Tag Archives: pollution

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.


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.


Saving Severn Fish Stocks

12 Feb

One of the jobs I had to do before going on holiday was to write to the Environment Agency urging them to take action on fish stocks in the Severn catchment.  This isn’t about Keith the seal, but a long term decline in fishing in the upper river and on the River Teme.  Match catches have declined in recent years and several clubs and tackle shops have contacted us asking us to take action.  We held one of our regional forums last year for anglers to discuss this issue and the Environment Agency said that several year classes of fish had been lost in the floods in recent years.

The Angling Trust is aware that cormorant and goosander predation have increased significantly, particularly on the Upper Severn, and as you know we are campaigning for greater freedom for angling clubs and riparian owners to control these avian predators.  We hope that there will be an announcement about this soon.

However, we believe that the fish populations should be able to withstand both floods and predation and that the root causes of the decline are not being tackled at anything like the scale or speed required for a fishery of this size and importance.  There needs to be a proper assessment of the water quality in this river system and the availability and accessibility of habitat for fish to spawn and hide from floods and predators.

I have therefore called on the Environment Agency to carry out such an assessment and to draw up a Fishery Action Plan to restore coarse fish stocks in the river.  I would imagine that the catchment walkover studies carried out to help with delivery of the Water Framework Directive would provide a list of actions required to address diffuse pollution and other issues in the Severn and that these would form the basis of the Plan.  The Angling Trust will help consult with our membership and will do all we can to encourage angling clubs to help with putting it into action.

The Severn Rivers Trust is planning to install roach spawning boards, a project that might help that one species in the future.  Our members have already committed to helping the Trust to achieve this, along the same lines as the Avon Roach Project.  However, the Rivers Trust does not have the necessary resources at the moment to carry out the scale of work required to get this river back on the road to recovery.  Once the Fishery Action Plan has been completed, we would support substantial partnership funding from the Environment Agency being provided to the Rivers Trust to support delivery of the plan.

All this will take time.  Many of our member clubs are losing members, day ticket and tackle sales on a daily basis and they do not have time to wait.  These are important rural businesses and they rely on healthy fish stocks to continue employing staff.  What’s more, thousands of anglers are seeing their sport suffer and they want to know what the organisation they pay with their rod licences to maintain and improve fisheries is going to do about it.

Therefore we have also urged the Environment Agency to stock fish to the upper Severn and to the Teme to compensate for those that might have been lost in the floods, which would do something to restore stocks in the short term.

I’ll let you know on here how we get on.

Please support us.  We’ve had quite a few new members in the past few weeks and we need to keep those numbers going up if we are going to continue campaigning at the highest levels of government to protect fish and fishing.

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