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Trust map out ‘Back to fishing’ plan to government

The Angling Trust has written to the Cabinet’s Rt Hon Michael Gove, outlining how angling could take its position “at the front of the queue” when restrictions are reviewed by government.
CEO, Jamie Cook and Head of Policy and ex-MP, Martin Salter, have submitted a plan – When We Fish Again – supported by partner organisations including Salmon & Trout Conservation, Canal & River Trust, Angling Trades Association and the Institute of Fisheries Management as to how angling could restart without affecting Covid-19 infection rates, and it also outlines how it sees any recreational fishing activity being phased back into UK life, including data from countries where fishing has still continued, without any adverse affect on infection rates.

As the British public starts to show wearing signs of the affects of a month in lockdown, the report also focuses on the benefits of angling to physical and mental health, quoting that it has been identified that 62% of fishermen use the sport as their only means of physical activity, and how angling is used to benefit mental health, both by the NHS and also as a means to treat combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by military charities. They also quote Dr Paul Stolk who, in his study, The Social and Community Benefits of Angling, concluded “It is evident that participation in angling – can have a positive effect on personal health and well-being, most notably as means by which an individual can escape or recover from stress, trouble or illness.”

Other key points outlined include the facts that angling is a naturally self-isolating, social-distancing sport and so could be allowed as a “permitted activity” under the government’s current guidance. It stresses that it is a sport that transcends social and physical boundaries, engaging both able and disabled participants and, with “well over half the population of England and Wales living within five miles of a waterway it can be safely and practically achieved without significant travel”.

The Trust also emphasises to government that Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark and Ireland have also advocated angling as a safe and beneficial activity throughout their own respective periods of social isolation and they also have provided evidence that those countries that have permitted angling have been amongst those that have fared better in limiting infection rates.

The plan also draws attention that fishing is self-policing, due to the nature of its licensing and permitting procedures and also its network of bailiffs that oversee the sport’s rules in normal times.

Finally, it outlines the economic effect of angling (in UK, around £4 billion in a normal year) noting that in Holland, where fishing has been permitted during the Covid-19 lockdown, licence sales have increased by over 30%.

Phasing in fishing
In addition, the plan outlines how recreational fishing on lakes, rivers and at sea, could be phased back safely into society, in three distinct phases.

The first stage is that angling should take place solely on a solitary basis, and be local, following government guidance on travel. (Sea angling from the beach, or with small-scale private boat fishing) with no sharing of tackle or swims, and no angler to fish within 15 metres of each other. Online and electronic payments for day tickets would be be encouraged, and any club facilities – huts, cafes, clubhouses – should remain closed. Fisheries unable to adhere to these guidelines should remain closed. Finally, the plan stresses that anyone displaying symptoms of Covid-19, or who shares a household with any individual displaying symptoms, should not go fishing and should continue to follow government advice on isolation.

Phase Two would see private boat and kayak fishing resume on rivers, lakes and reservoirs, bearing in mind that currently ‘non-essential’ boat movements are prohibited by the Environment Agency, Canal and River Trust and other navigation authorities, with charter boat fishing at sea resuming only under strict social distancing guidelines. Competition fishing would only be allowable if it was compliant with all government guidelines. Shared facilities at fisheries would re-open, but any travel restrictions would only be reviewed in line with any outdoor recreational guidelines from the government.

The third phase would see angling continue, basically as normal, but still adhering to any social distancing guidelines that may be in force.

In relation to tackle shops, the plan advises the trade to continue online with digital transactions wherever possible, with bait and other essential items available for pick up from the shop, but only under the strict social-distancing measures employed by the retail sector.

The next government review is expected to be on May 7.

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