Reading West MP, Martin Salter, has spoken out in Parliament to warn the Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw of the potential impact of any further cuts in funding in the fisheries budget. Mr Salter was speaking in the annual Fisheries debate in the House of Commons, in which he spoke on a number of important recreational angling issues.

Mr Salter highlighted the good work by the Environment Agency Fisheries Department and the danger faced by the funding of this work through DEFRA grant-in-aid and rod licence income. He said:

“I hope that the Minister has also had the opportunity to look at “Fishing for the Future”, the angling participation strategy produced by the Environment Agency. The agency draws attention to its new statutory obligation to maintain, improve and develop salmon and freshwater fisheries. It has a participation target, which aims to deliver an extra 100,000 anglers by 2010. In the past three years, it has exceeded that target. Licence sales have risen and angling is doing well under Labour; we are catching bigger and more fish—at least I am.”

“However—here is the rub—there is the issue of DEFRA grant in aid, which I raised in DEFRA questions earlier. A properly funded fisheries budget for the Environment Agency is crucial. I urge the Minister to consider what has happened to the ratio between funding for EA fisheries work delivered through the rod licence income and that delivered through grant in aid. In 1995, 44 per cent. of the total budget came from grant in aid and 52 per cent. from rod licence income. Now, 29 per cent. of the budget is delivered through grant in aid and 68 per cent. through rod licence income. Contrast that with navigation, where grant in aid has increased from £8.3 million in 2004-05 to £13.3 million in 2006-07. It is clearly unfair for the increased burden to be borne by rod licence holders.”

Mr Salter also used the speech to praise the work of the Angler’s Conservation Association, of which he is a member, and to urge other anglers to join:

“I wish to turn to the excellent work of the Anglers Conservation Association. Not all that is done to protect our rivers, streams and canals is done by the Environment Agency—anglers have been putting their hands in their pockets for years. The ACA was established in 1948, backed with funds of just £200 … This year alone, it has settled 30 legal cases concerning pollution with sewage, pesticides, sediment, fertiliser and slurry. It has lost only three cases in its 60-year history, and just this week successfully negotiated £500,000 in compensation from Thames Water for its disgraceful pollution of the beautiful River Wandle, London’s only chalk stream within the boundary of the M25. I wish the ACA well; it is a great shame that only about 10,000 of Britain’s 2.5 million freshwater anglers are members.”

Speaking after the debate Mr Salter said:

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to update parliament on the recent developments in freshwater fisheries, and to put angling’s case forward. Due to constraints on Parliamentary time, I only had a few minutes to make my speech, but I felt it was crucial to raise the issue of fisheries funding. I am extremely worried about the increased proportion of the fisheries budget which is borne solely by rod licence payers. The Environment Agency is obliged to ‘maintain, improve and develop salmon and freshwater fisheries’; and indeed, they have many admirable ambitions to do so. However, without proper funding from DEFRA, these simply will not be realised. I hope the Minister regards this as a friendly ‘shot across the bows’ and protects the funding for fisheries work.”