Tag Archives: angling

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.

Advertisements

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.

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

Two early Christmas presents from the Angling Trust to you

23 Dec

This week I want to write about two new resources that the Angling Trust has made available to anglers, free of charge, on the internet.

1. First, there’s our new web site at www.fishinginfo.co.uk that we have produced in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Met Office. It has a massive amount information about fishing venues; angling clubs; tackle shops; river heights; and the past, present and future weather conditions. All this is set out in a brilliant mapping system that allows you to switch between aerial views and maps.  When I plan a fishing trip, I have to go to several web sites to get all the necessary information.  The idea of this site is that all those sites are combined into one to make it easier for more people to go fishing more often.  I’m know a lot about the fishing in my area, but found some new venues just a short drive from my house that I am now looking forward to trying out.

www.fishinginfo.co.uk

http://www.FishingInfo.co.uk – register for FREE and start saving your favourite fishing locations today!

We are just ‘soft launching’ this at the moment, to iron out any bugs and to get all the information on the site up to date.  Please check it out and if you spot a fishery, club or tackle shop with out of date information, then please use the Feedback option on each entry to let us know and we will update their details on the site.  Angling Trust member clubs, fisheries and trade members will get an enhanced listing and will be able to update their details online at any time.

We’ll then be launching the site in March 2014 and it will be publicised by email and post to all anglers who have bought a rod licence in the past two years.  This means that millions of anglers will be alerted to it, and we are likely to get a lot of hits, so if you own a fishery or tackle shop, make sure your website, phone number, opening times etc. are all up to date.

The Angler

The Angler – Autumn 2014 edition is now online!

2. One of the many benefits of being a member of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal is that you get sent our magazine twice a year, free of charge.  We have been putting a lot of work into making it more interesting and readable, based on feedback from our members and have also now put it online for the benefit of non-members as well.  You can read articles by angling luminaries such as Dave Harrell, Brian Clarke, Henry Gilbey and John Horsey here: The Angler online edition, as well as a review of campaign news from the Angling Trust and legal victories from Fish Legal.   We’re aware of some things which didn’t quite work, and we’ll be putting them right in the next copy due out in the spring, but the latest edition, which runs to 76 pages, is the best we have ever produced.  Please send any feedback to admin@anglingtrust.net and this will be useful to us as we work on the next edition.  If you want to get the paper copy of the magazine, please join us at www.anglingtrust.net/join or sign someone else up as a last minute Christmas present!

Finally, I would like to wish all the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas and a Fishy 2014.  I’ll be writing a review of 2013 and a look forward to next year in a week’s time, so come back and visit then.  Thanks to all of you who have supported us with membership and donations and for those who haven’t, how about making that one of your new year resolutions?

p.s. Don’t forget you can also keep in touch with what is going on with the Angling Trust via our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AnglingTrust and also via our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/AnglingTrust .

“The Angling Trust – what have they ever done for me?”

19 Dec

One of the frustrating things about running the Angling Trust is that we often do really important work to protect fish and fishing and the vast majority of anglers are completely unaware of what we have been doing on their behalf. Often it is just not newsworthy enough to get any attention from the angling press and even if it does, there are hundreds of thousands of anglers who never buy an angling publication. So, this week I’m going to share some briefings that we have done jointly with other organisation to try and get some last minute improvements to the Water Bill, which we think has so far failed to include enough measures to address the many problems facing our water environment.

Anyone who fishes on rivers could benefit from this work over the coming decades as we believe that we’ve had real influence that we hope will lead directly to changes that will improve flows and water quality which are vital to fish stocks. Low flows and pollution mean that fish have less food and are less likely to breed and create fish stocks of the future. This work isn’t sexy, but it is vitally important for the future of fishing.

The Angling Trust has worked closely with the RSPB, WWF and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management to put together a series of briefings to MPs and the committees scrutinising the Bill as it passes through the Houses of Parliament. The fact that we are working alongside these organisations is a sign that the Angling Trust is recognised as a serious and respected organisation that has genuine political influence. We have far fewer members than the RSPB and WWF, but we represent a powerful political constituency, and our membership is gradually growing in all categories.

Specific briefings were submitted, with various partners, on amendments concerning:
1. Fracking
2. Abstraction Reform
3. Metering
4. A sustainable development duty for OFWAT
5. Upstream competition safeguards

Please click on the links above to download the relevant briefing as a small pdf document to see what we have been doing on your behalf.

We can only do this with the support of a (slowly) growing number of anglers who pay us subscriptions and make donations to support our work.

As an angler in England, we hope you feel compelled to join us and lend your voice and support –  visit www.anglingtrust.net or call us during office hours on 01568 620447. We now have a direct debit option that will only cost you £2.50  month, please take advantage of this easy way to pay and spread the cost over a whole year. Thank you.