Many of you will be aware that the Welsh Assembly will soon be debating the question of canoe access on Welsh rivers within the framework of debating the possible reform or even scrapping of the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000.

As ever, the canoeists’ organisations will be pushing for the unrestricted, round-the-clock, all-year-round ‘right to paddle’.

Whereas the angling and land-owning side of the debate tends to favour the negotiation of voluntary local access agreements, the canoeists remain adamant that they have an existing, unrestricted right of access in law which can simply be put into practice without further ado.

Whatever anglers think of this stance, the canoeists must never be allowed to win the argument by default. Already, many submissions from anglers, landowners, fishing clubs and others opposed to the canoeists’ aims will have been received. But this is not an excuse to relax. There are enough of us to put up a very convincing case. Quality of the arguments presented is of course important, but so is our response in terms of numbers. Let’s make sure that we stand up and are counted. With this in mind, I recently made my own submission to the Welsh Assembly on canoe access.

It matters little if, like me, you have no connection with Wales, or have never fished there. You will still be aware of the devastating impact canoeing can have on a river fishery and also of the rights and wrongs of the access issue, especially the fact that the canoeists seem to want to use rivers free of charge.

Whether you are a coarse or game angler is irrelevant; in cases like this, an attack against one is an attack against all. If you are a coarse angler, you might also like to bear in mind that if someone happens to live in Wales, their fishing is most likely to be game fishing. The same applies to Scotland, where the canoe issue is, I’m sad to say, something of a lost cause. We should support fellow anglers – that is all that really matters.

These particular paddlers, photographed at Hay on Wye, caused major disruption to anglers and valley-life all the way from Glasbury, 5 miles upstream. (photo: Cliff Hatton)

Please do not think that just because this issue does not affect you directly, there is no need to lend your support. Because sooner or later, an issue will pop up which does affect you. And then you will need the support of others.

You can read some of the background to the sustainable access campaign on the Angling Trust website here:

You may also like to look at the rest of the Angling Trust website and consider joining to support its campaign work on behalf of anglers, on this issue and many others, as well as its work to promote and defend the sport of angling.

You may also wish to take a look at the Sustainable Access Campaign Cymru (SACC) website: and complete the Welsh Government consultation (June 2017) questionnaire.

And please do not forget: if the canoeists make headway in Wales, then England will be next in line. The issue will not just go away. The British Canoe Union makes a point of regularly pushing for what it sees as its legal right – and on its own terms.

Here is the text of my submission:



Carwyn Jones, AM, First Minister

Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for the Environment

Ken Skates AM, Minister for Economy and Infrastructure

03 August 2017

Subject: canoe access on Welsh rivers

Dear Ministers and Assembly Members

I wish to submit the following brief comments on the subject of access for canoeists to Welsh rivers for your consideration. I understand that the subject, under the general heading of the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000, will be debated in the Welsh Assembly soon.

My credentials: I am a lifelong angler, a life member of, the Angling Trust, an Angling Trust volunteer and Ambassador, and also a member of several fishing clubs in my area. I remain passionately committed to the right of future generations to enjoy fishing rivers and streams as well as lakes.

May I state at the outset that I am not totally anti-canoe, but am in favour of access being on the basis of local agreements such that the sport and enjoyment of all is preserved. I have no specific link with Wales other than a feeling of solidarity with fellow anglers there. I do however feel that the points I set out below will be relevant.

You may wish to take the following into consideration:

  • The canoeists’ argument has been, and remains, that they somehow have a right to an unrestricted, year-round ‘right to paddle’. This is clearly not acceptable, if only on the grounds that at certain times of year the damage to spawning areas and the disturbance of spawning fish would be considerable. Not least, disruption to angling would be catastrophic.
  • Illegal, uninterrupted rafting has now made salmon fishing impossible on the upper Tay in Scotland; whole salmon fisheries have collapsed due to lack of custom and livelihoods have been lost, not to mention the impact on local hotels and businesses.
  • It should be borne in mind that fish need to be present before fish-eating birds can exist; it is also a fact that canoe access will inevitably cause considerable disturbance to fish and other wildlife (birds) on smaller rivers, to a much greater extent than angling does. The British Canoe Union persists in taking the line that canoeing has no effect on the environment, on the other hand.
  • Some landowners/property owners and farmers will also feel that canoe access in certain areas makes them vulnerable as regards security and the possibility of damage.
  • It is only fair that canoeists are subject to necessary limitations and seasons, just as anglers already are, in the interests of conservation.
  • In contrast to Scotland, Welsh rivers are generally small, and therefore demand a cautious, stealthy approach from the angler. An event such as the sudden passage of a single canoe will have a huge impact and make fishing a waste of time for hours afterwards. The steady passage of canoes over the course of a day will make fishing totally impossible.
  • The issue of biosecurity must not be forgotten: there is a distinct danger that canoeing will add to the spread of alien aquatic species (eg signal crayfish) now present in some river systems.
  • Angling clubs and related organisations can take the credit for much of the preservation and improvement of the riverine environment. Organisations like the Wild Trout Trust have done wonderful river restoration and improvement work on behalf of client angling clubs, in some instances rescuing parts of rivers which have often become severely degraded in environmental terms, through neglect, mistreatment or excessive abstraction.
  • Anglers, notably through the environmental/angling organisation Fish Legal (formerly the Anglers’ Conservation Organisation) have taken countless polluters to court and fought successfully for the banning of certain toxic substances, notably harmful substances used in farming. Canoeists contribute nothing to the care of the environment.
  • Once having gained agreed access, canoeists should without a doubt be licensed and identifiable, and also pay an annual fee to the Environment Agency towards environmental work, just as anglers do. All adult anglers pay an annual licence fee to the Environment Agency: £30 for non-migratory trout and coarse fishing and £82 per annum for salmon and sea trout fishing. Once having legitimised themselves, actual fishing access for anglers is then in most cases through membership of a club, annual subscriptions for these being typically anything from c. £60 to £250 per annum. The club pays on behalf of its members for access and fishing in the form of rents to landowners.
  • The Welsh Government’s own fishing strategy (2008) stated that recreational freshwater fishing was worth well over £100m to the economy. For every £1 spent on marketing, freshwater fishing generated £80, a higher return than any other single tourism-related activity.
  • UK-wide, recreational angling (game, coarse and sea) provides employment for approximately 40,000 people and contributes an annual £3.5 billion to the economy.
  • In 2015-16 the Environment Agency raised £21m from licence sales; much of this went into re-stocking, environmental work and the prosecution of crime (poaching and environmental).

Yours sincerely

RJ Sturdy

* I quote the above in full to give you a few ideas. But of course you should put your own submission in your own words. If you can put the case better than me, then that is all to the good; so much the better in fact. Your contribution will count.

*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 (

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 or call us on 01568 620447. If you’re not already a member DO consider joining.

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