Angling Trust advisory team set to battle otter problem

Angling will finally get some ‘teeth’ to fight the mounting threats to our sport.

That was the resounding outcome of last week’s meeting of the Angling Trust Advisory Team, a high-profile gathering of the individuals charged with safeguarding fishing’s future.

Chaired by John Wilson MBE, the chosen 22 ‘movers and shakers’ ¬ comprising the previously-announced ‘Magnificent Seven’, plus 15 members of an advisory panel hand-picked by John himself ¬ highlighted a number of the most urgent issues which warranted attention, starting with otter predation of fish stocks, fish theft and smuggling.

According to John, the new team will act as a powerful first line of defence against anybody and anything that threatens fishing.

“Until now, anglers have been failed at every level ¬ they’ve been short-changed and received zero representation in decision-making matters. This is what we are seeking to redress,” he said.

“Take otters. The root of the problem lies in the authorities’ reluctance to undertake a national cormorant cull 25 years ago. If we had introduced control measures when they were needed, the number of fish making it to maturity would have been far greater, meaning the current impact of otters on stocks of specimen fish would have been greatly reduced. It’s a classic case of anglers and their interests being ignored. Not any more, though ¬going forward we will be much more aggressive in demanding action to defend the interests of all anglers.”

Another member of the Advisory Board, Martin Bowler, is keen to stress that getting value for money for the nation’s anglers is another of the group’s primary aims.

“Anglers are the only people taxed to walk into the countryside. We pay tens of millions of pounds, and what do we get back? It’s a disgrace ¬ a scandal akin to the recent furore over MPs’ expenses. Things have to change, and they will provided we have the backing of anglers. In return for people spending £20 to join the Trust, we are prepared to go into the trenches and take the bullets for the sport as whole,” said Martin.

The Angling Trust’s existing chief executive, Mark Lloyd, feels real progress was made at the meeting. He said: “I feel like we’ve really turned a corner now that the Trust has the backing of such high-profile characters. We were able to highlight a number of short, medium and long-term aims and draw up plans to tackle them. It’s vital we get the processes in place to stop any future crises, such as the otter problem we’re experiencing now. We can make it work, and I’m confident we will.”