…but not quite good enough…this would be my assessment of the recent performance of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal.
One of the important battles the Angling Trust won in 2016 was the re-structuring of rod licence charges, with junior anglers now fishing for free, and with a much better deal for specialist, multi-rod anglers. And by the way, the Angling Trust has brought about the distribution of £400,000 of rod licence money to angling clubs and public fisheries in order to make improvements, using coaches, management of predation, improving accessibility and general maintenance.
Fish Legal, the successor organisation to the old ACA (originally the Anglers’ Co-operative Association, then Anglers’ Conservation Association) is the body which represents anglers by fighting pollution and other cases of damage on behalf of member clubs and fishery owners. It actively monitors government agencies responsible for water bodies, actively campaigns for transparency in the water industry, and fights to prevent the cover-up of poor environmental practices which adversely affect the water environment. Fish Legal lobbied successfully to ban the sheep-dip substance cypermethrin which had caused so much damage in watercourses.
In 2015 it won a landmark case which brought water companies in England and Wales into the environmental information regime, meaning that these private companies are now obliged to reveal what they are putting into, and what they are taking out of, our rivers, lakes and coastal waters. At present Fish Legal is currently fighting over 60 pollution cases in the UK, some of which involve specifically agricultural pollution, affecting the fishing of thousands of anglers. Farming is now top of the list of causes of pollution in the UK, and the Angling Trust has over the past 5 years been calling for tougher regulation.
Fish Legal is currently looking into the possibility of bringing a claim against those responsible for a major pollution case on the Welsh Teifi, where thousands of fish have been killed, several clubs have been affected and a large chunk of the local economy has been hit.
The chief reason, by the way, why I rate the Angling Trust’s performance as ‘not quite good enough’ is simply because it could do so much better if it had the proper support it deserves from the rank and file of anglers. Roughly 0.85 % (17,000 out of an estimated 2million) of individual anglers are members, and this of course is reflected in the less than desirable performance of the organisation, the Angling Trust, which represents them when dealing with politicians, and with the Environment Agency, industry and agriculture.
Next I want to say something about what must count as easily the most crucial part of the work of the Angling Trust: angling development, the essential work of making sure that more people discover the pleasure of fishing and that the sport is taken up by a greater diversity of participants. In short, the aim is to recruit more anglers of all types. Just consider: the average age of anglers is as things stand growing greater year by year. If nothing were done, angler numbers would gradually reduce and the sport would die a slow death. This is why this work is absolutely crucial: no new anglers means no future for fishing. Just think about it. We can of course all do our bit on a personal level by introducing people we know to fishing, or giving help to a beginner, but this is a mere drop in the ocean. To be effective, this recruitment process needs to happen at national level, with even more support and funding.
Fishing demonstrably creates a better environment; it alters people’s lives and is a proven means to reducing youth offending. The Angling Trust aims to build on these facts and to work with schools to recruit kids, their families and other newcomers, into fishing – preferably for life. This capability of fishing to make a difference can also be a means of ‘selling’ it to politicians and obtaining funding.
There is no doubt however that the Trust could do much, much more in this field, given more resources. It could make more use of the media to promote angling; it could do even more to subsidise coaching courses, provide more starter packs for underprivileged children, and develop angling academies. Given a few high-quality projects, if the money were available for these, it could gain more funding from those wishing to support its work.
It is no use moaning that anglers always get a raw deal and bleating that campaigns never quite achieve what they set out to achieve. There has always been far too much negativity among anglers, such that they always imagine from the outset that they are going to lose out. There is a name for this state of mind: defeatism, and believe me it is the only thing which needs to be overcome. Otherwise the view that we are going to lose out becomes near certainty, a self-fulfilling prediction.
Apathy also looms large in angling affairs. A friend of mine once commented, no doubt in the grip of total frustration or more likely utter despair, that anglers have made apathy into an art form. I could not express it better myself! Let us suppose, just for the sake of argument, that there were only 1 million anglers in the UK. If then only one angler in ten cared enough about an issue like the recent bass campaign, then we would have 100k signatures. With even that level of support, the politicians simply have to take note and put the issue before Parliament. With even that level of support, we would be well on the way to carving out a bright future for angling… As things stand, the bass petition was signed by just over 11k individuals. Let us assume that all the signatories were anglers (they were not); that would mean, using our figure of 1m anglers, that one angler in a hundred signed. Not a great performance, is it? And allowing for the fact that not all signatories were anglers, then it is laughable. And if we accept, as many claim, that the number of anglers is something closer to 2m, then the support they gave is practically non-existent.
So the first thing we anglers need to do is to throw off our negative frame of mind, and think about what could be achieved if we act together. Then, we need to support the organisation, the Angling Trust, which fights on our behalf, for the sport we love.
You can read more about the work of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal at www.anglingtrust.net, and find its free events for new anglers at www.getfishing.org.uk – please encourage a family member or friend to try fishing at one of them.
*Rod began fishing in his local park lake at the age of twelve, and from there he graduated to chub and roach from the river Tees in North Yorkshire. He now lives in Surrey within striking distance of the river Mole, as well as the Medway and the Eden in Kent and does a lot of surface carp fishing on small waters in the area. Latterly he has enjoyed winter fishing on the Test in Hampshire. He has contributed numerous articles on various angling subjects and personalities to ‘Waterlog’ magazine, as well as many posts on environmental and political subjects in support of the work of the Angling Trust on the ‘Fishing Magic’ website (www.fishingmagic.com)
He remains a passionate angler as well as a member and promoter of the Angling Trust.
The Angling Trust deserves your support in its dealings with politicians and the media to defend and promote fishing. Find out all about the Angling Trust and its work atwww.anglingtrust.net or call us on 01568 620447. If you’re not already a member DO consider joining.