Background

For the past year, the main national membership organisations representing anglers have been planning to unify into one body to represent all coarse, sea and game anglers.  This is a move which has been long awaited and tried unsuccessfully in the past.  We aim to make it a reality at last.  It is widely known that there are millions of anglers in the UK, but they have never had a single professional, high-profile and well-funded organisation to represent their views.

Who is involved?
The organisations participating in unification are:

The Anglers’ Conservation Association (ACA) – uses the law to fight pollution and other damage to rivers, lakes and canals on behalf of its members.

The National Federation of Anglers (NFA) – governing body for coarse angling in England, organises regional and national competitions, manages coarse angling development and provides services to its member clubs.

The National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) – governing body for sea angling in England, organises regional and national competitions, manages sea angling development, campaigns on environmental and other issues affecting recreational sea angling.

National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives (NAFAC) – the national representative body for local fisheries and angling consultatives (groups or organisations set up to represent the interests of anglers, angling clubs, and owners in specific catchment or geographical areas).

The Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) – recently registered as a charity, the body which represents the interests of the UK’s game anglers, fishery owners/managers and affiliated trades, in all issues relevant to angling and fisheries legislation, regulation, management and conservation.

The Specialist Anglers Alliance (SAA) – represents the interests of specialist anglers and angling groups ranging from English Carp Heritage Organisation and the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain to the Tenchfishers and the Eel groups, as well as member clubs and societies and individual angling members.

The process is being co-ordinated by the Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust (FACT) which is the existing umbrella body representing these and other angling and fishery organisations.

What will the new body do?

The new body will of course continue the work of these organisations, but it will also do much more.  It will offer new services to its members, develop new campaigns, lobby government effectively, raise the profile of angling and fisheries conservation and fight to protect angling at a local and national level.

There are many important issues on which action is needed:

– Increased funding for teaching young people how to fish and recognition of the education value of fishing.
– Continue and improve fishing competitions and success rates at regional, national and international levels.
– Reverse the decline in government funding for fisheries despite increased revenue from rod licences.
– Reinstate angling and fisheries to the heart of the Environment Agency’s and DEFRA’s policies and ensure representation on RFERAC and REPAC committees.
– Support existing regional networks (e.g. consultatives and fishery associations) with professional staff.
– Raise local issues at a national level and report back the results of lobbying and campaigns.
– Support angling clubs with legal advice and provide guidance on: e.g. leases, access, constitutions, health & safety, fundraising and fisheries management.
– Reverse the damage caused by commercial overfishing at sea.
– Control sand and gravel extraction from rivers and the seabed.
– Prevent unregulated access by canoes and other craft.
– Secure management strategies for predators such as cormorants and goosanders.
– Improve regulation of water pollution from industry, agriculture and sewage.
– Reduce abstraction of water which has led to rivers and lakes drying up.
– Clear up and prevent litter in rivers and on sea shores – there are currently inadequate duties to remove it.
– Reverse the destruction of habitat by flood defence, land drainage and damaging trawling methods.
– Remove barriers to the movement of marine, coarse and game fish in rivers and estuaries (e.g. Severn   Barrage and weirs built in the industrial revolution which serve no purpose).
– Demand better enforcement and legislation to prevent fish theft, illegal sales of fish and poaching.
– Protect angling from being banned from rivers, lakes, harbours, shorelines and piers due to health & safety or wildlife protection.
– Keep fish disease such as KHV and Gyrodactylus salaris out of the UK.
– Campaign to stop commercial fish farming causing pollution, sea lice infestation and escapes of farmed fish  into the wild.
– Ensure Sea Fishery Committees have adequate angling representation and have a positive programme to protect and develop angling.
– To use the law to stop damage occurring to aquatic habitats owned or leased by our club, riparian and fishery owner members and to fight for compensation when it does occur.

These are all very important issues which need to be fought at the local, regional and national level with professional staff being employed to deliver programmes of work and to campaign and lobby government.  This will only be possible if we can create an organisation which attracts the support of the majority of anglers to provide both the revenue and the political weight to get things done.

Getting the detail right is fundamental to the success of the new body and the next two sections help explain why it’s taking what seems a long time.

Progress so far

News of the plans for unification first broke in November 2007.  Since then, all the organisations have been consulting their memberships about whether they should be involved.  The response has been overwhelmingly supportive, although there are many members of the existing bodies who have concerns.  Angling newspapers and magazines have all been very supportive of the plans, which have also been reported in national newspapers.

Each of the six organisations has now contributed £10,000 to a unification fund and a Transition Board, comprising the Chairmen of the organisations, has been seeking professional advice about the legal and financial implications of unification.  It is naturally a very complicated process, given that the organisations are constituted differently (there is one registered charity, several limited companies, some purely voluntary bodies, and an unincorporated association involved).  Most of the organisations employ staff and their employment rights will be protected.

All of the parties are currently undertaking due diligence – which means that all the organisations have to provide copies of their accounts and details of all their databases, supplier and staff contracts, office equipment, stock, assets and liabilities etc. Amalgamation of these across six differently constituted bodies is more complex than many business mergers.  The Board has also been getting advice about how to ensure that the new organisation should be marketed to ensure that it can achieve its aim of mass membership.

What’s happening next?

The Transition Board is now supervising work in three main areas:

– Business planning – organisation structure, board memberships, charitable status, due diligence, membership rates and projections, costing of activities, developing partnerships with the tackle trade and other organisations to generate income.
– Member benefits – developing a package of services and benefits to offer each category of members in return for their subscriptions.
– National remit – holding discussions with organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to finalise arrangements to reflect devolution whilst continuing to deliver some services throughout the UK. We are also discussing the status of the unified body with Sport England.

When these pieces of work are complete, the organisation will be ready to set out its plans in more detail with regard to its activities, membership benefits, service delivery and organisation structure.  When this detail is available, each organisation will need to go through a different process to secure the support of its membership and management to transfer its staff and assets into the new body.  The plan is to launch the new organisation in January 2009.

Membership

The new organisation is not yet constituted and so it is not possible for anglers to join up yet.  If you want to support the process, the best way is to join (or remain a member of) one of the participant organisations now.  This will help them continue their important work while the plans for unification are being finalised.  Your membership will be transferred to the new unified body when it is formed in 2009.

More information

This is the first of a series of free monthly e-newsletters about Angling Unity.  To sign up to receive future editions, or for more information about unification, please visit www.anglingunity.co.uk

Spread the word

Please forward this newsletter on to any anglers you know to help spread the word about this exciting development.

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