Angling Times is this week challenging the Environment Agency to secure more money to protect our waters.
The call comes after angler Kevin Topfer discovered no fewer than nine illegal set lines on the Aire & Calder Canal near Rawcliffe Bridge in East Yorkshire at the start of the season.
But when he called the EA’s emergency hotline all he got was an automated response. It then took Agency bailiffs days to check out his report.
The story is the latest in a catalogue of similar incidents that ultimately point to the fact that there simply aren’t sufficient resources or bailiffs to tackle the illegal fishing problem and other challenges facing English and Welsh fisheries.
“A number of our clubs are insisting that the quality of service they’re getting from the Agency’s fisheries department just isn’t good enough,” said Martin Reid, chairman of NAFAC, which published a survey last month highlighting growing dissatisfaction with the Agency among its member clubs.
“In 1993, a licence cost £13.50 and the Government contributed £13m to the fisheries budget.
“Now a licence costs £25 and the Government pays less than £10m. The Retail Price Index shows inflation has risen 50 per cent over that time, but the price of a licence has risen by 88 per cent. The numbers speak for themselves,” said Martin.
Many readers will, no doubt, be concerned that the EA can justify spending £20,000 stocking a lake for prisoners and giving them a group licence to fish, while only miles away illegal anglers appear to be stripping a canal of fish stocks and wildfowl to barbecue on the bank.
All is not well
“Something appears to be going very wrong with the Agency’s philosophy over the past decade,” insisted one of our sources close to the fisheries department.
Anglers Conservation Association boss Mark Lloyd, who clashed with the Agency last week over its handling of a pollution incident which affected the Derbyshire Derwent, agrees all is not well.
“If the Agency is to have any hope of implementing the water framework directive to protect and restore fisheries in England and Wales, it will need much more funding for regulation, enforcement and practical work like removing barriers to fish migration.
“Time and time again, the ACA finds that there is a lack of resources to deliver effectively in these areas,” said Mark.
When quizzed about the latest failure to attend a poaching incident, an EA spokesperson confirmed: “Our enforcement officers investigate all incidents, but on this occasion there were no staff available over the weekend.”
When asked whether he would be asking the Government for more money, EA head of Dafydd Evans told Angling Times: “We will not be asking Defra for an increase in funding for our fisheries work for 2009/10.
“Our funding is reviewed every two or three years as part of the Government’s wider comprehensive spending review.
“In the last review in 2008, which looked ahead at funding until 2010/11, we put forward a strong case for funding to allow us to carry out our vital fisheries work. Defra announced that for 2008/9 our funding would remain at the 2007/8 level of £5.82m and we are still awaiting confirmation of our funding for 2009/10 and 2010/11.
“At the next spending review in 2010, we will again put forward our case for future funding. However, during our regular meetings with Defra, we continue to highlight
the importance of our vital fisheries work and the pressures we face, to ensure we are given the right tools and funding to do the job.”