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Politicians speak their minds in The Angle
Angling Trust secures strong political support on bass, cormorants, hydropower, unlimited canoe access and a new Charter for Angling.
Angling Trust campaigns chief and ex-MP Martin Salter went back to the party political conferences to make the case for fishing and to take the political temperature on the issues that are important to anglers. He came away with some highly significant pledges in exclusive interviews for the Trust's members magazine 'The Angle' with three of the politicians who matter most to angling.
On cormorants and hydropower the new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson showed that he was on the side of responsible anglers who want to do the right thing by the environment and invited the Trust to work with him on a Government review of renewable energy projects.
On anglers' concerns over hydropower Owen Paterson said:
"Of course there's a role for hydropower in the energy supply mix but we must work with the grain of nature and not against it and I'm not at all happy about schemes that reduce river flows to environmentally damaging levels and contain 'fish mincing turbines'.
Anglers are right to be concerned about damage to fish stocks and this is just one of the reasons why the government will be announcing a review of renewable energy policy. I can assure you that there will be a robust submission by Defra to which the Angling Trust will be most welcome to contribute."
Mr Paterson also had some encouraging words for anglers campaigning for better protection for fisheries suffering from cormorant predation. He said:
"There's a review underway in my department precisely because we realise that there are real problems on many of our fisheries. I can assure you we will be decisive and I am on record as saying we must never be frightened of managing our wildlife where appropriate.
I know of successful businesses that have been badly damaged by excessive predation by cormorants and we must give our inland fisheries the protection they need to remain healthy and productive."
Then Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon gave a cast-iron commitment to resist the campaign by the British Canoe Union (BCU) to trample over anglers' rights with a statutory 'right to paddle' in every river and stream in the country and had some warm words for those campaigning for improved bass conservation.
On canoeing Mr Benyon said:
"I want to be really clear about this. While we want more people to get out and enjoy activities in the countryside they must be complimentary. There are plenty of places to canoe where it is appropriate and others where it is not. There will be no change to our policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as the only way forward. Anglers and fishery owners spend a lot of time and money caring for our rivers and streams and their rights deserve to be respected."
Turning to the bass minimum landing size:
"I have this old fashioned view that creatures should be allowed to breed at least once before we seek to harvest them for food. That's why I authorised the review of the current bass minimum landing size and we shall have to see what that throws up."
Martin Salter also interviewed the Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris at Labour's conference in Manchester.
Tom Harris reconfirmed his party's support for angling saying:
"There are real benefits for the whole community in having an army of passionate advocates for the environment out there on the banks of our lakes, lochs, streams and rivers. Anglers are a great early warning system and government should make more use of them and their knowledge and expertise.
He pledged to update Labour's Charter for angling ahead of the next general election saying:
"I want to work with all the angling bodies on a policy that positively promotes angling and encourages more young people, in particular, to take up the sport.
The Angle is sent to all clubs and fisheries affiliated to the Angling Trust and Fish Legal and to their 15,000 individual members.
Martin Salter said:
"Most of us go fishing to escape from work and politics but there's no escaping the fact that the hard work we've put in to building relationships across both sides of politics in the UK is paying off. There's some really significant stuff in all these interviews with Owen Paterson making it clear that he recognises our case on key issues such as hydropower and cormorant predation. For Labour, Tom Harris couldn't be more supportive and wants more young people to take up the sport while Richard Benyon doesn't pull his punches on unauthorised canoeing or the need to preserve our bass stocks and estuaries.
We are also doing some great work with George Hollingbery MP, the new chair of the All Party Angling Group at Westminster and I think it's fair to now claim that angling in this country has never had such strong influence now we are professional and united."
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust added:
"Getting interviews with politicians at this level would have been unthinkable for angling organisations before the formation of the Angling Trust four years ago. The combined effect of our growing membership and Martin Salter's political skills mean that anglers now have a serious voice in the corridors of power. I know that there are thousands of anglers who have been waiting to see whether or not the new unified body for all anglers will have any real influence before they become members. We need their support today so that we can press home vitally important arguments about the future of fish stocks and fishing."