Canal anglers and angling clubs have reacted furiously to news that British Waterways (BW) is to cut its fisheries staff by 50% as part of its restructuring. The national body plans to reduce the number of specialist fishery positions from three to two and administrative support staff from three to one. Angling clubs are very concerned that even the current level of staffing before the cuts are implemented is inadequate to manage over 2,500 miles of waterway throughout Britain.
The fisheries and angling business of BW brings in a revenue stream in excess of £600,000 a year. About 400 angling clubs and numerous match groups pay rent to BW for canal fishing. Canals are easily accessible to tens of millions of people, and are a safe and accessible angling resource for young people, the elderly and the disabled. The announcement of cuts in this area follows years of decline in fish stocks in canals and a series of Fisheries Action Plans which have been poorly implemented.
Clubs are also very worried that the administration of their payments will suffer with only one national administrator.
The Angling Trust has a scheduled meeting with senior management of BW on 24th August and will be raising the concerns of its members at that meeting. As the representative body for all anglers, which is charged with increasing participation in angling by people from all backgrounds, the organisation is intent on making sure that canal fisheries are protected and that there is a strong administrative infrastructure to support its member clubs who pay rents to BW. The Angling Trust finds it hard to reconcile assurances received from British Waterways that it is committed to developing angling and fisheries with this announcement.
David Hawkridge, Secretary of Kilnhurst and District Angling Alliance said: "We pay a significant rent each year to British Waterways and we don't feel that the staffing they have in place is sufficient to protect the fisheries on which our sport depends or to administer our rent efficiently. We see this as yet another kick in the teeth for anglers, who have seen boaters' interests dominate management of the canals. Canals are a public resource and everyone would like them to have healthy, well-managed fisheries."
Angling Trust Director Martin Read said: "The Angling Trust has received complaints from the length and breadth of England about this decision and we will be writing to the Minister and Shadow Minister concerned to express our dismay about the proposed cuts. The Angling Trust is already working with British Waterways and other organisations to bring about a resurgence in angling on canals, particularly on projects which will encourage young people in inner cities to go fishing rather than get involved in anti-social behaviour. This decision undermines the infrastructure which is vital for this work to be successful."