In the autumn, I wrote an editorial in our members’ magazine The Angler entitled “Let’s agree to disagree”. I had got frustrated with online angling forums which seemed to me to be damaging the reputation of angling in the public eye and stifling real debate because of the behaviour of a small, dominant minority who are intent on bickering with each other publicly. I was therefore delighted to read that World Sea Fishing is going to change the format of its political forums, which have all too often descended into a slanging match. You can read the announcement here http://www.worldseafishing.com/forums/threads/new-rsa-politics-forum.3123999/
Our sport faces some very serious threats, including crashing fish stocks, local angling bans, denial of access and a lack of recruitment of young people. How we respond to these threats requires serious discussion that is properly moderated. As the representative and national governing body for all forms of angling in England, working closely with our equivalent bodies in Scotland and Wales, the Angling Trust is fighting for the interests of anglers every day.
When we meet Ministers and officials, we need to know what anglers really think. It is really useful to us to hear what sensible and serious people think. Our members frequently write to us with their views about what we should be doing for them, and we have a number of freshwater and sea angling regions around the country which hold meetings for our members to discuss issues of local importance to them. Over the past year, we have been campaigning hard and taking legal action on a whole host of issues which reflect what our members have told us they want us to do: bass stocks, access to angling, dredging, fracking, salmon stocks, cormorant predation, poaching, unlawful canoeing and many others. We will continue to do what we can to tackle the most important issues affecting fish and fishing.
Well-managed online discussions could be another tool to help us do our job even more effectively. Unfortunately there is a limit to the time we can spend participating in forums – we have very limited staff resources – but if they were run well and people stick to the rules, then they could make a positive contribution to discussion and highlight things that we need to take on.
Angling politics forums in the UK often make grim reading. Someone starts a thread and for the first few pages there is a perfectly reasonable discussion until two people disagree with each other so fundamentally that they launch into a tirade of personal insults and abuse. These spats can become long-running battles which spill into every other thread with which either of the people gets involved.
The end results are not only boring for the rest of us, but they destroy the foundation of reasoned debate and give an appalling impression to people who think that these views are representative of our community. These comments must surely make people who are getting into angling for the first time, and perhaps turning to forums for some helpful advice, think twice about taking up the sport.
I think it’s time to clean up our act, and I hope that this new forum will enable people who really care about the future of recreational sea angling to share their views without fear of harassment and participate in constructive and useful discussions about the future.
Now that World Sea Fishing Forums have changed their approach, perhaps others might follow suit? We’ll certainly be watching to see how it works in practice. Here’s hoping for a more harmonious and constructive debate in 2015!
With all best wishes for 2015 from everyone at the Angling Trust and Fish Legal.
Angling Trust & Fish Legal