When you think about it, there is a whole segment of wildlife which has no organisation to stand up for it: fish.
Birds have the RSPB, animals have the RSPCA (It has an anti-angling policy, but that is not quite the same thing as protection of fish. It is in fact, as I have said before, a mistake to think that if fishing were banned, fish would be better off…)
Many anglers still suffer from the mistaken idea that the Environment Agency represents the interests of anglers, and will prosecute polluters and make them pay for their misdeeds. In fact prosecutions by government agencies are becoming ever rarer. In any case, when the Environment Agency does prosecute, proceeds in the form of fines go to the government, not to the angling club concerned.
Fish Legal cut its teeth in 1953 when it was still called the Anglers’ Co-operative Association (ACA) with the celebrated case of the Pride of Derby Angling Club versus British Celanese and the British Electricity Authority. The ACA won, and the judge was critical of the lack of activity on the part of the Fishery Board, which was the predecessor to the National Rivers Authority and of course to the present-day Environment Agency!
Thus began an outstandingly successful record of legal work on behalf of anglers and their sport which now goes back 60 years.
As well as taking on particular cases on behalf of its members, Fish Legal is proactively fighting matters of general principle on the environmental front.
Hitherto water companies have been under no obligation to divulge precisely what and how much they dump into waterways via storm overflows. When Fish Legal asked water companies to reveal this information, two of them (Yorkshire Water and United Utilities) refused outright, claiming that as private companies they were under no obligation to do so. However, Fish Legal was allowed to take this issue to the European Union Court of Justice. Fish Legal is also involved in a campaign to make the Environment Agency put much tighter controls on sewage discharges which began just before the turn of the century. It has been a long, hard struggle. However now, with the EU Court of Justice in favour of openness, there is a real prospect of success.
Such work, which is in the interests of every angler in the land, of course takes time, effort and funds to carry through properly. So Fish Legal clearly deserves your support.
Fish Legal has also made progress in holding the Environment Agency to adequate investigation and assessment of fish kills. This has hitherto, on the Environment Agency’s own admission been ‘inconsistent’. Other issues on which the organisation is taking a stand are the old enemy abstraction and the looming prospect of DIY dredging, which would mean a backward step to the environmentally destructive (and in the end totally ineffective) flood-prevention measures of the last century.
As I said above, there is no organisation which protects fish. Or is there?
If there is one at all, it is Fish Legal, and it is doing great work, and deserves your support. Join Fish Legal and help the fight for your future fishing. If your club controls waters and is not a member, this is sheer madness. They are missing out on very reasonably-priced expertise in the form of Fish Legal’s team of expert angling environmental solicitors, an insurance policy if you like, as far as the protection of their waters is concerned. In the unlikely event of Fish Legal failing to prosecute successfully, the member club is still indemnified against costs awarded to the opposition.
Angling Trust membership for a club or syndicate is also the way to access public liability insurance at a very low rate. Fish Legal is also able to give angling clubs specialised legal advice, something which is not really available on the general legal market. If it was, it would of course be at a high premium rate, so much so that the big step of taking a polluter to court would be out of the question.
If you as an individual recognise and support the work of the Angling Trust in general by joining and/or making a donation, this is, I can assure you, money well spent. Clubs wishing to join the Angling trust and Fish Legal can call 01568 620 447, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org