2013 has never been more clear at both political and Government department level, the commercial fishing sector can no longer solely lay claim to how the marine fisheries resource is managed and developed with nothing more than a cursory input at best from stakeholders in the domestic arena in particular those who make their living wholly or in part from tourism, recreational sea fishing, or the tackle trade.

Sea angling contributes as this piece will show €127.5 million in domestic and tourism receipts directly to the Irish economy before the multiplier effect is taken into account. Converted into jobs utilising an accepted tourism industry figure of 36 jobs per one million of turnover, that’s 4590 full time equivalents (FTE’s) supported by the recreational sea angling sector alone which more than holds its own against domestic commercial sea fishing industry figures inclusive of the multiplier effect of €700 million turnover generating 11,000 FTE’s.

When one takes into account the landed value of commercially caught fish to Ireland the need to include representatives of recreational sea angling in the decision making process becomes even harder to ignore, with the direct value of Irish fleet landings to include whitefish and pelagic quotas negotiated by Minister Coveney for 2013 amounting to €213 million. The commercial sector could argue that EU quota restrictions limit the upward potential of this figure; however a similar argument can be put forward by recreational sea angling interests, that greatly diminished fish stocks brought about by commercial over fishing equally hamper rod and line sea fishing’s capability.

Angling charter boats berthed in Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.
In June 2012 two minutes after stepping off a charter boat in Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford this writer became one of the 692 face to face interviewee’s surveyed by agents of Tourism Development International (TDI). Very comprehensive covering all the various socio–economic aspects of angling across the particular disciplines sea, coarse, game, and pike, to include degrees of participation, domestic contribution, tourism spend, and motivations. With the addition of further online results a final tally of 903 interviews was achieved enabling an accurate picture of Irish anglings socio-economic contribution to be constructed.

From that day on eagerly awaiting the finished report it eventually was placed in my letter box sometime in late July 2013. At a total cost to the state of €110,700 the document on analysis is money well spent given the quality and depth of information contained and furthermore stands up to scrutiny very well. For the sceptics valuing recreational angling inclusive of the multiplier effect at €750 million may seem like a figure too far, however when the methodology used and their subsequent findings is compared with similar international studies and cross referenced with domestic indicators such as the wholesale value of the domestic tackle trade the figures stack up.

For this project TDI utilised four approaches, a survey of recreational anglers, an Irish household survey, a survey of angling stakeholders, and desk research to eventually through data verification and analysis derive their conclusions. Having through my own website conducted a very much smaller but indicative sea angler motivations survey allied to desk research of peer reviewed journal articles on recreational angling and recently published international reports on the value of angling from the likes of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the United Kingdom without question the figure for Irish recreational anglings economic value of three quarters of a billion stands up. More importantly the total can actually be further increased ongoing through applying a strategic approach to both angling related infrastructural development and focused marketing of its tourism potential.

A happy Welsh angler off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.
The big ask now has to be will the country utilise this information correctly in developing future strategic planning specifically with regard to tourism, or will the report become like so many others a dust collector whose only value was to the people paid to research and produce it. Overseas anglers contribute €100 million to the Irish economy, however domestic anglers are tourist anglers too especially when they overnight and fish in a different county, the revenue from this activity presently being counted as domestic spend. It is quite clear from the TDI report that overnight fishing trips are a common feature in the domestic angler’s calendar.

Referencing sea angling for the remainder of this article, without question it is the dominant branch of the sport within Ireland coming tops in domestic day fishing trips at 71,000 or 32%, with bass which for the TDI report was treated exclusive of general sea angling accounting for 33,000 or 10% of day fishing trips.

Viewed in terms of species targeted on domestic overnights again sea angling shines with 22,000 representing 42% of trips ahead of 17,000 or 31% of coarse angling (excluding pike) trips in second place. Combining domestic day and night fishing trips sea angling accounts for 93,000 journeys, once again ahead of the posse.

When one considers that sea angling (general and bass) is the dominant tourist angler attraction holding a 33% market share, the sport/activity based on current evidence appears to be not considered a priority brief of any relevant Government department or agency to include the Department of the Marine, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), and the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA). It is self evident from even a cursory perusal of the TDI report that sea angling as a recreational/tourism activity needs to be taken far more seriously if the state wants to realise sea anglings full socio-economic potential.

Happy tourist sea anglers enjoying bowls of chowder in a West Cork bar.
Taking the TDI reports total for average domestic annual expenditure on angling by category (TDI, Figure 3.9, Page.22), general sea anglers excluding bass spend €1331.00 per annum on their hobby. Multiplying this figure by the minimum estimated volume of domestic recreational sea anglers excluding bass (TDI, Figure 5.3, Page.35) at 71,000 puts the total average contribution of domestic sea anglers directly to the economy at €94.5 million per annum. Combined with average annual visiting tourist sea angler receipts of €33 million one arrives at a grand total of €127.5 million representing sea anglings direct contribution to Ireland’s economy, much of which is spent in rural areas.

For the above exercise this writer worked on the minimum number of general sea anglers and didn’t take into account bass anglers as viewed by TDI on the principal, based on a clear understanding of the sea angling sector, that general sea and bass anglers overlap to a very large degree. Therefore one could hypothesise that the total contribution of sea angling to Ireland’s economy could be more. Wanting a more balanced view the figure of €127.5 million arrived at cross references well with previous reports and can be accepted as a realistic total.

Which opens up the debate for “what are we going to do next”? Primarily, make sea angling a priority business development and environmental brief within relevant Government departments and agencies combined with direct representation at political level. Measured against product category totals supplied by Bord Iascaigh Mhara for 2012, whitefish inclusive of prawns yielded €49.2 million and pelagic to include blue whiting, herring, and mackerel realised €213.8 million.

Rock fishing for mackerel and pollack on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.
The evidence is beyond question sea angling by value before any social considerations are taken into account is a marine product category third in line behind the jewel in the crown pelagic fleet (€213.8 million in 2012) and the shellfish growing sector (€148.1 million in 2012), outstripping by over 50% in both cases the salmon aquaculture industry (€60.7 million in 2012) and the whitefish fleet (€49.2 million in 2012).

Marine protected areas, both inshore and offshore, in conjunction with workable management plans have to now go on the agenda along with real improvements in fish stock management, not the fudge put forward by recent CFP reforms, and certainly not the debacle which at the time of writing surrounds our north east Atlantic mackerel stock.

Decision makers have to be clear, the TDI document states on page 73 that there is a 45% dissatisfaction with fish stocks, and within the executive summary reports that 72% of visiting continental and 48% of visiting UK anglers had taken an angling holiday to another country other than Ireland. The preferred destinations for sea anglers in both these categories being Scotland and Norway two countries which have direct overland connections to both the UK and continental Europe respectively. Ireland needs to take a more pro active business led approach as to how the sea angling product category is developed, marketed and sold in light of this level of competition.

Sea angling, directly valued at €127.5 million, is no longer a bridesmaid marine product category, the Tourism Development International Socio-Economic Study of Recreational Angling in Ireland burying that moniker for ever. To realise the full socio-economic potential of the activity though radical decisions need to be made immediately. A starting point has to be employment on a fixed term or contract basis by the state, to compliment the few existing staff with key field experience, business development professionals who understand the sea angling tourism product category and have a vision, not only for its future, but how sea anglings potential can best be realised. After correctly spending €110,700 on establishing where recreational angling fits within the greater scheme, it behoves that decision makers employed by the state should bite the bullet and move fast to the next level………

Ashley Hayden © August 2013