The Angling Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Association of Rivers Trusts, Salmon & Trout Association and Wild Trout Trust have today issued a detailed joint proposal for reform of the way in which rod licence and government funds are spent on managing angling, fisheries and biodiversity in England and Wales.
These organisations are determined that, in light of planned cuts to public expenditure, maximum value is achieved from the limited funds available to help achieve a sustainable future for fisheries and biodiversity in rivers, lakes, canals and estuaries.
Following a meeting with senior EA staff and Board Members on Wednesday, the organisations welcomed the EA's response to its concerns about accountability, in the form of more detailed reports on expenditure and activity by the Fisheries function.
They called for this transparency to be built into a new structure which would meet the Government's Big Society agenda by involving angling and fisheries interests in decision-making, and for Defra to transfer to the third sector most of the funds currently spent by the EA on delivering river improvements and monitoring. The third sector also had an important role to play in rod licence enforcement and promoting angling.
In a joint letter to the Chairman of the EA, Lord Smith of Finsbury, the organisations also pressed the EA to maintain sufficient funding from Government grant in aid (GIA) to support delivery of the Agency's statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop fisheries. While GIA contribution to fisheries has remained static at £9.4 million for the last decade, funds raised from anglers' rod licences have almost doubled in the same period to a high of £26 million. The latter currently covers the EA's work on trout and coarse fish, but GIA is vital to continuing efficient enforcement and monitoring of salmon and sea trout.
Executive Summary of Report
1. We support the continued delivery of the Fisheries statutory duty by an integrated Environment Agency.
2. We support the continued requirement of freshwater anglers to pay a rod licence fee, but wish to see greater transparency and accountability for the application of these funds to external bodies and local communities.
3. We wish to see Government funding for fisheries, which largely supports salmon and sea trout monitoring and enforcement, maintained.
4. We are opposed to the creation of a separate national body and/or regional bodies with responsibility for fisheries.
5. We propose the creation of a national committee with external and senior EA representatives to advise the EA about delivery of its fisheries function and other activities which affect fisheries.
6. We propose that RFERACs should focus on fisheries and conservation, and lose responsibility for recreation and navigation.
7. We believe that the Agency should be reformed to become an effective regulator rather than a regulator and a delivery body. Delivery should where possible be carried out by Rivers Trusts, the Riverfly Partnership, the Angling Trust and other third sector organisations, which are much more cost-effective.
8. We would like to see dedicated, specialist fisheries officers employed by the Environment Agency as a single point of contact in every catchment.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: "As the representative body for all anglers, we are determined to ensure that our members' substantial contribution to the management of fisheries and angling is spent effectively and efficiently. We are calling for the EA to account for the way it spends our money and delivers its statutory responsibility to maintain, improve and develop fisheries in partnership with others."
Paul Knight, Chief Executive of the Salmon and Trout Association said: "Given the current pressures on public funding, we are keen to explore how opportunities can be seized to accelerate and multiply the growth of partnerships between the EA and organisations in the non-governmental sector to deliver real and measurable improvements to fish stocks and fly-life more cost-effectively."