Tag Archives: angling trust

Climate change – a real issue for the future of fish and fishing

12 May

Our fish face many threats, with which we are all too familiar.  Sewage and agricultural pollution, low flows in rivers, commercial overfishing at sea, and unsustainable predation are the rule rather than the exception.  This month I want to highlight the potential impact of a changing climate on fish stocks, and hence on the availability of quality fishing.  All serious scientists agree that global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity (burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and releasing methane from agricultural sources).  Even if we take concerted global action, temperatures look set to rise by at least 2 degrees centigrade.  This may not sound much, but it will have disastrous consequences for our way of life, and on fish and fishing.

Many people think that climate change will only affect delicate fish like trout and grayling, but it will also have a huge impact on coarse fish as well.  One of the biggest threats to carp is Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) and the UK has seen numerous outbreaks of this vicious disease in recent years which have led to fisheries being closed and huge numbers of dead fish being dumped into the ground.  KHV thrives in warm water and all the recent outbreaks have coincided with years when summer temperatures have been slightly above average.

Rising temperatures will makes sea levels rise due to the expansion of sea water and melting icecaps, coupled with deeper low pressure systems which lead to storm surges.  In recent years, there have been more and more saltwater incursions to the Norfolk Broads, which have led to hundreds of thousands of coarse fish keeling over.  These incursions will become far more common in low lying areas and estuaries, which are often the most productive coarse fisheries.

The impact of climate on sea fishing is uncertain.  What is certain is that fishing will change as fish migrate to find optimum conditions.  It’s likely that warmer waters will cause more poisonous algal blooms, fuelled by fertilisers washed off farmers’ fields.  As crops fail, there will also be greater economic and political pressure to exploit fish stocks even more unsustainably to feed a growing global population.

River full of soil

The River Wye in spate, full of soil. This will only get worse with climate change.

Salmon are already nearing the edge of their natural range in the south of the UK.  Rising temperatures, coupled with low flows, could lead to their extinction in Southern England and Wales.  Sea survival of salmon has plummeted in the past 40 years from around 30% in the 1970s to a handful of percent today.  The truth is we don’t know why, but several years of skinny grilse indicated that the fish were going to sea and not finding the food they had come to expect over millennia due to a warming Arctic Ocean.  These fish have survived for millions of years through much bigger climate fluctuations than 2 degrees, but it’s the speed of modern climate change that makes it harder for them to adapt.  As they move further north, we lose a heritage and a tradition.

Once famous salmon rivers like the Tamar, Hampshire Avon, Test and Itchen could see their stocks wiped out within the lifetime of young anglers who are just learning the art of speycasting today.

All freshwater fish, and particularly sensitive species such as trout and grayling, will suffer from warmer water in the summer months.  As water temperature increases, oxygen levels plummet, and rivers and lakes are much more susceptible to pollution incidents.  Rainfall patterns are likely to change, with more intense rainstorms causing damaging floods which destroy fish eggs and wash fish downstream and onto floodplains where they die in the fields.  More sporadic rain will probably cause more droughts which concentrate pollutants, reduce dissolved oxygen, reduce the wetted area of riverbed which provides food, and give predators a field day.

To respond to this threat, the Angling Trust has joined the Climate Coalition, which is a group of diverse organisations calling for real action on climate change by governments the world over.  Of course, climate change should be of concern to us all because of the impact it will have on our lives in so many ways, but highlighting the potential damage to our precious fish and fishing is a way of demonstrating how far-reaching that impact will be.

Speak_Up_Logo

We are therefore encouraging anglers to back this campaign to call on governments to help make nature more resilient to climate change by reducing other pressures on natural systems, and to take action to reduce emissions which are causing the world to warm.

We can’t any longer pretend that Climate Change isn’t going to happen, or that we are powerless to prepare for it.  We must all take urgent action to stop it being worse than it needs to be.

If you want to get involved in the huge Speak Up rally in London on Wednesday 17th June then please click HERE for more details. Why not go along and speak up for the love of fish and fishing.

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Proof that people power really can work!

3 Feb

My blog on 4 December celebrated the fact that the tide might have turned in favour of recreational sea angling, following an inspiring debate in Westminster Hall about the need for urgent protection for European and UK bass fisheries, which are in danger of collapsing.  Some in the angling press rightly pointed out that this celebration might have been premature when George Eustice, the Fisheries Minister, returned from his subsequent meeting in Brussels later in the month without any agreements to protect bass stocks.  The negotiations had run into the sand.

However, the Angling Trust and B.A.S.S. piled on the pressure on government and many of our members responded to our call to write to their MPs to let them know that people really care about this issue.  Defra responded by taking proposals to the European Commission for emergency measures and these were supplemented by additional Dutch proposals.  We then asked our members to write to the European Fisheries Commissioner overseeing the process of considering these proposals and we know that hundreds of anglers did this.  Our partner organisations in the European Anglers’ Alliance did the same and we helped them apply pressure to the Eurocrats tucked away in the labyrinthine corridors of power in Brussels.

The result?  The European Commission this week announced that it would be banning all pelagic trawling for bass until the end of the spawning season at the end of April this year.  This is something that we and our predecessor organisations have campaigned to achieve for the last decade.  It just seems bonkers to allow commercial nets to scoop up vast quantities of fish just when they are about to spawn and create more bass, and this year at least, the madness will stop!

The fact that the EU has at last taken action (even if it is only a short term emergency measure for the time being) is a result of two key factors in my view.  The first is that the scientific advice was incontrovertible; the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) called for an 80% cut in catches.  Of course, the scientists had called for drastic action on several occasions before, and they had been ignored by the politicians who preferred not to rock the commercial fishing boat and to let the unsustainable slaughter of juvenile and spawning bass continue.  This time, the evidence really was stark though: stop fishing or face an immediate collapse in stocks.

As a united force for all anglers, we can make a bigger difference

As a united force for all anglers, we can make a bigger difference

The second factor was that anglers in the UK and throughout Europe stood up to be counted.  We are a huge constituency, which is potentially very powerful.  In the past, we have been far too fragmented and amateur, which has stopped us punching anything like near our weight.  This time was different; we were able to get messages out to a much larger network of anglers and to give them the relevant information they needed to contact the politicians.  We were able to provide professional briefings to politicians and civil servants.  We had the relationships with Ministers and Defra employees so that we could pick up the phone and talk to them.  This is the value of having a unified representative body for all anglers, which has forged links into a European network of similar bodies.  Any organisation can write a few letters, or put out some press releases, but to take on an issue like this and actually get something done it is essential to have a professional, integrated campaign.

Richard Benyon Quote

And it worked – despite deadlock at the Fisheries Council meeting in December, our politicians knew that they had to do something and they proposed emergency measures which became a ban on pelagic trawling for bass until April to protect spawning fish.  There’s now a lot of work to be done to put in place longer term solutions, which will doubtless include some restrictions on recreational sea anglers about the number and size of fish they can take home, but we’ve won a really important victory for sea angling and for fish stocks.  We want to build on this success and take on more battles to start the process of re-building our sea fishing which used to be some of the best in the world.

If we are to do this, we need more support.  There are a few people out there on the forums who will try and persuade you that the Angling Trust is involved in dark conspiracies to destroy angling, or that we have some hidden agenda.  We aren’t and we haven’t.  We employ professional staff, and all of them put in hundreds of voluntary hours above and beyond what they are contracted to do.  But we don’t do our jobs for the money; we are all deeply committed to protecting and improving fish stocks and fishing for this generation and the generations to come.  Angling has waited decades for an organisation to stand up for anglers in the public arena.  It now has one, which is making a real difference, and it’s high time that more than 0.1% of all anglers coughed up just £25 a year to support the work that the Angling Trust and Fish Legal do for the benefit of us all.

Join here: www.anglingtrust.net/join

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

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.

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.

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.