What is the Issue?
This debate is often seen by the media as anglers versus other water users, albeit that anglers are not necessarily anti-canoes/boats/free swimmers etc and fully support the principle of voluntary negotiated agreements. This is in line with Government Policy.
S&TCUK believes that no one sport has an automatic right of access to rivers or lakes. For instance, before anglers are able to access a water body to fish, an individual must be in possession of an Environment Agency (EA) licence (age 12 and over), have the permission of the riparian owner, and will almost certainly have to pay to fish.The angler is also bound by rules and regulations, both statutory and those of the fishery, and failure to comply can result in being banned from the fishery, and even prosecution.
What S&TCUK has achieved so far
Together with other fisheries organisation, S&TCUK successfully lobbied English and Welsh Parliaments that, in the public interest, access to water should be controlled by locally brokered Joint Access Agreements, provided they address the following:
- The regulation of all water sports under an enforceable code of conduct
- Equitable payment for use of the resource
- An acceptable national form of registration and third party insurance cover
- Provisions to protect fragile environments and habitats – particularly in SSSI’s and cSACs - including fish juvenile areas and bird nesting sites.
- Acknowledgement that canoes and other water craft should not be permitted in small streams and on non-navigable rivers.
- Acknowledgement that the unique situation in Scotland, where open access is permitted, has little relevance to England and Wales, where population density is far greater and rivers tend to be smaller than in Scotland.
- Acknowledgement that waterborne diseases and parasites can be transferred between river catchments by canoes (the same as on angling equipment), and that this issue cannot be addressed in the context of an unregulated activity.
What still needs to be done?
S&TCUK will continue to press for Governments to encourage and, if necessary, legislate for, all water users to operate under voluntary access agreements including the following criteria:
- All water users must be licensed and regulated
- All water users should contribute to the management and conservation budgets of the relevant river/lake - by national licensing and payments to riparian owners
- No sport should impact adversely on the environment or its dependent species
- No incoming sport should be allowed to impact on the enjoyment of an established activity without the agreement of all interested parties
- Joint access agreements should be negotiated and enforced locally
This argument is, we believe, a compelling one from the fisheries viewpoint, and does not alienate the public by attempting to put angling ahead of any other sport. This is extremely important when influencing politicians and their departments, who must be seen to be unbiased in their decision making processes.