Environment Agency report shows huge rise in sales of rod licences

Further evidence that angling is booming emerged this week after a leaked Environment Agency document revealed that licence sales for the 2009/10 season have risen by an astonishing 13.4 per cent.

The huge leap in angling participation is being celebrated right across the board, not least because it has brought in an extra £2.9m in revenue, all of which is to be spent on improving fishing.

According to Mat Crocker, EA head of fisheries, over £1m will immediately be channelled straight back into regional fisheries projects, including:

l Revamping popular fisheries to make them accessible to as many anglers as possible
l Creating new fisheries wherever the opportunities arise, including in urban areas
l Improving access at fisheries for disabled anglers
l Improving and enhancing numerous riverine habitats
l Restocking, especially barbel, to create sustainable populations
l Buying better electro-fishing equipment and new vehicles for local fisheries teams

“The message I want to get out to anglers is that if we raise millions in additional rod licence revenue, then we’ll spend millions on fisheries,” said Mat.

“And I’m determined to track every single extra pound to ensure we can be accountable for it,” he added.

And while Mat is hopeful about the EA’s prospects of continuing to increase licence sales, he was keen to point out that this has been an exceptional year and that it would be unrealistic to expect another similar increase next year.

Many are concerned that the licence revenue increases might prompt the Government to cut angling’s annual Grant-in-Aid financial package, presently £5.9m, as part of across-the-board public spending cuts.

Anglers are already paying a larger proportion of the cost of maintaining the nation’s fisheries than ever before by virtue of the fact that aid has fallen by £1.5m over the past decade, while the price of a rod licence has risen well over inflation and is set to rise again by £1.

The EA is presently putting together bids for future Government money, because funding levels for the 2010/11 season and beyond have yet to be decided.

“The Angling Trust welcomes the fact that more people are buying licences and we hope that this reflects an increase in the number of people going fishing,” said boss Mark Lloyd.

“Given that rod licence income has increased year-on-year for the past decade, we will be pressing the Government hard not to reduce the Grant-in-Aid from the Treasury, as they have done in the past.

“Angling has great benefits for society and the state should make a contribution in line with the vast sums which anglers pay. One of the Angling Trust’s central aims is to fight for anglers’ rights,” he said.

Many fear that the Government will look to make yet another cut this time around, with 10 per cent the figure being touted.

And that at a time when crucial issues such climate change, water shortages, the threat of flooding, otter predation, the continued spread of crayfish and a dire need to start working towards Water Framework Directive ecological targets all require significant levels of investment.