Archive | March, 2014

Why the Angling Trust insists coaches should be licensed

31 Mar

This week I’m going to write about the Angling Trust Qualifications and Licensing system. The Angler’s Mail recently published an article by Thomas Petch entitled “Paedophile WAS qualified coach”. It was referring to Paul Stead, an angling coach who was recently convicted of abusing children. He was indeed a qualified coach, but he was not licensed. In the press release we issued after this terrible incident came to light, I called for all coaches working with young and vulnerable people to be licensed, which provides much more reassurance than a mere qualification. The article seemed to be suggesting that we had got our facts wrong.

Qualifications
A qualified coach has undertaken the minimum level of learning endorsed by the Angling Trust to understand the principles of coaching at each level. It does not in any way verify the individual or their background; anyone can go on a coaching course. Paul Stead held a coaching qualification from a course he went on many years ago, but he has never been licensed by the Angling Development Board or the Angling Trust.

Licences
The Coach Licence exists to help the Angling Trust understand more about a coach and to decide whether a coach should be allowed to work with children and young people. It requires an individual to provide more detail of their background and training, including:

  • Evidence of a recognised Angling Coaching Qualification
  • up to date Safeguarding and Protecting Children training
  • up to date First Aid training
  • an approved DBS (previously known as CRB) check. This is risk assessed by the Angling Trust where required.

A coach providing this information and signing up to become a ‘Licensed Angling Trust Coach’ has therefore been more closely checked out, and we provide them with a comprehensive insurance policy to cover everything they do as a coach. This offers parents and reputable organisations more reassurance that the young or vulnerable people involved in a project will be coached by people who have been checked out.

Paul Stead has never been licensed and never provided any of the above information to the Angling Trust. This is not to say we could necessarily have stopped him doing what he did, but the licensing process might have highlighted any information recorded against him on his DBS check and might have resulted in a failed licence application. We would also have investigated any complaints made about him to us, which might have led to his licence being suspended or a Police investigation.

It is, and has always been, the position of the Angling Trust that only Angling Trust Licensed coaches should be used when working with young people or vulnerable adults. A coaching qualification shows that people have met a coaching standard; whereas the Angling Trust licence shows that they have been fully checked out by trained assessors.

If you are involved in a club, or any organisation involving children being coached by adults, please ask the coaches involved if they are licensed. If they are not, please put them in touch with the Angling Trust who will be able to advise them how to go about getting a licence to coach.

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A loud voice for angling in the corridors of power

24 Mar

This week I was asked how much influence the Angling Trust has in government, and I thought that might make a good subject for my blog.

The Angling Trust was formed five years ago following a merger of six national governing bodies for different disciplines of the sport and other organisations. We have now combined eleven organisations to form a single body to represent all coarse, game and sea anglers. We believe that by joining forces, anglers can have a louder voice to campaign on the many issues that affect our sport. Most politicians don’t know the difference between a spod and a spey cast, but they know that there are more than three million anglers in the country, who can vote them out of a job. By pooling our resources, we can have a much bigger impact and be much more cost effective than eleven separate organisations.

As a result of this merger, angling has never had such a loud voice in government. Our campaigns chief Martin Salter, when he was an MP, set up the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group and we work very closely with the angling MPs on this group to brief them on key issues and to ask them to raise questions in the House of Commons. We have regular meetings with government officials, Ministers and Secretaries of State and occasionally we even make it into Number 10 to meet the Prime Minister. We attend all three of the political party conferences where we host a reception for MPs, party activists and local councillors to make the case for angling to be protected, respected and improved. This initiative alone costs us nearly £10,000 a year – or 400 membership subscriptions.

Richard Benyon MP (until recently the Environment Minister) has accepted our invitation to become an Angling Trust Ambassador and said on his appointment: “I have seen at first hand how effectively the Angling Trust lobbies on behalf of angling and the environment. It is a respected player in the corridors of power because its arguments are evidence-based and coherent. There has never been a more important time for a strong voice for anglers and the rivers, lakes and seas where they fish. It is an honour to be an Ambassador for the Trust.”

However, there is a cautionary notes to add, before you start thinking that the Angling Trust will be able to work political miracles with all this influence. Our political system is incredibly resistant to change; legislation can take many years to jump through all the parliamentary hoops before it becomes law and the government machine only responds rapidly when it is under massive pressure. We have had considerable success over the past 5 years getting small changes to policy and practice which have all been beneficial to angling and fish stocks. If we are to win much bigger battles though, we will need a lot more firepower in the form of cash and members.

This is where you come in. We currently have less than 1% of all anglers in membership. Please join us today, to help us shout even louder in the corridors of power.

Are we fit to frack?

21 Mar

Last week, we launched a report challenging the government to regulate fracking properly, or risk harming threatened species and polluting our waterways. We teamed up with the National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, the Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust to compile the report, which was peer reviewed by independent experts. We secured support from a cross party group of MPs including Zac Goldsmith, Alan Whitehead and Tessa Munt, who joined us for a photocall outside the house of commons with our Campaigns Chief Martin Salter. I went to Wiltshire to film for the BBC, and did my interview waist deep in a very cold chalk stream!

The report contains ten recommendations for making fracking safer as the Government continues its push to get companies to apply for licences to explore and drill for shale gas. We are calling for all protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones, for full environmental assessments to be carried out for each drilling proposal, and for the shale gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.

The report highlights a lack of regulation around shale gas exploitation which could cause serious impacts for a range of threatened species including salmon, trout and many other freshwater fish species. It also raises serious concerns about the impact of drilling and water contamination on some of our most precious natural habitats such as chalk streams. 85% of the world’s chalk streams are found in England, and a large proportion of fracking sites are in chalk catchments.

A poor fracking operation has the potential to pollute groundwater supplies and to cause damage to fragile ecosystems in our chalk streams and other rivers. That is why we need the strongest possible regulatory framework, funded from the profits of the industry rather than from taxpayers’ pockets.

Fewer than a quarter of our rivers are currently in good ecological condition and the rest suffer from widespread pollution and over-abstraction. The Environment Agency is struggling to tackle these existing problems, and faces the prospect of losing 1,500 staff. Our wildlife and fisheries need another major risk to water quality and an additional demand for water like they need a hole in the head.

We got some really good national press coverage for the report, which was on the BBC, ITV, and Sky as well as in the Sunday Times (with support from Vinnie Jones, a keen angler), the front page of the Telegraph and the Times.

The Angling Trust fights for fish and fishing every day of every week, but we can only do it with the support of anglers. Our membership is steadily growing. Please help us do more by joining right now (it only takes a couple of minutes) at www.anglingtrust.net/join

Dredging and floods.

13 Mar

This week I’m handing my blog over to Martin Salter who this week we sent back to parliament to brief MPs about why dredging the hell out of our rivers is rarely a good idea! Read on for his rant on the subject…

As Britain recovers from the wettest January since 1766, with parts of the country experiencing more than 200% of average rainfall for six weeks in a row, communities are coming to terms with the aftermath of the floods that devastated large tracts of Southern England. Inevitably there has been a big debate as to why the damage was so severe this time and, incredibly, whether or not someone or something was to blame other than the weather. Listening to some of these characters you would think that there was absolutely no link between what falls out of the sky and why our rivers might overtop onto their floodplains – like they are supposed to do and like they have always done.

I know I wasn’t the only angler this winter raging at some of the stupid comments made by politicians and the media about the ‘magic dredging cure-all’ that could prevent flooding and restore order to our troubled land. Of course someone had to be blamed so they picked on the Government’s Environment Agency for not dredging enough rivers, never mind that all the evidence showed that in many cases dredging either has no impact on reducing flood risk or can make matters worse by moving water more quickly down the catchment and causing problems for areas downstream.

As anglers we know that rivers are supposed to flood their floodplains – the clue is in the name. If politicians want something other than the weather to blame for the floods perhaps they should look at their own policies which have allowed ever more building on the floodplains and taxpayer subsidies for intensive farming practices that channel more and more water down the catchment at a faster rate?

08

The good news is there are some encouraging signs that sanity is beginning to reassert itself. A lot of hard work by the Angling Trust, working in partnership with other environmental groups and supportive MPs, has seen a growing realisation that Britain can’t dredge its way out of trouble but that we can do something about the way we manage the land. The self scouring power of our rivers was illustrated by a dramatic aerial photograph of the UK, taken on February 16, which shows a massive plume of sediment pumping out into the Irish Sea beyond the Welsh coastline. More than anything else, this loss of millions of tonnes of valuable topsoil demonstrated the need to adopt far more sustainable farming practices including ‘no plough zones’ and the planting of upland trees and buffer strips to stabilise the land and encourage greater water penetration, rather than the flash flooding that has become the norm in many river valleys.

Martin Salter

Angling Trust tells MPs that dredging the Thames would make flooding worse

3 Mar

As I’ve been saying on here and in as many places as possible, dredging isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ to solve the winter flooding crisis. It can actually make downstream flooding worse, is usually bad news for fish, and it now turns out that it would also have delivered a staggering extra 550 million gallons of floodwater a day into the flood hit communities of the Lower Thames.”

That was the stark message taken to Parliament last week by Angling Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter when he gave evidence to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which held a special hearing on the flooding which has swamped parts of Britain this winter.

The RSPB’s Rob Cunningham and the Angling Trust’s Martin Salter answered questions from the committee on behalf of the Blueprint for Water coalition. They emphasised how land management practices, such as farming, should be modified to reduce the run off of soil and water and how floodwater needs to be better stored higher up the catchment to reduce the risk of flooding further downstream.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management’s (CIWEM) Martin Whiting also gave evidence, providing a technical assessment of where and how dredging may be one component of a package of measures, while emphasising the need to improve management of water on a whole catchment basis.

On 14 February, CIWEM published a report, endorsed by the Blueprint for Water coalition. The report – Floods and Dredging, a Reality Check – suggested solely relying on dredging can even make some communities more vulnerable to the risk of flooding.

The report calls for leadership from the government in promoting sustainable measures across whole catchments to minimise flood risks, rather than politically-motivated, knee-jerk reactions. It also warns against using the artificially reclaimed landscape on the Somerset Levels, which requires regular dredging, as a template for the management of the natural rivers of Britain.

Martin Salter told the committee that wholesale dredging for flood risk management, rather than for navigation, stopped on the Thames in the early 1980s because the key engineers concluded it was a complete waste of time and money. They discovered that the river bed has barely changed over centuries, exemplified by the fact that they were pulling out Bronze Age remains in the dredging buckets when they dug into hard bed. Like many rivers the Thames is by and large self-scouring and an extreme flood event will move more silt than the dredgers ever can.

Furthermore, estimates from the Environment Agency’s Flood Risk Management team revealed that had the upper and middle Thames and its tributaries been subject to the wholesale dredging some have called for, there would have been at least a 10% increase in floodwater hitting the Lower Thames communities around Old Windsor, Wraysbury and Staines where I grew up. This equates to an extra 550 million gallons of floodwater a day at the peak of the flood delivering a minimum of 6 inches to a foot more flooding to already hard hit communities.

Politicians need to stop looking for quick fix solutions and recognise that extreme weather will create more flooding and that this will require a stronger, not weaker Environment Agency, more restrictions on building on the floodplain and real incentives to improve upland farming practices to slow down the flow of water throughout the catchment.

The Angling Trust is out there, making the case for protection of fish and fishing professionally and at the highest levels.

If you aren’t a member yet, then surely it’s time you joined so that we can do more of this work. Our membership is growing steadily, but we need your help to keep this up. www.anglingtrust.net/join
or phone 01568 620447.