It’s official. Coarse anglers in England and Wales will soon have to practise catch-and-release following a landmark decision by the Environment Agency to outlaw the removal of rod-caught fish.
The welcome news represents a long-awaited victory for Angling Times after years of campaigning against archaic regional byelaws which allowed anglers to remove untold numbers of fish from our rivers and lakes.
The decision by the EA fisheries department to only allow anglers to remove a small number of baitfish and a limited number of bigger fish has receivedpraise from all corners of the sport.
The changes, which should come into force in the early part of next year, follow a successful online public consultation process that received the wholehearted support of Angling Times and the sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust.
One of the first people to express their delight at the news was AT’s columnist Keith Arthur, a long-time advocate of the proposed changes.
“This is great news. This is almost exactly what I was calling for six years ago. Congratulations to the EA for listening to us, and for introducing what the majority of the nation’s anglers wanted,” said Keith.
Another who threw his support behind calls for change was Parliamentary angling spokesperson Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West.
“I’m really, really chuffed,” said Martin.
“The EA have got it absolutely right ¬ catch and release, with some limited exceptions, is definitely the way forward.
“Anglers in the UK fish for sport and their primary concern has always been the conservation of fish stocks and the various habitats that support them.
“I also think that Angling Times deserves credit for persisting with the issue of fish removals.
“Without AT’s campaigning and comprehensive coverage, the consultation response would have been derisory,” he added.
Anglers nationwide owe a debt of gratitude to senior EA fisheries policy manager Adrian Taylor and his team.
Adrian has spent years working on the freshwater aspects of the Marine Bill, the bare bones of which emerged out of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review way back in March 2000.
“We are very grateful for the huge and informed response to the consultation, and we have acted by re-shaping some of our proposals,” he told Angling Times.
“Having listened to anglers and fishery owners, we believe we’ve got the balance right. It will no longer be legal to remove highly-prized specimen fish without specific consent and these new rules will be clearer to understand and easier for us to enforce.
“But a complete ban on removing any fish would have been a very difficult position to defend. We’ve balanced the legitimate needs of anglers and owners against the need to conserve stocks and protect the socio-economic value of fisheries,” added Adrian.
The EA recognises that effective enforcement will be critical to the byelaw’s success and will be carefully considering its approach over the coming months.
The proposed new byelaws should be finalised in the New Year, at which time it will be down to the Government to confirm and introduce them, possibly by the end of the current season.