The Environment Agency’s (EA) new strategy* “a better environment, healthier fisheries” is a positive recognition of the enormous social and economic benefits of angling, but the Countryside Alliance is concerned that its target for increasing the number of anglers is not nearly ambitious enough.

The strategy for 2006-2011 wants “fisheries to play a greater role in England and Wales to encourage more people to help us protect and improve our environment and to help fishing contribute more to society.”  However, the EA’s target for rod licence sales for 2006/07, 1.261m, is exactly the same number as were sold in 2003/04**.

Countryside Alliance angling spokesman Charles Jardine comments, “Nearly all the environmental and social successes the strategy highlights have been achieved by Government working with anglers. That is why it is disappointing that the EA has not set itself a target to attract significantly more people to fishing.

“The role of the EA, which is funded to the tune of £18m per year by anglers through rod licence sales, should be to join with other Government departments to aid the anglers and bodies who are already providing real benefit, and to provide the resources to bring more people into angling. 

“Action is needed to ensure angling’s long term future, and there is no better example than the Alliance-backed Get Hooked on Fishing initiative, which began in Durham a few years ago and now has sister initiatives in Birmingham and Liverpool. By introducing children who had been involved in youth crime and truancy to fishing, 98% of those on the scheme have not re-offended.

“The Alliance and many other angling organisations are working to get more people into angling. We hope that the Government and its agencies will work with us and support everyone’s ambition to see hundreds of thousands of new anglers.”