This week I’ve decided to hand my blog over to Martin Salter, our National Campaigns Co-ordinator. Martin has worked with us for more than two years now and has made a huge difference to the influence that we have in Westminster. His personal contacts with MPs, Lords and officials and his first-hand knowledge of how the parliamentary system works are invaluable to us. What’s more, he has a great passion for, fish and fishing and decades of experience fighting to protect them from Reading Council to the House of Commons.
Many people are still not aware of the range of work that our campaigns team delivers on behalf of all anglers, paid for by our generous members and donors.
So, over to Martin…
There has been a huge amount of activity on the campaigns front in 2013 and we are now having to adjust to the government’s Autumn reshuffle which saw us lose Richard Benyon as our Fisheries Minister and virtually an entirely new team installed at Defra. For reasons better known to themselves we now have fisheries, water and biodiversity sitting under three separate ministers rather than one!
We moved fast to establish angling’s credentials with the new ministerial team and sent George Eustice MP (Fisheries & Farming) a comprehensive briefing on key issues within 48 hours of his appointment. We have already met Lord de Mauley (Biodiversity) on the implementation of the new system of cormorant licensing and have scheduled meetings with both Eustice and Dan Rogerson MP (Water) in the next few weeks. We have also briefed the new Shadow Defra team which is now led by Maria Eagle MP.
As ever we are greatly supported behind the scenes by George Hollingbery MP, Charles Walker MP and others from the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group who are extremely effective in lobbying ministers on our behalf.
Angling Trust briefings are now quoted in Parliament and we are called from time to time to give evidence to Select Committees and to committees scrutinising relevant legislation. Our media profile has increased out of all recognition and we are regularly contacted by both the national press and broadcast media on issues to do with fish, fishing and the environment.
It is a measure of our increasing standing in the public realm that not only are the major NGOs keen to work in partnership with us but that both sides of politics see the Angling Trust as a serious and worthwhile organisation with which they need to build links.
We’ve been working hard on a number of specific campaigns but I particularly want to highlight the Severn Barrage, canoe access, dredging, Chalk Stream Charter, the Water Bill, fracking and cormorant licensing in the freshwater area. On the marine front I have secured a commitment from George Eustice that the bass minimum landing size review will continue on his watch. This was significant as the issue fell once before due to a change in ministers. The launch last month of Sea Angling 2012 showed the true economic value of sea angling and what is at stake if the decline in fish stocks is not halted. The ‘Give Fish a Chance’ campaign that we are planning with the Marine Conservation Society in order to secure better protection for our estuaries and inshore waters now has a strong new context in which to operate.
Strong representations from the Angling Trust working in partnership with the Rivers Trust, S&TA, RSPB and other environmental NGOs saw the government back away from supporting plans by the Hafren Power consortium which would have impounded the estuaries of the Wye, Severn and Usk and created a barrier to migratory fish in a staggering 25% of the salmonid habitat of England and Wales. I was called to give evidence to Energy and Climate Change Select Committee on behalf of the Angling Trust and our case against the barrage was featured strongly in the national media.
See here for more information: http://www.anglingtrust.net/news.asp?section=29&itemid=1839
Angling on an increasing number of smaller rivers is being threatened by the actions of militant canoe groups who are ripping up long established Voluntary Access Agreements in support of their statutory right to paddle campaign. We have secured a commitment from the government that there will be no change in public policy on VAAs but we are now seeking to apply ministerial pressure to the British Canoe Union who are actively encouraging canoeists to break the law and ride roughshod over the rights of anglers and riparian owners. We have compiled a comprehensive dossier of evidence which will be presented to government shortly in an attempt to link the receipt of public funds with an obligation to respect the law of the land and the rights of other users.
See here for more information: http://www.anglingtrust.net/news.asp?section=29&from=2013/01/01&to=2014/01/01&page=2&itemid=1926
Following promises made by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to the National Farmers Union Defra announced a pilot scheme to allow farmers and landowners greater freedom to dredge rivers themselves to try and stop them flooding rather than leaving it up to the Environment Agency to manage. The Angling Trust and other environmental and fisheries groups had campaigned vigorously against these plans because dredging can cause catastrophic damage to river ecology and it very rarely makes any significant difference whatsoever to flooding. The new pilots, whilst very unwelcome and potentially the thin end of the wedge are thankfully considerably more restrictive than the original proposals. We will be monitoring the pilots extremely carefully for any breach of conditions and will be opposing any moves to widen their scope.
See here for more information: http://www.anglingtrust.net/news.asp?section=29&itemid=1765
Chalk Stream Charter
Back in December I brought together national wildlife and conservation organisations in alliance with local river restoration groups in a special summit to press the government and its agencies to radically reform water policies to enable England’s endangered chalk streams to return to good health. The Charter for Chalk streams followed on and was launched in May in Hertfordshire by the Angling Trust, WWF, the Wildlife Trusts, the Rivers Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association. The Charter calls for a range of measures, including the wholesale reform of unsustainable abstraction licensing, the introduction of compulsory water metering to cut demand and increased storage of winter run off.
The BBC Radio Four flagship ‘Face the Facts’ featured the Charter in its recent Sold Down the River programme. The timing of our launch was particularly relevant for a national programme with the publication of the government’s disappointing new Water Bill following hard on the heels of the Charter’s call for radical action. We are using the Charter to find champions in parliament and elsewhere who are prepared not just to stand up for our rivers but to argue for the policies needed to give them a future.
See here for more information: http://fightingforfishing.anglingtrust.net/2013/05/29/save-our-chalk-streams/
The Water Bill
This is a key issue for the world of angling for without adequate and healthy water resources fish stocks will diminish. In the introduction to the 2011Water White Paper the Environment Secretary explained why reform was urgently needed with only a quarter of our water bodies now ‘fully functioning ecosystems’, water supplies under stress, challenges of population growth and climate change, and how action is needed to ‘keep our rivers flowing and our water supplies reliable and affordable’. These were fine words but in our view the Water Bill currently before parliament lacks the strength or ambition to rise to the challenges so correctly outlined in the White Paper.
We have been working closely with both MPs and the Blueprint for Water Coalition to try and amend the Water Bill and introduce reforms that ensure the sustainability and resilience of the water industry, the protection of the freshwater environment, and; fairness for customers. We have been successful in some of the abstraction reforms and were encouraged by the Second Reading debate which now, for the first time, offers the prospect of some meaningful introduction of water metering and demand management.
See here for more information: http://fightingforfishing.anglingtrust.net/2013/11/26/making-a-mark-for-water/
Experience from the USA and our colleagues at Trout Unlimited tells us that fracking for shale gas poses significant risks for our rivers and groundwater, including the serious hazard of water pollution and the increased pressure the industry will place on water resources. Fracking is a new technology in the UK, and there are inherent risks that cannot be fully addressed by the regulatory regime. Groundwater pollution is one such risk, and clean-up would be expensive with potentially devastating impacts on the supply of water and the natural environment.
The Angling Trust along with WWT, RSPB and the Salmon and Trout Association has produced a parliamentary briefing on Fracking and the Water Bill which promotes the view that the Bill provides an opportunity to improve the regulatory regime and to require stronger guarantees from contractors to resolve any future pollution incidents.
See here for more information: http://fightingforfishing.anglingtrust.net/2013/09/17/why-anglers-should-give-a-fruck-about-fracking/
We have been pressing ministers to be open with the angling community about the numbers of birds that can be shot under the new rules announced back in July. However it is clear that the government is nervous about attracting further negative publicity in the context of the current badger cull and is keen to find another way forward that retains the integrity of their announcement to ‘improve the way we manage the impacts of fish-eating birds’. The Angling Trust accepts that there is some headroom in the first year of the new scheme to operate within the current 2006 guidance (i.e. to shoot under licence up to 3,000 birds) providing that the government gives a firm commitment to be prepared to suspend the national limits should subsequent year end reviews show that the combined catchment need exceeds the current total allowable number, and that the conservation status of the birds is not threatened.
Throughout this whole lengthy process the Angling Trust has acted responsibly and has sought to find a way forward that allows Ministers to make good their public commitments to supporting fisheries and rural businesses who are under threat of severe damage or closure as a result of significantly increased predation by cormorants and goosanders. We have submitted compelling evidence in a 10,000 word dossier on the impacts of cormorant predation following a near 15 fold increase in their numbers since 1981. We are still awaiting a final response from ministers.
See here for more information: http://www.anglingtrust.net/news.asp?section=29&itemid=1507
Economic Value of Angling
There are around 3 million anglers in the UK, contributing at least £4 billion to the economy. Angling directly employs some 37,000 people in England and Wales and indirectly supports many other jobs, particularly in coastal and rural communities. Anglers are therefore the largest constituencies of interest in the water environment and angling is a major industry that needs to be protected by the government. Sea angling is indeed a considerably larger industry than the commercial sea fishing sector, but has traditionally received far less political attention and absolutely no subsidies. Across the whole of England & Wales the commercial catching sector only lands £184 million worth of fish (first sale value) which, as a previous Conservative Minister John Gummer said, is a smaller industry than the lawn mowing sector! In England there are only 5,200 full time fishermen (plus a further 700 part time). The recent Sea Angling 2012 commissioned by Defra showed that sea angling contributes £2 billion to the economy and supports a total of 23,600 jobs. We are planning to use the results of Sea Angling 2012 to make the case for the better protection of marine stocks and for the designation of key areas as recreational or hook and line only fisheries as successfully introduced in Australia, Florida and the Seychelles.
Working with the Tackle Trade
I continue to work with the tackle trade on shared issues and campaigns. ATA members were very helpful in garnering letters of support for our initiative on bass conservation measures and the Trust actively supported the launch of National Fishing Month and secured the involvement of the then Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon.
The Angling Trust attends all the major tackle and trade shows including Tackle and Guns, The Game Fair, The Big One, Evesham Festival, Carp Society Winter Show, The British Fly Fair International, Carping On, The Northern Angling Show and Longleat. I regularly speak at the various forums organised at these shows.
On the European front I was invited to Lisbon in October to give a presentation to first workshop held in Europe by The Berkley Conservation Institute, the environmental arm of the global tackle giants Pure Fishing. I drew on experiences in the UK and on my Keep Australia Fishing report in an examination of ‘good and bad practice in the management, governance and promotion of recreational fishing’.
The workshop was entitled….Exploring threats to recreational and sport fishing across Europe…and was seeking to examine ‘conflicts between recreational fisheries and EU policy and other legislative frameworks and explore how to best resolve such conflicts’. I was joined by Jan Kappel from the European Angler’s’ Alliance (EAA) and a number of prominent fishery scientists from the US, England and Portugal including Dr Ian Cowx, Director of Hull International Fisheries Institute.
I’m hoping we will see further engagement from the tackle trade in support of our work to ensure a strong future for fish and fishing.
Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator