No byelaw protection for non-native fish

Anglers were up in arms this week after discovering proposed new byelaws will protect only ‘native’ species.

Fresh legislation governing the removal of coarse fish will not apply to ‘non-natives’ such as zander, catfish, orfe and ornamental carp, prompting fears that they will continue to be poached for the table.

Many predator anglers in particular are outraged that zander, now well-established in many lakes, rivers and canals, aren’t being afforded the same level of protection as carp, tench, bream and other traditional species.

“It’s a joke ¬ an absolute disgrace. Zander are a naturalised species ¬
you’ll never get rid of them. Why shouldn’t it be illegal for anglers to remove them? They’re a valuable resource in many fisheries,” argued infuriated Zander Anglers’ Club member Mark Barrett.

“This is sure to cause even more problems. Eastern Europeans will interpret these new rules as a green light to remove as many zander as they like. The Environment Agency has bowed to pressure from Natural England and I’m responding to the consultation in protest ¬ I’d encourage all other concerned anglers to do the same,” he added.

And Mark’s accusation concerning Natural England (NE) ¬ the Government body responsible for protecting and improving the natural environment ¬ holds some truth, as a look at its response to the recent consultation reveals.

It warned of the poorly-understood impacts of climate change on populations of non-native fish and opposed anglers returning them to rivers, canals or ‘open’ stillwaters.

“Special consideration should not be given to non-native species such as zander,” was Natural England’s argument.

And it was joined by another apparently anti-zander, government-funded public body, British Waterways.

“We believe that zander should be included in the list of species that must be removed to prevent their further spread,” said British Waterways.

But accusations from some quarters that anglers had been ‘sold out’ by both the Environment Agency and the Angling Trust are contradicted by the facts.

Both the EA and the Trust were keen to protect the rights of fishery owners and clubs to manage their waters as they saw fit, with the Trust calling for non-natives to be afforded the same protection as natural species wherever they had been introduced with the EA’s consent.

“Any anglers objecting to any part of the byelaw change can still do so by responding to Defra,” was the reminder issued by a Trust spokesman.

In turn the EA is insisting that the byelaw was only ever aimed at restricting which rod-caught fish anglers could remove.

“We appreciate some ‘introduced’ species have become popular with anglers and under this byelaw we’re neither insisting they be removed or returned. If controlling clubs or owners want to prohibit their removal then the new laws will allow them to,” said the EA’s fisheries advisor Paul Lidgett.