Archive | February, 2014

We’ve won a partial victory on cormorants – now join us so that we can win more battles for anglers

10 Feb
cormorants

Danger – cormorants! Photo by Mick Vogel

What else could I write about this week than the success we have had in getting some movement from the Government on the control of cormorants and goosanders? We’ve been campaigning for more than three years for a change to the current bureaucratic and ineffective licensing regime and this week we concluded negotiations with the Government on the details of implementation of the new measures we announced last year to improve the protection of vulnerable fish stocks from predation by cormorants and goosanders.

I’m really grateful to everybody who supported us with donations and by sending postcards to their MP. The success we’ve achieved would not have been possible without this support, as well as the funding we get from our growing membership.

The new measures will include:

  • The funding of three Fisheries Management Advisors (FMAs), to be employed by the Angling Trust from April 2014, to help angling clubs and fishery owners reduce predation, to coordinate applications for licences across catchments and to gather better evidence about the number of birds in each catchment. (Details of these posts and how to apply are available on the Angling Trust website at www.anglingtrust.net/jobs)
  • A commitment by the government to review the existing national limit on the number of cormorants that can be shot each year in light of evidence gathered by the FMAs from each catchment in 2014 and 2015;
  • A simplification of the licence application form to make it easier for fishery managers to apply to control cormorants and goosanders;
  • A removal of monthly limits within an annual licence;
  • Extension of the control season to May at times of low flow when salmon and sea trout smolt migrations are particularly vulnerable;
  • Agreement to increase the national limit for cormorant controls to the emergency level of 3,000 (from 2,000 last year) in 2014/5 if the need can be demonstrated.

There are two interesting lessons that occur to me from this success. The first is that changing public policy is very difficult, time-consuming and expensive. The then Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon actually asked me to write to him about this issue back in November 2010, so he had indicated that he was keen to take action on this issue. He set up a review process that took more than 18 months and involved us sending a representative to more than 12 meetings with the RSPB, EA, Natural England and Defra. We spent our members’ money producing the cormorant watch web site which recorded more than 80,000 sightings of birds and printing more than 100,000 postcards for anglers to send to their MPs. We compiled dossiers of evidence which required us to travel all over the country visiting fisheries and getting their account of the damage that has been done to stocks by fish-eating birds. Numerous meetings with senior officials and Ministers followed to hammer out the details. All in, this campaign probably cost us getting on for £100,000, which is the equivalent of 4,000 Angling Trust members. If we are to fight this kind of concerted campaign on all the issues facing angling – commercial fishing at sea, pollution, over-abstraction, hydropower, poaching, fish theft, mixed-stock salmon netting and salmon farming to name just a few – we are going to need a lot more support than we have had up till now.

The second lesson is that membership numbers matter in politics. We had a friendly Minister who wanted to help us on this issue, but the RSPB, with a million members and lots of highly-professional staff, was able to use its close relationships with civil servants and Ministers to block the more radical proposals we put forward, such as adding cormorants to the general licence. The Angling Trust has just 17,000 members – a David to the RSPB Goliath. If we had another zero on that, or even two zeros, we might have won more battles than we did in this campaign.

Our membership is growing, but it needs to grow much faster. If you are not already an Angling Trust member, or know somebody who might join because of this breakthrough in protecting the UK’s fish stocks please encourage them to join on our website: www.anglingtrust.net/join . Membership is available for just £2.50 a month.

All best wishes and thanks again to everyone who has supported us.
Mark

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Banging the Drum for Angling in Both Houses of Parliament

3 Feb
Inside the House of Lords with Martin Salter, WWF and the RSPB

Inside the House of Lords with Martin Salter, WWF and the RSPB

The Angling Trust was busy representing the interests of anglers in the corridors of power on Wednesday last week, with our Head of Freshwater Mark Owen giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Select Committee in the House of Commons and our National Campaigns Co-ordinator Martin Salter briefing the House of Lords on amendments needed to the Government’s Water Bill.

Mark Owen gave evidence on invasive non-native species to the Environmental Audit Committee which is chaired by Joan Walley MP, alongside Professor Max Wade from the Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management and Henry Robinson, President of the Country Land and Business Association, among others. Mark highlighted the threat of non-native invasive species to the angling sector and informed the committee about the impact of signal crayfish on fish eggs and fry and that they can make fishing impossible. He described the Angling Trust’s work to reduce the impact of these pests. He stressed that there are many more invasive species that could reach our shores with similar impacts, such as the quagga mussels, Black Sea gobies, and invasive shrimps and urged the Committee to take action to:

  • Ratify the Ballast Water Convention, (Jamaica & France have done so, why can’t we?!);
  • Improve public information because of widespread ignorance about invasive species and their impact;
  • Reform the laws around invasive species, which are not fit for purpose;
  • Speed up the process for banning imports and for the response to new species that arrive;
  • Align research council funding to investigate eradication and pathways;
  • Support European Regulations currently under discussion to stop invasive species moving around Europe
  • Develop action plans for known new threats such as king crabs which have escaped from Russian farms and are spreading into the North Sea, and the opening up of new trade routes through the Arctic.

Meanwhile over in the House of Lords, former MP Martin Salter was joined by the Heads of Water Policy for both WWF and RSPB in seeking to persuade peers to toughen up the government’s ‘timid little’ Water Bill so that it includes a clear timetable to end so many of the damaging over-abstractions of water from our rivers and chalk streams and to remove barriers to the introduction of universal water metering which can both cut demand and protect the environment.

There is no doubt that the Angling Trust is now taken seriously by politicians and opinion formers from right across the political spectrum, which has to be good news for angling as a whole. For far too long Parliament passed legislation and conducted formal inquiries on issues that had serious consequences for fish, fishing and fisheries without bothering to get the views of the nation’s largest participant sport. We can’t guarantee to win every battle, to get every bill reformed or to see every Select Committee report to come down on the side of angling, but at least we are now starting to punch something like our true weight where it matters.

If you want to support our work fighting for fish and fishing, please join at www.anglingtrust.net/join or phone 01568 620447 during office hours. It only takes a couple of minutes and costs just £25.