Archive | January, 2014

Representing anglers in Europe

27 Jan
Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark LLoyd

Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark LLoyd

As Nigel Farage and other eurosceptics keep telling us, there are many decisions that affect our lives which are taken by politicians and bureaucrats in Brussels rather than in Westminster or our local Town Halls. Fishing is no exception – much of the environmental legislation that protects (or often fails to protect) our fish comes out of the European Parliament. So, it’s important that the Angling Trust makes anglers’ views heard in Europe. We are members of the European Anglers’ Alliance, which comprises many of our continental counterparts, and this week Mark Owen, the Angling Trust’s Head of Freshwater has been out in Brussels for several days at a series of meetings. On Monday, he was lobbying for a new Invasive Alien Species Regulation at a workshop in the European Parliament with MEPs and other interested parties such as the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission, a UN body. We all know what damage signal crayfish and mink have done to our rivers over the past few decades and we are putting pressure on the Parliament to introduce a new European Regulation to try and stop other pests of this kind ever getting to England in the first place.

We have recently seen the Killer Shrimp and Demon Shrimp arrive on these shores. So far we have managed to contain the Killer Shrimp to 3 locations in England and Wales, thanks to the precautions taken by anglers, but there are many species in Europe that we really do not want over here including Black Sea gobies and quagga mussels. These would do untold damage to our fishing if they got over here. By being active in Europe and teaming up with organisations like the European Environment Bureau and Bird Life we have made great progress towards getting the European Parliament and the Council to adopt sensible measures to challenge both the threat of what might come here but also take action to manage species that have got here already. We hope that everyone will be in agreement for the Regulation to have its first reading in April so that it can be passed before Parliament breaks for elections in May. If you happen to meet your Member of the European Parliament in the run-up to the European Elections, please ask them one question: did you support the Invasive Species Regulation in Parliament? It will let them know that this is an important issue for anglers and you can tell them that your vote depends on it.

Then on Tuesday, Mark facilitated a session in the European Commission between Member State Government experts on the Water Framework Directive (including UK) to encourage European governments to make better use of the information we have on rivers and waterways in planning their 2nd Cycle River Basin Management Plans due out this summer.

There’s a sense of déjà vu about this; 5 years ago the Angling Trust had to challenge the English management plans in the courts and managed to get the Environment Agency to up its game. We are doing all we can with the EAA to get governments across Europe to learn the lessons from the first cycle’s plans, which lacked ambition and for a large part were a box ticking exercise. We do not want to live through a repeat of last time. We are also directly lobbying the government back in London hard on this issue, along with our partners WWF & the RSPB and through the Blueprint for Water group.

This Directive could transform our rivers, lakes and coastal waters into really fantastic fisheries if it was implemented properly. We suspect that the next cycle of plans will once again fail to deliver this exciting vision, but we will have done everything we can within our resources to make sure that the politicians know that its important to anglers that they do as much as possible. And if they don’t, then we might have to see them in court again…

Please support us with a donation or membership. Visit www.anglingtrust.net/join for more details of our membership benefits.

Thanks,

Mark

Angling Trust and Welsh Anglers Unite on Access Issue

20 Jan

We took our Sustainable Access Campaign Cymru (SACC) for locally-managed access to land and water to the home of Welsh politics, The National Assembly for Wales on Wednesday this week. Along with our partner organisations, we hosted an exhibition of angling to stress the importance of the £150 million freshwater recreational angling sector to the Welsh economy, and to highlight the risks that proposals for universal access to land and water being discussed by the Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths could pose to this sector. He’s been talking about opening up all rivers in Wales to canoeists, which could have disastrous consequences for angling and the many businesses which rely on anglers.

Almost 100 anglers from across Wales were accompanied by rural organisations, riparian owners and landowners at the angling exhibition which filled the Senedd hall much to the delight of visiting Assembly Members. We were joined by legendary former Wales and British Lions player Gareth Edwards – a passionate angler who spent the day meeting fellow anglers and politicians. The event, which received cross party support, was sponsored by a number of Assembly Members.

More than 50 organisations and 2,000 individuals have signed up to support SACC which aims to challenge these proposals before they have a chance to take shape in a green paper that was due to be published in the autumn, but has been delayed. We think that the volume of letters from SACC supporters, and the representations made to Assembly Members by farmers, anglers and wildlife groups has made the government think again about an access free-for-all in Wales. Opposition Assembly Members will be asking the Minister on 20 January why the green paper has not yet come forward.

Since its launch in November 2013, SACC has raised £10,000 in donations from angling clubs and individuals who are concerned about the damage to wildlife habitats and the economic impact on angling, farming and other rural businesses that universal access would cause. The funds will be spent on campaign materials and on legal advice to resist any proposals that could damage the interests of hundreds of angling clubs and fisheries in Wales.

Please sign up on the SACC web site to support this cause – it only takes a minute to add your name and it could save Welsh rivers from an unregulated swarm of canoes. www.accesscymru.org

Many thanks for your support,

Mark

Angling 1 : Water Company Secrecy 0

17 Jan

Just before Christmas, Fish Legal had a fantastic away result when the EU’s Court of Justice issued a judgement that will probably mean that the public will at last have the ‘right to know’ what water companies dump into (and suck out of ) our rivers and coastal areas. At the moment, these huge multinational utilities don’t have to give us information about their activities if we ask for it. Fish Legal has been fighting for the past five years to change that and to make the companies subject to the Environmental Information Regulations, and this judgement from the highest court in Europe will almost certainly lead to that happening. This judgement will now go back to the Upper Tribunal, which is likely to issue a final ruling on this matter early in 2014.

Water companies are one of the biggest polluters in the country, and although they have made massive improvements to sewage treatment in recent decades, they still cause a vast amount of damage to the water environment from their activities. Although they were once state-owned, water companies were privatised in the early 1990’s and have always considered themselves outside the UK’s freedom of information obligations.

Fish Legal often asks water companies for information about pollution and other incidents affecting our members’ fisheries so that we can fight for compensation to pay for restoration, to campaign against water pollution or over-abstraction, or to press the Environment Agency to take regulatory action. We are currently fighting more than 60 legal cases on behalf of our member clubs and fisheries. Whilst some companies have responded, many have on numerous occasions refused our requests for information. This ‘secrecy blanket’ has protected parts of the water industry from proper public scrutiny, and in some cases from legal action and we think it should be taken away for good. The Environmental Information Regulations place a duty of disclosure on those subject to it to provide complete and accurate information within a certain time frame. If they don’t comply, there is a formal process of complaint and appeal to the Information Commissioner, and through the courts if necessary.

Although this is not a final victory in this case, it paves the way for one in 2014. It’s high time the water companies came clean about what they put into – and take out of – the nation’s precious water environment. It’s not just anglers who want to know what damage these huge companies have done to their fish, there are millions of people who swim in rivers, lakes and the sea who should have the right to know if the water has been polluted. We will keep fighting to remove this ‘secrecy blanket’ and to ensure that all the water companies are forced to open up to proper scrutiny.

We have funded the substantial legal costs of taking on some of the country’s biggest companies with income from our member clubs and fisheries and from subscriptions and donations from tens of thousands of anglers who are members of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal. We can only do these things because of the generosity of our supporters. Many thanks to all of you who are members. To those who aren’t: isn’t it time you joined?

www.anglingtrust.net/join or call our membership team on 01568 620447 (office hours only).

I’ve got a feeling 2014’s going to be a good year for angling

6 Jan

When I look back through a fish eye lens at 2013, I can see many positive signs of progress in the world of angling. Despite the squeeze on everyone’s finances, the latest participation figures show that people are still going fishing just as much as they did in 2012. Defra published a research report on sea angling that indicated that participation in sea angling is if anything increasing, and generating around £2billion for the economy. Many of our rivers have improved in quality, there is lots of fantastic stillwater coarse and game fishing available and some sea fish stocks are showing signs of recovery. Our national teams won a string of gold, silver and bronze medals in home, European and World Championships and many of them are number 1 in the world.

I believe that 2013 was a turning point for the Angling Trust as well: we won several campaigns, including stopping the Severn Barrage; getting new, tougher guidelines for the hydropower industry and made great progress towards a solution to the problem of cormorants and goosanders. We did good work on many more issues such as canoe trespass, bait digging restrictions, the shameful degradation of our chalk streams, access to piers and a host of other local campaigns that affect fish and fishing. Fish Legal won several legal cases on behalf of its member clubs and fishery owners and got an historic injunction to stop hydropower turbines being installed in the River Trent. Just before Christmas, the legal team were celebrating a great victory in the European Union’s Courts of Justice that should lead to water companies having to fess up about what they put into our rivers and coastal waters.

Our voluntary bailiff service, in conjunction with the Environment Agency, has tackled poaching effectively in the South East, and our Building Bridges project has helped improve understanding in Eastern European communities about the bylaws and accepted practices in this country. We launched new competitions, such as the highly successful Riverfest, and a wide range of new programmes to get more people going fishing more often. Our new web site, produced in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Met Office, at www.fishinginfo.co.uk provides detailed information about where to find fishing throughout the UK, how to buy permits and what the conditions are like.

We got angling issues raised beyond the pages of the angling media and into the broadsheets and the national TV and radio news channels as we have never done before. To have such widespread national coverage would have been unthinkable in the old days when there were several different angling organisations, without the professional staff to get stories published.

Our membership grew in all categories and we now have more resources to do more to protect fish and fishing now and for the future. Importantly, the sense of unity around the Angling Trust grew significantly, with more and more people accepting that it is the single representative body for all anglers, no matter what they fish for. Of course we have our critics, and like any organisation we have made mistakes, but there is a growing recognition that what we do is good for fish stocks and the future of fishing, and that anglers should support us with membership and donations.

There remain lots of challenges for us to tackle of course. There is much more work to be done to get angling taken as seriously as it should be by politicians and others in the corridors of power. Too many of them regard it as a quaint hobby, rather than as the undying passion of millions of people throughout the UK. Far too many decisions are made without consideration for the wellbeing and enjoyment of all of us who go fishing. It’s our job to change that on your behalf and we take that responsibility very seriously indeed.

In 2014, we’ll be building on the foundations that we have built over the past five years in a number of ways. First, we’ll be recruiting a number of new Ambassadors who can promote angling and the work of the Angling Trust to a wider audience. We’ll be publishing our magazine online as well as in print and making further improvements to the content, and making further improvements to http://www.fishinginfo.co.uk and the main Angling Trust and Fish Legal web sites. We’ll be continuing to fight on issues such as pollution, abstraction, commercial over-fishing at sea, damage to habitats, local fishing bans, poaching and fish theft, predation, unlawful canoeing, disabled access and a host of other issues. Many are ongoing problems, but many others arise at short notice, so we need to respond rapidly and robustly if we are to defend the sport we all love. We’ll be trying to get angling recognised as a charitable activity by the Charity Commission, which will open up the possibility of many angling clubs becoming charities and the Angling Trust developing a charitable arm. We’ll also be launching more matches in other disciplines and trying new ways of encouraging people to take up angling to ensure that angling remains one of the most popular sports in the country. A key priority for 2014 is to secure sponsorship for our brilliant international teams, so that they don’t have to fund their own costs of travelling around the world to represent their country.

There are two things I’d like to ask you to do in 2014. First, if you fish in freshwater, you must buy a rod licence. This is important not only because you can get prosecuted if you don’t (and nearly 2,000 people were prosecuted in the last year for fisheries offences), but also because buying a rod licence supports the work of the fisheries department in the Environment Agency. Although we often have disagreements with the Agency about other parts of the organisation, such as the promotion of hydropower, failure to tackle pollution and over-abstraction etc., the work that the people do in the fisheries section is really valuable to all of us and it needs funds from rod licence sales. The Angling Trust is receiving an increasing proportion of these funds to deliver participation and anti-poaching programmes of work, but this will only continue to increase if the decline in rod licence sales is stopped.

Second, whatever type of fishing you’re into, I’d urge you to join the Angling Trust. It costs just £25 a year, or you can pay by instalments of £2.50 a month. This is much less than other equivalent organisations and we can only do what we do with the support of our members and donors. In return, you get free public liability insurance, two magazines a year, fortnightly updates by e-mail about the latest news, and a membership card which earns you discounts on a range of fishing permits, tackle, books and outdoor equipment. With some clever shopping, you can save the cost of your membership and yet you’ll know that you are supporting a really important cause: the future of fishing itself. Please join today at www.anglingtrust.net/join and help us to help you.

I hope that 2014 is a great year for your fishing and that you catch that elusive specimen, find fish in some new spots and try a new type of fishing that you’ve never done before. My ambitions are to catch a cod from the shore, a 20lb salmon and a River Wye barbel. If I manage just one of those I will be delighted!

Happy New Year to everyone and thanks for your support.