The Angling Trust is this week celebrating a huge victory for fishing after its threats to challenge the government in the courts saw over 100 million pounds invested into improving our rivers.
Under the Water Framework Directive, waterways across the UK have to meet with new high environmental standards by 2015, with potentially a huge increase in fish stocks.
But loopholes in the directive had allowed the Environment Agency to claim the source of numerous problems on rivers – such as pollution hotspots – were at times impossible to track down. This ‘cause unknown’ status, and other get-out clauses, was used by the EA to delay taking action.
By teaming up with WWF UK, the Angling Trust spent thousands investigating the failings and found that many of the claimed ‘cause unknown’ cases were easily solved by talking to local communities.
Top barristers were then drafted in and the threat of a judicial review into the government’s failings to hit national river improvements were tabled – a move that has prompted the £100 million cash injection and the announcement of a whole series of new projects to help meet the new standards.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Exec at the Trust, told Angling Times: “Unlocking this money is very important for the sport. We have many problems facing us and this fund will go some of the way to tackling them. By working with WWF-UK we carry the voice of anglers and ensure it is heard at the highest level and we will continue to fight those who threaten our sport.”
Key areas to be tackled, along with over-abstraction and pollution, include dealing with invasive Himalayan balsam, knotweed and floating pennywort that can choke waterways nationwide and make it impossible to even cast a line.
Also under the microscope will be signal crayfish, which have spread like wildfire. Signals have decimated our native crays and can even make it troublesome to leger a bait on some venues.
Other targets for the cash will be the removal of redundant weirs and other structures that hinder fish migration. As well as salmon and trout, coarse fish too migrate great distances. Faced with structures they find hard to navigate, they are hit by predators such as otters and cormorants.
Lloyd is also hopeful that the setting up of a ‘catchment fund’ which allows investment into local projects by campaigning groups might open the way for pollution fines – currently going to the exchequer – to be redirected to directly improving waterways. The Trust will continue to campaign for polluters to pay for the damage they do.