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…
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