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UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO TACKLE DEEPSEATED FAILURES IN WATER MANAGEMENT

5 May

Sometimes you read a statistic and have to read it again to ensure you read it right the first time.  Half of our freshwater wildlife species are in decline. That’s right: half of our freshwater wildlife species are in decline. Furthermore, 13% are at risk of extinction. Our rivers and lakes are in real trouble and we need to act urgently.

Hold on, I hear you say, I’m sure I read somewhere that our rivers are cleaner now than any time since the industrial revolution? It’s true that we have made progress in some areas: industrial and sewage pollution have been greatly reduced and many urban rivers are coming back to life.

While improvements have been made to rivers blighted by pollution from our industrial past, on the whole our rivers nationally are in decline.

However, these gains are set against an overall pattern of decline that was brought into sharp relief this week as I came to understand that the number of rivers achieving ‘Good Ecological Status’ in England has dropped from 17% to 14%. As long as we remain signed up to the Water Framework Directive (part of European Union legislation), we are under a legal obligation to get that figure to 75% by 2027. We haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of doing so unless we get our act together and start thinking really differently about the way that we manage water in this country.

This week, I chaired a Blueprint for Water meeting of Chief Executives of water companies, Cathryn Ross, the CEO of Ofwat, officials from the Environment Agency and Natural England and colleagues from the 18 Blueprint member organisations. The meeting launched our new campaign, Blueprint for PR19 (Price Review 2019). If you love healthy water environments, the Price Review process is a really important moment: it is when water companies set out their plans for the next 5 years (from 2019 onwards) and negotiate with Ofwat, the industry regulator, about how much they can charge customers, while also making a contribution to the objectives set by the Government’s environmental agencies.

Given that the companies will spend billions of pounds of our money in that period, which dwarfs the amount spent by government, it’s vital that we ensure those plans help to address the deep-seated failures in our water management system.

The meeting was held under Chatham House rules, so I won’t report what individuals said, but – and here’s the positive bit – there was a surprising and very welcome consensus in the room.  The highlights for me were as follows:

  • We need to take an innovative approach and scale up the things that have been shown to work at a local or regional level, such as universal metering, sustainable urban drainage systems and working with farmers to reduce pollution of rivers and water supplies.
  • The behaviour of people is a really important factor that we need to change. Millions of people put fat from frying pans, sanitary products and nappies down drains and toilets, which cause blockages in the system and sewage overflows. People also waste water and our per capita use puts us to shame compared to other European countries, which have more plentiful supplies.
  • The catchment based approach to planning action is vital for the successful management of water and we should work on a long term basis taking into account climate change, population growth and substantial house building programmes, which will put further stress on the system.

It was clear to me that everyone needs to wake up to the real crisis facing our water environment and the supplies on which our economy and lives depend. This isn’t something we can shrug about and get on with our lives any longer. Business as usual is not good enough.

I welcome the water companies’ commitment to addressing the real issues that were clear at the meeting. As citizens and bill payers, we need to press politicians and regulators to make the necessary decisions to support this and to allow them to invest in innovation and catchment management.

We are currently stumbling into another drought in much of the country, the one we had in 2012 that for a while endangered the success of the Olympics long having dropped off the political radar after several floods that cost the country billions. Meanwhile, half of our freshwater species, including many fish, continue to decline towards extinction, and we are all the poorer for that. The Angling Trust, backed by our membership and in partnership with colleagues in Blueprint organisations, will continue to make the case for fundamental reform of water management.

Please help by supporting us, sharing this blog, finding out how to use water and wastewater sensibly, and mentioning water to any politicians who knock on your door in the coming weeks.

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive, Angling Trust and Fish Legal

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A new dawn for online angling politics?

6 Jan
Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark LLoyd

Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd

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.

When we meet with Ministers we need to know what you think

When we meet with Ministers we need to know what you think

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.

Mark Lloyd

Chief Executive

Angling Trust & Fish Legal

What has the Angling Trust ever done for us?

12 Feb

A lot of anglers ask me what the Angling Trust and Fish Legal do that will benefit them.  We spent an hour in the office compiling a list of our aims, and some of the things we’ve achieved recently for the benefit of everyone who picks up a rod.  Please read this list, and if you’re not a member, join us today for just £25 so that we can add to this list.  If you’re already a member, please send a link to this page to every angler you know and let them know that they should support what we do as well.

 

Angling Trust & Fish Legal: Fighting for Fish and Fishing

•             Improving and protecting fish stocks

•             Providing a strong and unified voice for angling

•             Promoting the benefits of angling for all

•             Standing up for the environment

•             Making polluters pay

•             Supporting excellence in angling

 

What have we achieved?

•             Won an injunction to stop a major hydropower scheme on the River Trent that was licensed to kill over 100 fish a day.

•             Won a judicial review of the government’s river basin management plans in 2011 and secured £100m of new funding for improving rivers.

•             Won significant new government funding to get more people fishing.

•             Consulted 30,000 anglers and 780 organisations in bringing forward the first ever National Angling Strategy.

•             Reduced poaching by educating Eastern European anglers about how to fish legally.

•             Recruited 100 volunteer bailiffs in a pilot scheme that will be rolled out nationally.

•             Won review by DEFRA of cormorant licensing and the bass minimum landing size.

•             Secured support from the Environment Minister for keeping canoeing restricted to rivers with a public right of navigation and stretches with voluntary access agreements.

•             Fought off accusations by the MMO that recreational sea anglers sell their catch.

•             Managed and delivered over 200 major competitions and supported our England teams to win 6 gold, 5 silver and 10 bronze medals at world championships and home internationals in 2012.

•             Beat off angling bans and restrictions and fought against the sell-off of CEMEX lakes and other waters to non-angling interests.

•             Trained 1,300 coaches and helped introduce approximately 100,000 people to angling in the past four years.

•             Set up 35 County Angling Action Groups to organise projects to get more people fishing more often.

•             Helped 91 clubs get Clubmark accreditation to help them get funding for angling participation work.

•             Secured a ban of the sale of invasive plants such as floating pennywort.

•             Provided free legal advice to 220 Fish Legal member clubs and fisheries in the last twelve months and continued to fight 50 separate legal cases.

•             Introduced new benefits and discounts for members.

•             Represented anglers on about 25 different working groups and stakeholder forums at national and international level.

 

Please help us do more of this and join today at www.anglingtrust.net

 

Hydro Havoc

14 Jan

We have been doing battle with the Environment Agency consistently over the past four years about its regulation of hydropower on our rivers.  Hydropower has the potential to cause great damage to our coarse and game fish stocks by damaging fish in turbines, preventing them getting to their spawning or feeding grounds and by reducing the flow left in stretches of river next to the turbines.  ALL fish (apart perhaps from bullheads) need to migrate up and down rivers to complete their lifecycle.  Hydropower turbines are like traffic lights on motorways; they have the potential to prevent fish producing more fish.  Fish passes only work for some of the time, and predators like cormorants and otters quickly work out that these are places where it is easy to pick off prey – our fish!

We have heavily criticised the Environment Agency for failing to uphold its duties to ‘to maintain, improve and develop fisheries’  and to ‘consider and give due weight to fisheries’ when granting impoundment licences associated with hydropower schemes. I have written a strongly-worded letter to Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, highlighting his organisation’s shambolic regulation of hydropower and demanding immediate action to put it right.

The recent successful action by Fish Legal on behalf of the Pride of Derby Angling Club at Sawley weir to halt the damaging hydropower scheme on the river Trent was seriously hindered by the actions of the EA who granted an impoundment licence to the developers without any regard to the impact on the fishery. The developers were granted a permit by the Agency which allowed them to kill up to 10 adult salmon and 100 coarse fish in a 24 hour period without fear of enforcement action. By granting this licence the Agency also gave a private company a statutory defence to any civil claims against it for damaging the fishery caused by changing water levels and flow rates.

Alan Miller, Pride of Derby Club Secretary

We have secured a meeting with Mr. Leinster this month to discuss these points and to highlight the concerns of anglers and fishery owners.

The minimal level of attention to fish and fishing is utterly inadequate from a public body which has a statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop fisheries.  The fisheries department of the Agency, which is funded by our rod licences, does try to make the case internally for greater protection, but far too often they are ignored by other departments who seem hell-bent on selling our fish down the river to developers keen to make a quick buck from subsidies paid for by our taxes.  It’s nothing short of a scandal and we will keep up the fight in 2013, on behalf of all anglers, and our beloved fish.

Funding Facts

2 Jan

Just before Christmas the big news was that the Angling Trust has been awarded £1.8m to grow participation in angling over the next 4 years. There’s been a mixed reaction to this in the media and on the blogs – some people have criticised the Trust for not getting more funding or for it not being directed at other areas of the sport, such as our international teams.  What they don’t know is how difficult it is to get government funding for anything, and how tight the criteria are for what it can be spent on.

Sport England set very tight guidelines for funding bids.

Sport England set very tight guidelines for funding bids.

The award is of course great news, and without a lot of hard work and innovation, we might well have got nothing.  It’s true that this award is much less than other sports will receive over the same period.  Angling is not an Olympic sport and we still have some way to go before we can convince Sport England to increase our funding more than they have already.  Sport England is absolutely clear that they will not fund our international teams.

After the success of London 2012, government funding for elite sport is concentrated solely on Olympic Sports

After the success of London 2012, government funding for elite sport is concentrated solely on Olympic Sports which means that that angling misses out.

Bidding for this funding has taken most of the last year and we have put hundreds of hours of work into doing so.  It might be useful to provide a bit of background.  Over the last four years, the Angling Development Board (now part of the Angling Trust) was funded to build the capacity for angling to increase participation.  This included training 1,400 coaches, creating 35 County Angling Action Groups and getting 91 clubs to achieve Clubmark accreditation, which helps them attract funding from County Sports Partnerships for angling participation.  This funding has now come to an end and we were invited, along with 46 other sports, to bid for funding for the next four years from Sport England.

Early this year, Sport England was told by its sponsoring department, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, that the key aim of the 2013-2017 funding cycle would be to increase weekly participation. Whether the sport takes an hour or less and could be undertaken during a weekday lunch break or dark evening, such as swimming or running, or whether the activity took a longer time such as angling, all sports are being treated the same.  Therefore our plans had to focus on this narrow objective and they made it very clear that unless we did so, we would get no money at all.

With the cost of bait, transport and permits all rising

With the cost of bait, transport and permits all rising plus the time constraints of modern life, getting anglers fishing once a week is a major challenge.

Because angling is generally pretty time-consuming, and can be expensive, getting more people fishing once a week is quite a challenge.  The good news for angling is that only a small proportion of anglers fish once a week, so there is lots of potential for growth!  Our plans had to show that we could achieve Sport England’s objectives with all these constraints.  We have therefore focussed our bid on making it easy and affordable for people to go fishing more often.  This work will help build our capacity to deliver other objectives, with funding from other sources, but it will have to focus on this objective.

During the bid process, Sport England told us to limit our bid to £1.5m and to focus our bid on increasing angling participation among older anglers and anglers with disabilities. This was after our first draft bid was significantly larger and included programmes aimed at children and young adults. It should also be noted that £1.5m would have been a reduction in the last four years’ level of funding, which was a position we did not wish to be in. Our final bid was therefore quite bold, because it was pitched at £2.35m. The early feedback from Sport England was positive and they welcomed our approach.

As we now know, we were partly successful in increasing the funding above the £1.5m limit they had imposed.  We would have liked more, but it was a very competitive process and the people at Sport England are keen to support sports like athletics and netball which are seen to be more intensely active.  However much we might have got, the funding would still have to be spent on increasing the frequency of angling participation and be targeted at the older age groups.

This funding from Sport England is only part of the package we are preparing.  We have been working over the past year to develop a National Angling Strategy – Fishing For Life – which aims to prepare the ground for new funding from the Environment Agency and others to support growth of angling participation among other age groups and to recruit new anglers. When we put all this together, it becomes an integrated approach to getting more people going fishing more often, which is what we are all about.

EA Funding will be key for our plans

EA Funding will be key to our National Angling Strategy

Until they change their position on funding our elite anglers, our teams will have to continue to rely on self-funding and the limited sponsorship that we have been able to secure to support them. We intend to review our domestic competitions across all three disciplines to see if any funds can be made available from those competitions to help support our national teams and we will continue to fight for more sponsorship for our Team England anglers.

We work hard to secure sponsorship for "Team England" such as the 3 year deal that Tubertini UK have signed to support our England World Boat Team.

We work hard to secure sponsorship for “Team England” such as the 3 year deal that Tubertini UK have signed to support our England World Boat Team.

So, to secure these funds is a major achievement given the constraints imposed by the government and its funding agencies.  But we will keep battling to win more funding from a wide range of sources to support angling in all its forms, for all age groups.  With all these funders, the reality is that we have to dance to their tune.  I think we have done a very good job to secure this support in the current climate.

 

 

Getting London Fishing

10 Dec

Yesterday I went on an angling tour of West London.  Leaving home in South Wales at six on a very frosty and bleak morning, I got to Ealing at 9am where I was greeted warmly and brightly by the enthusiastic and very capable CEO of Get Hooked on Fishing Sarah Collins.  Sarah introduced me to Project Manager James, who showed me round Get Hooked on Fishing Ealing’s fantastic new facility

One of the lovely lakes at GHOF's Centre at Northolt in London.

One of the lovely lakes at GHOF’s Centre at Northolt in London.

 

Built from the rubble of Wembley Stadium, it’s a brilliant fishery for young people to come and fish for the first time.  The lakes are full of silver fish which means that a catch is almost guaranteed, but beginners don’t get carried away by catching an enormous carp on their first attempt.  The classroom facilities are brilliant and the whole place is accessible to families and wheelchair users.  The Angling Trust is going to be working very closely with Get Hooked on Fishing at Ealing, and also nationally, to promote the unique work that they do to use fishing as a way of helping young people, and particularly those who are struggling a bit, to learn how to tackle life’s challenges.

The GHOF classroom facility is inside this amazing building in Northala Fields. The "hills" in the background were created from Wembley's Twin Towers Rubble.

The GHOF classroom facility is inside this amazing building in Northala Fields. The “hills” in the background were created from Wembley’s Twin Towers Rubble.

After a quick tour, it was back in the car and off to Les Webber’s Angling Projects near Slough.  Les has written in the angling press about the fact that I have not been to visit his project, and so when he invited me I was pleased to be able to include a visit to his organisation’s facilities.  His was one of the first groups to run angling participation projects and he has achieved a huge amount over the many years he has been working with young people.  It was fascinating to find out more about his work and the exciting news that Angling Projects has become a charity.

Les webber, who has been doing a terrific job of encouraging kids to get into fishing since 1976

Les webber, who has been doing a terrific job of encouraging kids to get into fishing since 1976

Then I headed back into London to Sky where I met up with Keith Arthur to film an episode of Tight Lines.  We discussed the National Angling Survey and our new strategy for getting people into fishing and more benefits out of fishing for people – The National Angling Strategy

We finished filming at about Five O’clock and I wound my way through the rush hour traffic and up to Derbyshire to catch up with our Head of Freshwater Mark Owen.
A long day at the end of another long week, but an utterly inspiring opportunity to meet people who are, every day, transforming the lives of people who need most help: the young, the old and the disabled. More power to their elbows.

Historic, landmark legal victory!

23 Nov

This week Fish Legal won one of the biggest cases in our 64 year history by getting an injunction to stop an ugly and damaging hydropower development going ahead on the River Trent at Sawley Weir.  Here’s a picture of Sawley weir and also a picture of Beeston Weir nearby on the Trent, which has had a hydropower turbine fitted to it already.

Sawley Weir in the snow

We hope that this case will send a clear signal to hydropower developers that they cannot plan or build hydropower turbines without getting permission from anglers first.

The ruling by the Judge shows that the Environment Agency failed to give proper consideration to angling when it granted the developer an impoundment licence which is now subject to a court injunction. We hope that in future the regulator will pay greater attention to the rights of anglers before giving licences to companies seeking to profit from taxpayer subsidies.  It’s important to recognise that this isn’t the fault of the people who work in fisheries at the EA, most of who do a great job, but it’s the fault of the organisation as a whole that doesn’t take fish and fishing seriously.  We’re intent on changing that.

What’s more, the Canal and River Trust (previously British Waterways) – the new waterways charity established to promote recreational use of our nation’s waterways – was an investor in this development, and tried to defend the damaging scheme in court.  We hope that this case will make CRT think again about getting into bed with these developers.

Fish Legal was acting for its member club the Pride of Derby & Derbyshire Angling Association, which was involved in the first ever major case taken by Fish Legal (then known as the Anglers’ Co-operative Association) against British Celanese Ltd in 1952. The club would never have been able to defend itself in court without the expertise and financial backing of Fish Legal, which has covered all the costs and risks of this very complex and expensive case. This in turn is only possible because of the subscriptions and donations of the generous members of Fish Legal and the Angling Trust who make it possible for us to fight to protect fish, and fishing. Read more about this story HERE.

Politicians speak out in The Angle
Our magazine, The Angle, landed on our 15,000 members’ doormats this week. We managed to get exclusive political interviews in the magazine with the new Secretary State for the Environment Owen Paterson as well as the Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon and his opposition counterpart Tom Harris.

Owen Paterson the New Environment Secretary. Read his views on fishing in The Angle.

They express their clear and forthright views about hydropower and also about cormorants, universal canoe access and bass minimum landing sizes, among other issues. Read quotes from their interviews HERE.  If you’re not a member of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, please join up and we’ll send you a copy of the magazine, along with all the other member benefits.

Labour’s Tom Harris is the Shadow Fisheries Minister (pictured here with AT’s own Martin Salter). Read why he thinks “anglers are a great early warning system” in The Angle

It only takes a few minutes to join online at www.anglingtrust.net or over the phone and costs less than 50p a week – please call 01568 620447 during office hours.