Most anglers in England and Wales will be blissfully unaware that their angling rights are about to be changed. Many may now look at the proposed changes and see them as pretty insignificant to their own style of fishing, but that could well be a mistake. Once we start letting changes being imposed upon us, bit by bit, it's very hard to say “stop, that's enough”.
The email below has been sent to a few hundred people by the EA. This seems odd to me, as I read on Ceefax only this week how 1,500,000 of us have bought rod licences in the past year and they have all of our addresses. These aren't minor changes that they are proposing. Quite a number of anglers could, therefore, become criminals without even realising it. All they'll have to do is carry on what they've done all their angling lives, and what anglers in general have done for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and they'll run the risk of a fine and a criminal record.
I did receive a press release from the EA back in December 2009 about these proposed changes, but there was no mention of how to object (click here), so feel it only fair to let the remaining 1,499,000 freshwater anglers know what is being done to their sport without their knowledge. I've had a quick look on the Angling Trust website, but can find no mention of these changes in their news section. I'd like to think that they are busy fighting these changes.
Email from the Environment Agency:
"Dear sir or madam,
We are advertising new fisheries byelaws on 16 December 2009.
Earlier this year we invited you to contribute to a debate on proposed byelaws covering –
- coarse fish, eel and shad removal by rod and line;
- close seasons for brown trout and salmon in stillwaters;
- net fishing for eel and elver.
We received replies from over 1000 people and organisations, for which we are extremely grateful. We have collated and published a summary of the responses on our website at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/recreation/fishing/112102.aspx.
The comments and views we received during this informal consultation helped us develop our proposals further. We are now advertising the final byelaws, as we are obliged to do in law, giving anyone an opportunity to object or offer support to them.
What byelaws are included?
Since the earlier consultation, we have decided to postpone our eel and elver net fishing proposals until 2011 (the urgent need to introduce net fishing close seasons for 2010 will be provided through another route). However, we are proceeding with proposals to –
- regulate coarse fish, eel and shad removal by rod and line;
- dispense with the brown trout close season on stillwater fisheries.
In addition, we are taking the opportunity to remove the coarse fishing close season from a 5 stillwater Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England, where angling is perceived not to affect the conservation value of the site, and from 22 enclosed stillwater fisheries which fall within, but are not part of the Norfolk Broads.
When the Marine and Coastal Access Act was made law in November 2009, it prohibited the use of the tailer and gaff as accessories to angling. We need to repeal existing byelaws that have allowed their use.
By advertising, we are giving anyone the opportunity offer support or object to the proposals. We have placed a statutory notice in the London Gazette and on-line adverts on the websites of the Times, Telegraph, Mirror, Western Mail and Daily Post and on several angling media websites. We have issued a press release to the angling and national media; written to the principal angling and fisheries representatives; and, via this e-mail, we are notifying the 850+ people who responded by e-mail to the informal consultation.
How can I respond?
A copy of each byelaw is attached, together with a short explanation. You can also obtain the byelaws from www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish/byelaws, by phoning 08708 506 506* or from any Environment Agency office, where they may be inspected during office hours.
If you wish to object or offer support to the new byelaws, please write to Alexander Kinninmonth at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Marine and Freshwater Biodiversity Division, Area 2D, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR (email@example.com) or to Graham Rees at the Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru/Welsh Assembly Government, Yr Uned Bysgodfeydd/Fisheries Unit, Rhodfa Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3UR (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The closing date for objections is Wednesday 20 January 2010.
At the same time, please send a copy to Mat Crocker, Head of Fisheries, Environment Agency, Rio House, Waterside Drive, Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol, BS32 4UD or by e-mail to email@example.com.
At the end of the consultation period, copies of the responses may be made public. The information contained may also be published in a summary of responses. If you do not consent to this, you must clearly request that your response be treated confidentially. You should also be aware that there may be circumstances in which the Environment Agency will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations.
What happens next?
We will reply to anyone objecting to the byelaws, responding to the issues they raise and inviting them to withdraw their objection. After 20 January, we will formally apply to the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers for confirmation of the byelaws, enclosing any outstanding objections and suggested modifications.
I hope you find this helpful.
Fisheries Policy Manager, Environment Agency"
You can find further discussion on this topic in our forums by clicking here. There are also other discussions regarding certain aspects of these proposed changes. To comment specifically on this article, please click here.
I would urge every angler in England and Wales (and even those considering an angling holiday in those countries) to at least read the email above, the link to the proposed byelaw changes and the discussions surrounding them. If you disagree with any of it, let the EA know. Your email will only take a few minutes to write and could make a difference. PLEASE ensure that every angler you know is aware of these changes, too, as he or she could be affected. (If you hover your cursor over the 'BOOKMARK' link above and below this article, you'll see that you can send it by email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
I thought about writing a lengthy piece about my own feelings on this, but decided against it. We are all anglers, we all have our own brains and we can all form our own opinio
ns. We should also respect each other's opinions, even if they are dissimilar to our own.
That said, I regarded the original questionnaire as very poorly worded, to the point of steering the angler into a direction the EA wanted. I find the restrictions unwanted and unnecessary. The fact that commercial eel fishing is to carry on, whilst anglers cannot take any eels, highlights just how ludicrous and pointless these proposals are.
Stillwater fishery stocks are already protected under the Theft Act, and as one of the EA's own consultation feedback documents points out, “There is no evidence to suggest that the current level of coarse fish removal by anglers is impacting on the conservation of coarse fish species generally” - so why start forcing restrictions on us?
The cynic in me says it's to keep the EA pen-pushers in jobs and to tick a 'conservation box' for the Eurocrats. I honestly believe that it has absolutely nothing to do with angling.