Secret documents and internal emails have this week revealed that Natural England - the quango which advises Government on conservation policy - could have angling in its sights.
The organisation’s soon-to-be-announced position on freshwater fisheries reveals it wants to:
- Severely restrict stockings
- Ban livebaiting
- Prevent managers and work parties clearing swims
- Give canoeists and swimmers free access to fisheries
- Restore waters to how they were at the end of the Ice Age
Private communications between NE staff reveal that some in the organisation have a shockingly low opinion of anglers and are prepared to use supposition, hearsay and a biased interpretation of science to support their hard-line stance.
The draft position statement was unearthed by a concerned anonymous angler who was shocked by what he found.
“If these proposals become policy, they’ll change the face of our sport.
Anglers will become second-class citizens on our waters, as Natural England dictates when, where and how we can fish,” warned the source.
“The Angling Trust seems oblivious to the threat, but these papers confirm our fishing’s now at risk, whether you’re an angler fishing for pike, carp or barbel, or a club looking to restock your lake or stretch of river, clear swims or even build platforms for disabled anglers,” he added.
The document will also cause grave concerns among fishery managers who consider fish stockings and removals, together with weed and bankside clearance, as their primary tools when it comes to providing a desirable angling experience to their customers.
“Angling needs a voice on Natural England’s Council ¬ it needs educating about the management of fisheries,” insisted Mid Kent boss Chris Logsdon.
“NE’s staff are welcome to visit any of the 30 gravel pits I manage, all of which contain carp and bream, to witness for themselves just how well these species can do while still allowing for well-balanced, natural freshwater ecosystems to flourish,” he added.
But the Angling Trust was quick to point out that there were plenty of positives and that it is good NE is set to consult with interested parties before finalising its position.
A spokesperson for Natural England said that the document was only a draft and that it welcomed input from the angling community.
“This position is a draft and it’s not a secret document - it’s on our website and has been shared with stakeholders. Its aim is to provide guidance on the overall approach we want to adopt when working with anglers.
It makes clear that we support angling and we want to have an open debate on the often thorny issues involved in protecting and enhancing the freshwater environment,” said the spokesperson.