Education, Education, Education...
Rod Sturdy argues that tackling the illegal fish removal and poaching problem is largely a question of education, both of immigrants and of the general public.
…is often the name of the game when it comes to defending our interests as anglers. As well of course as building up political clout…
Anyone who doubts this should sample the fishing available in mainland Europe: some the rivers of northern France and Germany spring to mind, with vast stretches of virtually fishless water, made all the more painful for the angler by being frequently mouth-wateringly fishy in appearance. This sad state of affairs has come about by removal of any fish caught for the table and anglers have often done this in complete ignorance of the consequences.
In Germany this habit has even been made into a legal requirement, largely through the political influence of so-called ‘greens’, who have managed to convince themselves, and then brainwash the general public into thinking that fish rarely survive being caught, and that the only possible justification for fishing can be if the catch is eaten.
I have fished French lakes which have been infested with mini jack-pike of a pound or two in weight. The reason: misguided anglers who have removed large pike to eat (‘only the large ones’ - as they will quickly reassure anyone who asks them), thus unwittingly causing a population explosion of marauding baby pike, the favourite food of the large specimens.
But here at home, we are now seeing anglers in the form of the Angling Trust at the very forefront of positive environmental activity: educating immigrants, often from Eastern Europe, in the ways of UK angling, and in the benefits of a fish-rich aquatic environment for the wider environment.
As it happens, I grew up in a part of the UK which had a large Polish community. Most of them had come here as refugees from war-torn Europe. Very many of them were anglers, and applied their considerable fish-catching ability in order to eke out the family food supply during the austere post-war years. And to be frank about it, nobody at the time criticised them for doing it – quite the reverse in fact.
People saw catching fish and eating them as the most natural thing in the world, which I suppose it is! Few of today’s anglers will be aware, for example that it was Polish anglers of that post-war era who introduced us to the effectiveness of hemp as bait for roach.
But the world has now moved on. With a high number of immigrants in this country, such fishing in order to remove fish is not sustainable. Indeed, catch and release has become much more the norm in more types of fishing than coarse fishing: the modern policy of returning Atlantic salmon, which were once so abundant that taking up to a dozen fish per angler per day had little impact on fish numbers, but are now a threatened species, is a good example. To this end the Angling Trust has set up its ‘Building Bridges’ project, essentially to educate and inform immigrants in the UK about the undesirability of removing fish from our waters.
Part of this education process involves making landowners and farmers aware of the consequences, both to their farm workers and to their own reputation, of illegal fishing and poaching.
In this positive work, and of course in its other activities, the Angling Trust deserves your full support. And by ‘full support’ I mean just that: join, and do it now.
But please do not think that your representative body can do all the work for you. Things are not as simple as that. Part of the problem is that the general, non-angling public needs to be educated about what we do and to be got on side as well. I said earlier that catching and eating fish was the most natural thing in the world. But the fact is that the world we live in is no longer a natural one; it is a managed one. And maintaining a good head of fish is part of that management. It brings numerous benefits to the ecosystem, including sustaining those birds and other creatures which depend on fish for their existence. Most members of the general, nature-loving public would appreciate the sight of a kingfisher or heron, so please do not be slow to remind them that if there are not enough fish, these birds simply cannot exist…
And if you are interested in being part of that management process, and at the same time doing your bit for fishing, you should consider being a part of the Angling Trust’s recently-announced volunteer bailiff scheme, to be set up initially as a pilot scheme in the south-east in partnership with the Environment Agency.
You will find details of it here in the news section of the FM site and essentially it involves selection and training of suitable volunteers on a part-time basis to bailiff all waters in their particular area, deal with members of the public and prevent illegal removal of fish, as a back-up to full-time Environment Agency bailiffs. For an application pack, make contact on email@example.com
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