Minutes of a Meeting Held at Comrades Club, Morpeth
at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 28th October, 2015
The Chairman, Barry Gibson, welcomed all who had braved the mist for attending despite the inclement weather.
He announced that Arthur Winter had resigned for personal reasons from the position of Secretary. The Chairman offered his thanks on behalf of the association to Arthur Winter for all his sterling work. For this meeting, the Treasurer Richard Lindsay had agreed to take minutes, but we would welcome volunteers to replace Arthur.
He also announced that Mark Owen from The Angling Trust would be attending the second half of the meeting.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies had been received from the following:
Minutes of Previous Meeting
The minutes of the previous meeting had been distributed in advance. These were approved.
The Chairman stated that the Environment Agency had not proved very helpful, but that The Angling Trust may be able to help. It was reported that cormorant numbers were again getting out of hand with the view expressed that it was impossible to get a licence to shoot them. The Chairman reiterated that the Angling Trust may help represent our interests to the Environment Agency.
It was reported that drift netting is to cease in 2022. As for T&J nets, it was reported that the Scottish government had been held to be in breach of an EU Directive, so will move to remove these nets more quickly. The hope was expressed that if Scotland can do this, it might give some impetus to the situation with the English nets. It was further reported that two T&J nets had recently been bought off the Tweed.
The Chairman reported that 4% of the licence fund income would go to The Angling Trust who had won a tender to the EA for a number of services to include the training of voluntary bailiffs.
There was to be an investigation internally of the allocation of resources with the EA.
Concern was reported from the members present for the need to stock with breeding fish, which is not helped by the EA directive on genetic integrity. It was pointed out that the River Coquet used to have a functioning commercial hatchery which could still be brought back into use to raise stock from stripped native fish.
The question was asked from the floor of where does the EA’s money go? And what is the allocation of total funds to the North?
One member opined that the EA was a waste of time for the Coquet as it is a working man’s river and those who fish it do not have the wealth or title to wield influence with the EA. If it were not for The Northumbrian Anglers’ Federation, nothing in his opinion would ever get done for the Coquet.
It was further reported that Paul Douglas, the EA bailiff, had been directed to restrict preventative activity and only to respond to incidents.
Angling Trust Meeting
At the recent meeting there had been a presentation from The Rivers Trust on helping water retention in upland areas. This was a reasonably cheap and effective method, and the Chairman suggested that this might be carried out on the Coquet. The Rivers Trust’s funding is from EC grant money, and so this is probably a financially viable project.
Any Other Business
It was pointed out that there were no representatives at the meeting from Westwater Angling Club, and it was requested that they be sent a letter to advise of the next meeting. The view was also expressed that Lord Ridley and Mr. Lishman should also be contacted directly.
The Chairman then reported that the EA, The Angling Trust, the police and the Freemen of Durham have agreed in conjunction with the Wear Angling Association that the steps area which had long suffered from blatant snatching of fish was to be closed to angling and designated a Conservation Area. This has the effect of penalising legitimated fishermen, but should be of considerable benefit to the migratory fish.
Rob Stephenson of The Angling Trust then updated the meeting about netting in Scotland. A review has now been completed and although legislation has yet to be enacted, the intention is to stop netting for three years in an area twenty miles either side of the mouth of the River Tweed. After that period, the situation will be reviewed.
The possibility was raised and discussed of salmon fishing becoming compulsorily “catch and release”.
A short discussion was also held on the accuracy or otherwise of current fish-counter technology.
Presentation by Mark Owen of The Angling Trust
Mark introduced himself as the Head of Freshwater for the Angling Trust, and outlined their organisational structure, pointing out that The Angling Trust and Fish Legal although linked are separate entities for practical and legal reasons.
AT have many people of influence, including twenty MPs at Westminster, representing their interests.
There is currently a judicial review ongoing, at AT’s instigation, of the EA’s failure to control agricultural pollution.
AT officers will also be meeting with the Fisheries Minister on 19th November to discuss the plight of Atlantic salmon.
Other areas that AT is campaigning about are predation by cormorants and goosanders, abstraction and “fracking”.
AT is concerned to developed participation in angling, and has secure funding towards this aim form both Sport England and the EA.
An extensive range of activities on behalf of and funded by EA has been taken on by AT following a competitive tender. The funds are allocated from the Rod Licence Fund.
A voluntary bailiff service had been trialled in the South East and is now being rolled out to other areas, including the North East. Regional Enforcement Managers are being appointed and an announcement was to be made within the week on the AT website of the appointees. The Manager for the North East previously served with the police force in the North East and therefore has extensive connections with the police
Angling Improvement Fund
A further £200,000 of funding for this area has been announced.
Fishery Management Advisers
Their role was outlined, and one of their more notable recent successes has been to have licences to control cormorants and goosanders allocated on an area basis rather than individually. This has distinct advantages in keeping a whole area clear, rather than just moving the problem from one river or Stillwater to another.
This section deals with direct threats to fish health such as gyrodactylus salaris with simulations run to ensure appropriate and timely responses, as well as other environmental threats like signal crayfish, Japanese Knotweed etc.
Mark pointed out that the AT website has a considerable resource of information and urged all present to avail themselves of this. He confirmed that the three biggest issues facing AT were netting, predation and agricultural-based pollution.
Question and Answer Session
In response to a specific question on obtaining licences to control cormorants and goosanders, Mark referred the person concerned to Richard Bamforth of AT who would be pleased to assist and whose details were on the website.
Mark also clarified that the focus on agricultural pollution was on Special Areas of Conservation. There is a list and map on the AT website with the forty-eight specific rivers about which they are going to court.
A question was raised about water quality, and Mark confirmed that any individual has the right to ask for and receive from the EA details of their water sampling results.
Mark clarified that Natural England is the regulator for Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The voluntary bailiffs trained by AT are not to take over the responsibilities of the EA bailiffs, but rather to support them by supplying them with appropriate intelligence.
In November/December, the EA will publish a report detailing where licence money is spent.
The BBC have appointed an AT director to the Countryside Board, which should help the accuracy of future programmes.
The Chairman thanked Mark Owen for taking the time to travel through difficult conditions to give us a very informative and useful talk.
There being no further business, the meeting was closed at 9.30 p.m.