Foreword by Ben Bradshaw MP – Minister for Nature
Conservation and Fisheries
government minister responsible for fisheries I would like to offer my
thanks and congratulations to everyone who has helped produce this
marvellous document. It is a tribute to the close working relationship
between Labour politicians and the world of angling.
In my time
as a Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries I have been impressed
with the passion and commitment that anglers have showed towards the
environment. It was anglers’ concerns to the threat to the biodiversity of
freshwater fisheries posed by cormorant predation that led me to take action
to protect fish stocks. It was anglers’ concerns for the conservation status
of sea bass that has persuaded me to agree to implement much of the
excellent bass management plan put forward by the Bass Anglers Sport Fishing
Society. I have learnt that anglers really are the “guardians of the
waterside” which is why I listen carefully to the causes they take up on
behalf of the sport and the wider environment.
with our angling spokesman Martin Salter, my ministerial colleagues in
government and backbench Labour MPs, I am determined to do all I can to
support angling and to see our fisheries improve.
and tight lines!
Ben Bradshaw MP
updated version of Labours Angling Charter has only been possible with the
invaluable help and assistance of the major representative angling bodies in
England and Wales. There are a number of different requirements for Scotland
which may be beyond the scope of this document.
Charter is the most comprehensive document on angling ever produced by a
political party. It has been written by anglers for anglers with the active
encouragement of government ministers. It does not claim to be a manifesto
set in stone for the lifetime of a Parliament. What is does is to provide a
guide as to how a future Labour government will work with angling to promote
and develop this wonderful sport. We would welcome further views and
contributions from those with an interest in both angling and the aquatic
the first political party to formally recognise the unique contribution that
angling makes to the “sporting economic and social life of our country” with
the publication of our Angler’s Charter in 1996. In government we have
formed a strong and enduring relationship with angling resulting in a number
of legislative changes to benefit the sport. We have appointed the first
ever Parliamentary Spokesman for Angling and Shooting and have held four
National Angling Summits where Labour ministers from the Department of
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of Culture
Media and Sport (DCMS) enter direct dialogue with representatives of
angling’s national bodies.
pleased that other political parties have followed our lead and have
produced policy documents in support of angling. Whilst we do not believe
that angling should become a political football we are proud that under a
Labour government the nations rivers have never been cleaner, more people
are taking up angling, more funding is going into angling projects, angling
representatives have direct access to government ministers and a voice in
policy making. Labour has demonstrated by word and action that we are the
most pro-angling political party in
It is in this context that we are proud to present our second Charter for
Martin Salter MP
Labour’s Parliamentary Spokesman for Angling and Shooting
2. THE BENEFITS OF ANGLING
Britain’s favourite participation sport. Estimates vary as to the number of
anglers in Britain between 3 and 4 million. The numbers of people going
fishing is rising and research by the Environment Agency (E.A.) indicates
significant potential for further growth. For example a recent E.A. study
showed that up to 4 million more people would consider taking up fishing if
steps were taken to help them access the sport. Angling is especially
popular amongst young people with some 20% of 12-16 year olds having
fished. The nature of freshwater angling has changed considerably in recent
years with a greater emphasis on carp fishing and commercial still water
day-ticket fisheries. The membership of many angling clubs has fallen,
particularly those who offer mainly river or canal fishing, but sales of rod
licences have been increasing at 2% a year and junior licence sales have
increased by over 25% since 2001. Successful angling participation projects
have demonstrated an excellent retention rate of around 85% of youngsters
and beginners staying fishing after two years and a tripling of junior
membership of local angling clubs. This contrasts favourably with our
national sport of football which has been losing 100,000 players a year.
freshwater and sea-angling make a significant contribution to the economy,
tourism and employment. Freshwater angling alone is worth around £3.5
billion a year and directly employs 20,000 people. The 200 largest
commercial fisheries have a combined annual turnover of £30 million with
another thousand plus smaller fisheries generating valuable income for
farmers, tackle and bait shops and local guesthouses, pubs and hotels.
Angling tourism is vital to many regions of the country. In Wales it is
central to a £10 million investment package supported by the European
Union. Similar projects are planned in Cornwall and in other regions.
study of the sea fishing industry in England and Wales showed that
recreational angling is worth £538 million a year (nearly as much as the
commercial fleet at £600m). Further studies by the Prime Minister’s
Strategy Unit (P.M.S.U.) indicated that Britain’s 1.1 million sea anglers
contribute £1.3 billion to the economy every year. This prompted the
government to state:-
“fisheries management policy should recognise that sea
angling may, in some circumstances, provide a better return on the use of
some resources than commercial exploitation.”
simply, there is a better economic return in limiting the over exploitation
of the sea by commercial fishing and allow sea angling to develop and
comparison can be made for salmon fishing. Studies have shown that to
capture a single Scottish salmon the average spent by an angler is £500
whereas the same salmon is worth a mere £20 to the commercial fisherman.
Angling in Britain is responsible for over 30,000 jobs with many more
benefiting from the angling related ‘revenues’. It also generates nearly £5
billion annually for the economy and makes a major contribution to tourism
in the UK. There are huge social benefits to be derived from angling. Any
healthy, outdoor pursuit has its advantages in relieving stress and helping
people relax and unwind. The old barriers in freshwater fishing between
game angling for trout and salmon and coarse angling, where the fish are
carefully returned, are fast disappearing. Many freshwater anglers now
enjoy coarse, game and sea-fishing. Reasonably priced trout fishing is
available in most regions and a shortage of fish stocks has resulted in
catch and release becoming more widespread in salmon fishing. Angling is a
sport which can claim to be truly classless and meritocratic and is
especially popular with disabled people. The average angler can compete in
angling competitions alongside national and world championship anglers
whereas the average amateur footballer will never get the opportunity to
play in the same match as David Beckham or Wayne Rooney.
years huge strides have been made in recognising the contribution that
angling can make to divert young people away from crime and in promoting
social inclusion. Projects such as Mick Watson’s “Get Hooked on Fishing” in
Co. Durham have had remarkable success in working with young people at risk
of spiralling into a life of crime and anti-social behaviour. The
re-offending rates amongst young people who have participated in the project
and have taken up angling have been minimal.
it is impossible to discuss angling without acknowledging its beneficial
impact on the environment. Britain’s best-known conservationist, Prof.
David Bellamy had these words of praise for angling.
“Good anglers are the eyes and ears of waterside
wildlife. Without their lobby our rivers would still be used as sewers.”
good for angling is good for fish and good for the aquatic environment as a
whole and the wildlife that depends upon it. Revenue from freshwater
anglers’ rod licences generates £18 million for the Environment Agency to
help protect the waterside environment. Pressure from angling clubs and
organisations such as the Angling Conservation Association (ACA) has led to
the prosecution of those who pollute rivers, streams and other
watercourses. Anglers have been major custodians of the aquatic environment
for the last two centuries. They were directly responsible for setting up
the original Fishery Boards over 125 years ago and for taking subsequent
action to improve water quality in Britain’s rivers.
Every person who walks, cycles, boats, and watches birds
or simply admires
Britain’s rivers, streams and lakes owes a huge amount to the
efforts of anglers to protect the waterside environment. Without anglers to
guard against pollution the nation’s watercourses would be in a poorer
3. ANGLING AND THE LAW
a well-regulated, lawful and responsible pastime which delivers huge
benefits to society as a whole. It enjoys according to recent E.A. surveys,
the support of over 75% of the UK population with only 5% considering
angling to be an unacceptable activity. However, it is important that
anglers and angling receive proper legal protection from those who seek to
disrupt or destroy their sport.
greatest threat to angling is from the destruction of the aquatic
environment through loss of habitat, pollution or excessive abstraction or
water. However, there does exist a tiny minority of animal rights
extremists who have on occasions sought to disrupt angling events and
competitions. Their threat to angling has been grossly overstated by the
supporters of hunting in particular, who clearly wish to enlist the help of
anglers in seeking to overturn the ban on hunting passed by Parliament last
Labour will take whatever legal steps are necessary to
protect angling and anglers from those extremists who seek to disrupt the
sport or intimidate people from going fishing.
taken action through the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill to give
protection to “companies, universities and other organisations against the
activities of animal rights extremists.” Two new offences punishable by a
period of up to 5 years in prison have been created.
through the Crime and Disorder Act introduced Anti-Social Behaviour Orders
which can be used against known individuals who engage in disruptive
behaviour. Whilst ASBOs have not been used as yet against anti-angling
protestors the existing legislation has been designed to have a broad and
introduced the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) in such a way so as to
ensure that there is a little or no impact on angling. The Act gives a
right of access, in defined circumstances to walk over mountain, moor land
or heath. Voluntary access agreements have been negotiated with landowners
following a national mapping exercise. Activities such as cycling, fishing,
and horse riding, camping or driving a vehicle are not permitted under the
terms of the CROW Act. Private or club fisheries are therefore not at risk
from unauthorised fishing nor is permitted angling likely to be disrupted by
the operation of the CROW Act.
taken action to exempt “commercial fishing and angling” from the provisions
of the Animal Welfare Bill. Farmed and ornamental fish have not been
excluded. The government has always maintained that the Bill was not
intended to interfere with fishing in any way but following representations
from angling organisations, supported by the Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs Select Committee, the specific exemption was introduced to avoid any
doubt or misinterpretation.
and Freshwater Fisheries Review by the Warren Committee reported in 2000 and
made 196 recommendations for future fisheries legislation. The majority of
these recommendations were accepted by the government. A new Fisheries Bill
has been promised. Amongst the key outcomes sought from new fisheries
legislation are: -
Better Bailiff powers
Accelerated procedures for Net Limitation Orders and
Better fish movement controls.
Powers to limit the amount of trapping of fish such as
Equal levels of protection for all fish species.
Labour is committed to finding time to introduce a new
Fisheries Bill in the next Parliament.
also recognises the need for marine legislation to protect sea fish stocks
in coastal waters.
the publication of the P.M.S.U. report on how to ensure a sustainable future
for sea fishing in all its forms. DEFRA has undertaken a wide-ranging
consultation in which Recreational Sea Angling has been an active
participant. The key outcomes sought from a new Marine Bill are: -
Protection of fish stocks and spawning grounds.
Creation of Marine Conservation Zones.
Introduction of Minimum Landing Sizes for certain sea
Better managements of inshore waters.
Proper representation of recreational sea angling and an
overhaul of the current Sea Fisheries Committees.
Better control of inshore netting.
Management of fish stocks of species such as bass,
wrasse and mullet specifically for angling.
A commitment to a new Marine Bill is contained in the
current DEFRA 5 year plan.
Labour in government is the first political party to
acknowledge and quantify the tremendous economic contribution of
recreational sea angling. We are committed to taking action to halt the
decline in fish stocks in coastal waters. We intend to introduce a new
Marine Bill following the current consultation with stakeholders including
Labour will seek to influence the European Union’s
Common Fisheries Policy to rebuild fish stocks in coastal waters for the
benefit of recreational and commercial fishing.
4. ROD LICENCES, REGULATION AND THE CLOSE SEASON
all freshwater anglers, 12 years or older, in England and Wales are required
to purchase a rod licence. The full charges levied are £23.50 for trout and
coarse fishing and £63.50 for trout and salmon with concessions for age and
disability. Sea anglers do not pay a rod licence. The situation is
different in Scotland where revenue for the various river boards is created
by a charge levied on the fishery proprietors and passed onto the individual
Labour totally rejects the proposals originally put
forward by the Conservative Party to abolish the rod licence thereby
depriving the Environment Agency of £18 million of income to help finance
its fishery work and to tackle pollution.
addition to creating an invaluable income stream for the benefit of
freshwater angling the payment of a rod licence gives both coarse and game
anglers added authority in their relationship with both government and the
Environment Agency. There is a comprehensive network of Fisheries and
Angling consultative Committees organised on a major river catchment basis
and Wales. Anglers are well represented on all of these committees as well
as on the various Fishery Action Plans (F.A.P.s) that are being implemented
by the E.A. to improve fish stocks, habitat and water quality in designated
river catchments. However, no such arrangement exists for recreational sea
angling save for some limited representation on the existing Sea Fisheries
Committees, the operation of which has been often criticised by sea
anglers. For a long time the sea anglers have felt disadvantaged by their
lack of representation and it has been suggested that this is in part due to
the absence of a sea rod licence. Following the publication of the P.M.S.U.
report the government agreed to consult on the introduction of a sea rod
Labour agrees that whilst a sea angling rod licence
could deliver valuable income the current organisational arrangements are
not in place to create the improvement in sea fisheries which might make a
licence acceptable to recreational sea anglers.
acknowledges the arguments put forward by the National Federation of Sea
Anglers (N.F.S.A.) that many of the following actions would need to take
place alongside the introduction of a sea angling rod licence.
The proper enforcement of regulations and minimum landing
The replacement of the Sea Fishery Committees with an agency
charged with marine ecology management – possibly by extending the
responsibilities of the E.A.
Or, vastly improved representation by sea anglers, charter
boat interests and the tackle trade on reformed Sea Fisheries Committees.
Restrictions on gill nets in inshore waters and around some
wreck fishing grounds.
The creation of recreational sea fisheries where commercial
fishing is excluded.
Increased protection for fish stocks from over exploitation.
there is a balance that needs to be struck since measures necessary to
improve fish stocks for recreational sea angling would also require
enforcement. Any enforcement action would require a revenue stream, some of
which could come from income derived from a sea rod licence.
Labour will continue to consult with recreational sea
anglers on the measures that can be taken to improve fish stocks and protect
their sport whilst developing better representation for sea anglers in
general. Sea rod licences and the funding of enforcement action are part of
this ongoing debate. We have not come to a view on this particular issue.
by and large well regulated and a number of well thought out codes of
conduct are in existence. We are particularly impressed by the work of the
Specialist Angler’s Alliance (S.A.A.) in the publication of their code to
ensure safe angling practices with fish welfare uppermost in mind. We
applaud the advances in knotless, fish friendly materials for keep nets and
landing nets to protect fish together with the increased use of unhooking
mats to avoid damage on the bank side. The carp fishing world has been at
the forefront of producing “safety rigs” to ensure that fish do not become
tethered or are able to shed the hook in the event of an accidental line
breakage. We believe that the vast majority of anglers are responsible
individuals who care deeply about the welfare of fish and the environment in
which they live. Anglers and angling clubs and associations together with
fishery owners are the best people to decide on the rules and regulations of
governing fishing on their waters.
Labour rejects proposals originally put forward by the
Conservative Party and more recently by the Green Party to ban barbed hooks
or to interfere in angling practices. Labour believes that sufficient
legislation exists to deal with problems of litter, trespass or anti-social
behaviour and that a policy of self-regulation is the best way forward for
most angling matters.
recommendation of the Warren Committee review of fisheries legislation that
the government did not accept was abolition of the close seasons on rivers
and running water. The majority of anglers were hostile to this suggestion
and it was felt that fish stocks in many rivers were already under huge
pressure from low flows, avian and mammalian predation and other factors
without the risk of anglers disrupting valuable spawning grounds.
Obviously, this argument has more validity on smaller rivers and streams
rather than on larger rivers especially those that are navigations. There
was also a view that the bank side benefits from a spring break to allow the
foliage to recover without pressure from anglers. Nevertheless lobbying
has come from some quarters to open up coarse fishing on rivers all year
Labour has no plans to revise the current close season
for angling on running water but will keep the position under review.
5. ANGLING GOVERNANCE
that as Britain’s biggest participatory sport angling should have a far
greater influence that has been the case in the past. There have been
problems with the largely artificial distinctions between coarse, sea and
game angling and the absence of a strong, unified body to speak for angling
as a whole. The creation of the National Angling Alliance (N.A.A.) was a
positive step forward along with the Joint Angling Governing Bodies now the
Joint Angling Development Board (JADB), to promote angling coaching and the
development of the sport. Angling is still short of full-time professional
advocates and needs an improved and strengthened national governing
structure. We have been encouraging these developments in angling in recent
years. We welcome the Whole Sport Plan for Angling produced by the JADB
which has attracted Sport England Lottery funding. However, angling in
general has been slow to take advantage of the opportunities offered by
lottery funding to create new fisheries or to provide angling education
Labour welcomes the recent establishment of the new
unified governing body for angling – Fisheries Angling and Conservation
Trust (F.A.C.T.). However, much more needs to be done to enable angling to
have the influence that its numbers warrant in respect of policy and access
to funding. Labour will continue to hold regular Angling Summits to give
anglings’ governing and representative bodies direct access to ministers.
We will encourage angling clubs to access lottery funding.
6. COMPETITIVE ANGLING
with rod and line has been in existence since at least 2000 BC. Fishing
figures are depicted in ancient Egyptian paintings and there are references
to angling in the works of Homer and the Old Testament prophets.
Historically most angling was done for food although there would have been
some sporting aspect to it as well. In recent years, with the ready
availability of fish in supermarkets very few people need to fish with rod
and line to eat. Some sea fish and trout, salmon and grayling are taken for
the pot but this is more a by-product of angling rather than its main
purpose. Catch and release is no longer exclusively practised by the coarse
angler, it is now a common feature of both game and sea angling. Anglers
primarily fish for sport and pleasure and competitive angling is widely
practised in Britain amongst all three disciplines.
the international stage for English angling teams receives regrettably
little publicity in the media. It is a shame that angling is not classed as
a performance sport by Sport England given the record of individual and team
gold medals won by England International teams. In 2003 England’s Alan
Scotthorne won the individual gold medal in the World Angling Championships
and his wife Sandra led the England ladies team to victory in their World
Championships. In total English anglers have notched up over 50 individual
gold medals at international level and England teams have been World
Champions no less than 15 times. There have also been 12 team and 6
individual gold medals in sea angling and 5 team and 4 individual gold
medals in game angling for England.
Labour applauds the success of our angling teams and
recognises that the cost per medal makes angling one of the best value for
money sports in terms of public investment. We welcome the publication of
the Whole Sport Plan for Angling and the emphasis on developing and training
talented young anglers to ensure continued success for competitive angling.
7. PARTICIPATION STRATEGIES
committed to encouraging more people to take up angling and to experience
the social recreational and environmental benefits that the sport has to
offer. We have gone far beyond our pledge “not to place restrictions on the
sports of fishing and shooting”. In 2003 the government issues statutory
guidance clarifying the role of the Environment Agency in respect of
the social contribution fishing makes as a widely available and health form
of recreation. “
the contribution salmon and freshwater fisheries make to the economy
particularly in remote, rural areas with low levels of income.”
This is in
addition to the duty required by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act
introduced in 1975 by a previous Labour government to:
improve and develop freshwater fisheries.
Labour supports the EA’s report ‘Angling in 2015’ which
aims to get a 100,000 more people fishing by 2007 and 10% increase in rod
licence sales. These are bold targets but the strategy fits well with the
JADB’s Whole Sport Plan for Angling.
been a number of highly impressive schemes and projects to encourage young
people to take up angling. Some of these such as Mick Watson’s ‘Get Hooked
on Fishing’ in County Durham have deliberately targeted socially excluded
youngsters in areas of high crime and deprivation. Angling has proved to be
remarkably successful in diverting young people away from crime and
anti-social behaviour. We welcome National Fishing Week and other schemes
which introduce newcomers into angling. The National Federation of Anglers (NFA)
has operated an impressive coaching scheme and now has a complete network of
Senior and Regional angling coaches. The work of Alan Sandom with the Scouts
has been highly successful and has seen over 3,500 young people introduced
Labour will continue to support angling projects which
seek to divert young people away from crime mindful that the cost to the
taxpayer of keeping one young person in a secure unit is £150,000 a year.
We believe that sport and outdoor activity programmes have a major role to
play in tackling problems of poor health and anti-social behaviour.
noteworthy schemes supported by the Environment Agency include Stoke Angling
for Everyone (SAFE) and the Albrighton Moat Project. The forerunner of many
of these schemes to get young people into angling was Les Webber’s Angling
Projects based in Wraysbury near Heathrow Airport. Les has worked with the
police and local education authorities offering residential courses and
angling tuition. As a result hundreds of young people have gone onto become
anglers. More recently Les has set up Junior Coarse Angling UK and has
been successful in getting angling onto the curriculum in a number of
secondary schools. In a separate project the Thomas Adams School in Wem,
Shropshire has included a certificated fly fishing course to improve pupils’
knowledge of the countryside on its curriculum. The 15 hour programme is in
partnership with the nearby Durnford Trout Fishery and has received funding
from the Environment Agency. The classes earn pupils credits for a
certificate of personal effectiveness which has been accredited by the Award
Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN). It is the equivalent
of a GCSE and is thought to be the first time that angling has contributed
formally to a national schools qualification.
Labour supports schools wishing to include angling in
their timetable as a way of promoting greater understanding of the
environment and the countryside.
8. MARINE RESOURCES AND FISHERIES
There is increasing concern over the
sustainability of global fishing practices, the
need to protect vulnerable marine species and
habitats, the plight of key fish stocks and of the industry which depends on
them. For example the
North Sea cod fishery needs a spawning population of
70,000 to 150,000 tonnes to remain sustainable. The current estimate is
around 40,000 tonnes. Addressing this, we agreed important commitments with
our partners at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in
in September 2002. These include implementation of international fisheries
agreements and action plans in order to tackle problems such as overcapacity
and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, and the commitment to
establish a representative network of marine protected areas by 2012.
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has
demonstrated serious weaknesses and unsustainable fishing practices have
resulted in the depletion of some key stocks crucial to the
UK fishing industry and have left the whitefish sector of the fishing
industry struggling economically. The
fishing industry could have a sustainable and profitable future provided a
number of major challenges are met. This will involve the development of a
more responsive, sophisticated fisheries regime at the UK and EU levels to
reduce adverse impacts on target and non-target species.
We will improve the current framework for managing and protecting all our
marine resources through a Marine Bill, which we hope to introduce some time
in the next Parliament. This will provide the framework within which those
who regulate marine activities can ensure the sustainable use and protection
of our marine resources and will help us to apply the eco-system approach to
the management of our marine resources. The framework will allow the
different uses of the sea – including wildlife protection, offshore wind and
other industries – to develop harmoniously.
We are also considering, amongst other alternatives, setting up a new marine
agency, in line with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select
Committee’s recommendation for a coordinating marine agency following its
recent marine inquiry. We will be discussing how marine and coastal
management might work on an inter-departmental basis within the context of a
pilot marine spatial planning exercise. This pilot project is already
underway and will be completed in 2005 – the Year of the Sea. We will use
this opportunity to review the Integrated Agency’s role in the marine
environment to ensure we deliver this.
UK needs to work within a reformed Common Fisheries Policy to achieve a
higher standard of EU fisheries management based on greater regionalization
and increased stakeholder participation, on reducing damage to marine
biodiversity, on incorporating the ecosystem approach, and on integrating
fisheries management more closely into management of the marine environment
as a whole.
We believe the right way forward on fisheries will combine short term
actions with actions to be developed in the medium and long term and we are
currently working with stakeholders to establish a permanent partnership for
developing and implementing fisheries policy. As a first step £1 million per
year is being provided for the Fisheries Science Partnership, to be renewed
for a further 3 financial years. Under this scheme scientists work in
co-operation with fishermen, to develop a joint understanding of what is
happening to fish stocks and the impact of fishing on those stocks.
9. ISSUES FOR ANGLING
Angling and Fisheries Management
closely linked, these are two separate issues that require equal attention
by government. The term fisheries covers the management, improvement
and conservation of rivers, canals and still-waters - the resource, overseen
by DEFRA and the EA- whilst angling is a sport which relies upon that
resource for its existence, and requires promotion and development in
conjunction with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Labour in
government has promoted joint working between the two departments on angling
issues and will continue to do so.
has been a major custodian of the aquatic environment for at least two
centuries. Fisheries management maintains and improves habitat on behalf of
anglers, with the knock-on benefit that what is good for fish is invariably
good for all other wildlife dependent on the aquatic environment, and those
who have an interest in, or take enjoyment from, rivers, canals and
stillwaters. Whilst angling is reliant upon fisheries, the part played by
the sport in managing aquatic habitats should be recognised as bona fide
committed to protecting the aquatic environment from water abstraction,
inadequately treated sewerage, point and diffuse pollution and urban
Water quality has improved considerably in
recent years. Between 1990 and 2003, the number of rivers of good biological
quality increased from 60% to 69% and the number assessed as being of good
chemical quality increased from 43% to 62%, mainly as a result of water
industry investment to achieve DEFRA’s environmental objectives and controls
on point sources of pollution. In recent years we have also had the cleanest
bathing water on record – since 1997 compliance with the main Bathing Water
Directive standard has increased by 10% to around 98%. But there is still
more to be done if our rivers, estuaries, canals and still-waters are to
achieve their full environmental and ecological potential, and contribute to
an improved living environment.
The main mechanism for improving water quality
for the future is the EU Water Framework Directive. Agreed in 2000, this
sets demanding new ecological and chemical standards for rivers, estuaries,
coastal waters, canals and still-waters and groundwater across the EU. It
requires eleven river basin management plans to be drawn up with active
involvement of all interested parties by 2009. Programmes of measures must
be operational by 2012 with the aim of achieving the environmental outcomes
by 2015. Compared with previous directives, Member States have more
flexibility over the choice of measures, and there is more scope for
economic analysis in selecting the most appropriate measures. Implementing
the Directive requires extensive linkages with other policy areas, including
tourism and recreation, biodiversity and land use planning. There are
challenges for many sectors, including agriculture. The continued pressure
on water resources from additional housing and commercial development is
another important issue.
Planning Authorities should make water supply and
sewerage treatment a high priority within future building programmes, with a
presumption against planning permission if increased water or sewerage
treatment provision is considered a serious danger to the aquatic
pollution, 70% of which emanates from agriculture, is acknowledged as the
most serious source of freshwater contamination. Run-off brings silt into
fragile ecosystems, introducing nitrates and phosphates to the water and
cutting off oxygen supplies to incubating eggs and smothering juvenile
habitat. However, the less-visual effects of agricultural chemicals are
also a major concern for catchment managers. Pesticides, especially sheep
dips, such as those containing cypermethrin, are known to kill invertebrates
and destroy food chains, and there is now evidence that both organophosphate
and synthetic pyrethroid dips have a direct impact on fish populations.
managers and rivers’ trusts undertake much excellent in-river habitat
improvement work each year, but their efforts will be negated if diffuse
pollution renders the water passing through that habitat incapable of
supporting life. There is a strong case for local maintenance, improvement
and conservation work to be further supported at national level, agri-environment
schemes and adequate resource provision.
Labour is fully committed to the implementation of the
EU Water Framework Directive. We recognise that it will be necessary to
ensure appropriate funding of management on an individual catchment basis
within the River Basin Plans demanded by WFD. Catchment management will
enable the targeting of local problem areas, and also provide the most
efficient use of resources in delivering our obligations.
require all their water reserves to maintain aquatic environments, and
sustain dependent species of invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals,
particularly in times of drought. As well as finding alternative methods of
water supply to alleviate over-abstracted catchments, Water companies should
lessen demand by tackling leaks and promoting water meters. We are in
favour of changes to building regulations so that future planning
regulations compulsorily embrace modern water-saving technology.
Salmon and sea trout are a natural resource
within England and Wales providing important socio-economic benefits from
anglers who target these species. These fish are demanding of a pristine
environment, both in terms of habitat and water quality and quantity, and if
a river catchment is capable of maximising its production of salmon and/or
sea trout, it is arguably in a healthy aquatic condition and would meet our
responsibilities under European legislation.
Exploitation and Drift Netting
DEFRA recently entered into a partnership
with wild fish interests to buy out 52 of the remaining 68 nets involved in
the North East Coast Drift Net Fishery. This substantially reduced the
amount of commercial exploitation of salmon and sea trout off the English
and Welsh coasts, leaving predominantly estuarial netting as the major
However, the drift net fishery off the Irish
Republic’s coast remains an interceptor of salmon returning to rivers in
England and Wales, as well as several other European countries. Many of
these rivers are classified as Special Areas of Conservation within NATURA
2000 sites under the European Habitats Directive.
We will encourage the Irish Government to
act in a similar way to DEFRA, by facilitating a
partnership with private fishery interests to bring about a voluntary
cessation of drift net fishing off the coast of the Irish Republic, with
compensation paid to licensees. This would be seen as persuading the Irish
Government to abide by its responsibilities under both the North Atlantic
Salmon Conservation Organisation
(NASCO) and the European Union.
Catch and Release inside
For the past six years, under
the Environment Agency’s (EA) Spring Salmon Measures, there has been
compulsory catch and release of all salmon caught on rod and line before
June 16th each year. Many rivers also have local restrictions on
rod caught salmon and sea trout in place for the rest of the season, while
most game anglers now show restraint in the number of fish they retain. In
practice, this has meant that more than 50% of all salmon caught in England
and Wales are now returned alive to the water, and EA research on the River
Eden has showed that, if handled properly, more than 90% of these fish
survive to breed.
We have already shown how catchment
management has a vital role to play in efficient and effective delivery of
environmental improvements. We also believe that, at the next review of the
Spring Salmon Measures in 2008, management of salmon and sea trout stocks
should also be delivered at a catchment level, so that those rivers (such as
the Tyne and Usk) considered capable of sustaining a limited retention of
early running fish could do so by allowing anglers a quota before June 16th.
This would enhance the socio economic benefits of salmon on these rivers,
while still allowing local interests to manage their stocks within
Fish Conservation Strategies
The EA have several strategies for
conserving wild fish stocks, and this principle is to be applauded.
However, these strategies must only be delivered with the support of sound
scientific research and evidence, and should at all times seek to achieve
consensus agreement with local fishery interests. We believe this is the
only way to deliver effective and efficient strategies capable of both
conserving local fish stocks and maximising socio economic benefits for
communities from visiting anglers.
has had a massive impact on salmonid fish populations in Scandinavia, and
the parasite is known to be able survive transport on angling tackle, and
almost certainly canoes and other water recreational equipment. There is a
real threat, therefore, that gyrodactylus could be transported from
an infected area to the UK by one of these means. We will take all
necessary precautions to stop such an occurrence, which would be disastrous
to local salmonid stocks. If necessary we will, in partnership with other
stakeholders, publish advice concerning disinfection of all angling and
water recreational equipment brought into England and Wales from infected
from other countries, including Norway, Ireland and Scotland, has shown that
marine fish farms impact the environment and wild fish populations,
principally through parasite and disease transfer, faecal and chemical
contamination of production sites and the dilution of natural gene pools by
escapees cross-breeding with wild fish. We would be concerned at any
attempt to establish a marine aquaculture industry off the English and Welsh
coasts, at least until research provides sufficient safeguards against
is currently being undertaken into the potential for freshwater fish farms
to impact wild fish populations. Whilst acknowledging the importance of the
freshwater aquaculture industry in England and Wales, we will use the
results of sound scientific research to minimise any impact on wild fish or
Ofwat – Water Supply and Sewage Treatment
With planned increases in housing in the south east of England we need to
ensure that adequate water resources are available for those new houses if
we are to avoid future water shortages in the region. Ofwat must ensure
that water companies have the financial resources available to make the
necessary investments in both water supply and sewage disposal in a
timescale to suit the planned housing development, so that such development
does not have an adverse affect on the aquatic environment.
The tidal River Thames suffers from raw sewage outflows on a regular basis
and to ensure that the work already put in to make the river a cleaner
habitat we will commit to enabling Thames Water to provide the sewage by
pass system for which land has already been acquired.
We recognise that investment in water supply and sewage disposal must
increase if we are to provide a water supply and sewage system, which is
safe, adequate and non-polluting.
Access needs to be maintained and enhanced for the leisure and recreational
opportunities and benefits it provides all citizens including anglers. Loss
of waterside access on beaches, canals, rivers and lakes is a growing
concern. Previously open waterside areas are now closed as a result of
urban and rural land use changes and development.
Local authorities should take into account existing public areas and mark
those areas appropriately. In new development plans, or changes to existing
developments, a path to the waterside needs to be provided from the nearest
road. New developments, or changes to existing developments should require
additional designated waterside access areas.
public access points should be signed and marked on development plans. To
ensure residents adjacent to these areas do not encroach upon them, the
access points need to be marked with a signpost and the public space
boundaries fenced. Signs and fencing must be installed before development
proceeds to ensure that purchasers are aware of the access points and
those adjacent to public waterside areas are prevented from blocking access.
The creation of waterside buffer strips wherever possible would be of
considerable benefit in terms of both access and reducing damage from
erosion and crop-spraying.
We must ensure people retain the rights to use
historical public waterside areas, as well as provide for public waterside
areas in other areas.
British Waterways have a statutory duty to provide angling under the
Transport Act 1968 and a duty to fisheries under the general environmental
provisions of the British Waterways Act 1995.
In numerical terms anglers are BW's largest stakeholder group.
BW is the largest direct paying single owners of fishing rights in the UK
owning these rights on an estimated 1400 miles of canals and close to 50
canal feeder reservoirs and other still waters.
Canals potentially offer local on the doorstep angling facilities for
millions of people; 9 million people live within one mile and some 26
million live within 5 miles of a BW canal. Many of these are in urban
socio-economically deprived areas.
Labour will encourage BW to work with
national angling bodies to prepare and deliver a fisheries and angling
strategy and commit the resources necessary for its implementation. This
should include a partnership with the EA, Local Authorities, Angling Clubs
and other stakeholders to develop angling facilities on canals, particularly
in urban areas.
strong pressure from canoeists to open up access to more river systems.
However, the existing policy of the EA is only to support increased access
where it will not adversely impact on existing uses and users, or the
economic and conservation value of the site. Quite clearly, opening up
access to the smaller rivers and streams would have an adverse impact on
angling, bird-watching and other existing users. This is less of a problem
on larger rivers such as the Severn, Trent or Thames.
Labour supports the existing EA policy and believes that
managed solutions need to be sought to canoe access issues which do not
adversely impact on existing users.
introduced Planning Policy Guidance (PPG 25) to provide specific protection
for water meadows and the functional floodplain. This is of benefit to
anglers and will offer increased protection against the loss of fisheries
located in the floodplain.
Nature identified that some 250,000 ponds have been lost to development in
recent decades. The Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee Report on
wildlife Crime (2004) recommended that remaining ponds should be afforded
extra protection via Planning Guidance. We should not overlook the value of
such ponds as local fisheries, especially in urban and deprived areas where
angling opportunity is often low. We would support Planning Guidance or
other initiative that:
Stimulates creation of new ponds, with public access, within
Presses for restoration of existing ponds that have fallen
into dereliction or disuse, for example those in Urban Parks - this would be
consistent with ODPM's CABESPACE initiative and other neighbourhood
The Removal of Fish
unauthorised taking of fish from freshwater fisheries has become an
increasing problem and divides broadly into two categories – ignorance or
criminal intent. With a noticeable increase in the number of anglers from
non-English speaking EU countries and elsewhere it is important to ensure
that information is made available on fishery laws and by-laws in a variety
of languages. It would be helpful to also notify foreign embassies of the
existence of the laws and regulations regarding the taking of fish. The
unauthorised removal of fish is an offence under the Theft Act and we
support the EA in taking all necessary enforcement action.
Bass Management Plan
recognises that there are some species of sea fish which could return Best
Value for the UK, and the overall marine environment, if designated and
managed primarily as recreational species.
Bass are a
prime example of this and consideration should be given to their designation
as a Recreational Species, managed primarily for the development of
Recreational Sea Angling, in accordance with proposals put forward in the
Bass Management Plan prepared by the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society.
Management plan has suggested:
Commercial Licences - for the retention of bass.
2. Bass Carcass Tags – to cap effort, increase traceability and improve
3. Bass Bag Limits – to limit the retention of bass by unlicensed fishermen
and anglers and to aid detection and enforcement of illegal fishing.
4. Closed Season – to protect spawning bass when they are vulnerable.
5. Increases in Minimum Landing Size – to strengthen the brood stock.
6. Nursery Area additional measures and enforcement – to protect juveniles.
7. Near-Shore Netting Restrictions – to protect our fragile coastal zones.
As well as
delivering an angling product that would provide anglers with more and
bigger fish, these measures will also allow the development of a sustainable
inshore fishery concentrated on producing a high quality, high value
Labour welcomes the publication of the Bass Management
Plan and following discussion with the authors has agreed to a programme of
implementation. We have already banned Bass Pair Trawling in inshore waters
to help preserve bass stocks and prevent by-catches of dolphins and
Cormorants and Goosanders
freshwater fisheries have suffered severe predation from cormorants,
goosanders, otters and mink. Cormorant predation has been a matter of great
concern to anglers, conservationists and fishery owners in recent years. In
September 2004 we took action to open up the existing licensing system to
allow more cormorants to be shot if they posed a clear threat to fisheries
without endangering the conservation status of the bird. This decision
followed several years of research by DEFRA into the damage to freshwater
fisheries caused by the vastly increased numbers of cormorants coming in
from the sea and over wintering on inland waters. The research also
included the effectiveness of specially constructed fish refuges and bird
scaring devices to deter cormorants. It became clear that simply moving the
problem of excessive cormorant predation from one fishery to another
provided no real solution and that action was needed to protect the
bio-diversity of fisheries.
arrangements have been successful and show an increase in the number of
licences issued from July 2004 – January 2005 compared to the same period
the previous year of 259 to 123. Some valuable fish stocks upon which
anglers as well as other birds such as herons, kingfishers and grebes
depend, have been saved as a result.
Labour will continue to work with anglers and fishery
owners to protect fish stocks from excessive predation from cormorants and
goosanders. We also recognise the need to re-establish inshore fish
populations, including sand eels, in coastal waters and to find an
acceptable and sustainable pan-European solution which protects the survival
status of both fish and birds.
Environment Agency support the Specialist Angler's Alliance in their view
that fishery protection from excessive otter predation should be funded, but
not exclusively from rod licence income. This reflects the site-specific
nature of otter predation issues - large carp in commercially run, limited
access fisheries. The EA has funded research into the most effective
designs of otter-proof fencing as a contribution to general fisheries
management practice. The report on this research has just been released and
will be available on their web site. The re-introduction of otters into
designated areas should take into account the impact on fisheries and fish
stocks. The decline in the freshwater eel population has removed a major
food source for otters and cormorants.
The EA has
supported the Game Conservancy Trust in developing specially designed rafts
to help trap mink. As part of their responsibilities towards helping
conserve aquatic wildlife they encourage mink control by riparian
landowners. The irresponsible release of mink into the wild has a damaging
effect on the environment and is to be deplored.
Invasive Species and Fish Movements
strongly supports the Import of Live Fish Act, to control the movement of
fish such as carp and other species. Where introduction of proscribed
species to the wild is concerned, the risk-based policy is not to consent
introduction of alien species into waters connected to rivers or in a flood
containment has failed the EA are increasingly taking more active steps to
remove or destroy ILFA listed species in waters where consent would normally
be refused. Here, the judgement is based upon the cost and probability of
complete removal of the target species, weighed against the acceptability of
the management action.
Labour condemns the illegal movement of live fish for
commercial gain or any other purpose. There are huge risks in transferring
disease between the waters and infecting existing fish stocks. We will
continue to support strong enforcement action to tackle this problem.
Environment Agency report ‘Our Nations Fisheries’ presented an upbeat
picture of most freshwater fish stocks with the exception of migratory
species such as Salmon and Sea-trout. Even here there are positive signs
with salmon returning to previously polluted rivers such as the
Tyne, which in 2002 had the highest reported rod
Native brown trout were found in 50% of river catchments and there was an
increase in the numbers of grayling – a fish extremely sensitive to water
of 350 sites showed fish present in 97% of sites with 50% containing eight
or more species.
the ability of water to sustain fish species is only one factor and issues
such as predation, abstraction, pollution and habitat destruction remain
central to maintaining health fisheries.
Labour in government has demonstrated its commitment to
the waterside environment, to cleaner rivers and streams and to taking
effective action to promote angling and protect our fisheries and fish
stocks. This new Charter for Angling is the most comprehensive document
ever produced by a political party on angling and we are pledged to do all
we can to help angling grow and prosper in