WHEN I wrote Keep Australia Fishing I was keen to emphasise the need for us to get across to the non angling public the good that angling can do for society as a whole.
Now I know that there are some great projects happening in every state in Oz, but until we get a peak body up and running it will be difficult to get our positive message across to the general public. Here in Britain one of my roles is as the National Campaigns Coordinator for the UK peak body – The Angling Trust. Here's how we are blowing our trumpet for fishos and making sure that the anti angling brigade never steal the moral high ground (see below).
I'm looking forward to the day when we can shout the good that we do across the length and breadth of Australia. That's why I wholeheartedly support Allan Hansard and the great work that AFTA and RecFish Australia are taking forward to give Aussie anglers a powerful national voice. That's also why I'm coming back in August to address the national recfishing conference in Brisbane in support of the recommendations in my report.
Enjoy the read ... it made me proud to be a fisho.
For many people, us anglers must seem like an odd bunch. We wear strange clothing, have lots of boxes of tackle, live part time in bivvys or hide under umbrellas on canal towpaths. We speak a strange language, incomprehensible to non-fishers and venture forth at ungodly hours and in all weathers. The reality is that for the 3 million people who fish in the UK, angling is something that relieves stress, provides a unique contact with the natural world and gives them enormous pleasure (and sometimes misery when they lose a big fish). It can keep kids out of trouble by giving them something cheap to do with friends and family, and has transformed the lives of kids who have got into trouble or who have special education needs. From breast cancer patients to war veterans, angling can provide an absorbing distraction from the bad things in life. Angling takes people to beautiful places, and gives them an excuse to spend time by water, which is great for the soul.
Angling is also an important industry, often bringing jobs and visitors to inner cities, rural areas and coastal towns outside the tourist season. It employs 37,000 people in England and Wales and generates £3.5 billion for the economy. Fishing tackle manufacturers and shops, commercial fisheries, angling guides and coaches, charter boat skippers and angling clubs all employ people who often get to do a job that they love doing.
Anglers are the eyes and ears of the waterside. They spot pollution and other problems before anyone else, and their knowledge of the water environment means that they can tell when something is wrong. They report problems to the Environment Agency and support organisations like the Angling Trust and Fish Legal so that polluters can be prosecuted and action taken to protect wildlife from being poisoned.
Freshwater anglers have to buy a rod licence to fish legally, and the licence fees provide £25 million to the Environment Agency to look after rivers and lakes by improving wildlife habitats, building fish passes on weirs and restocking fish in areas where populations have suffered from pollution and other problems.
A major research report funded by the Big Lottery Fund recently spelt out the widespread benefits that angling can bring to individuals and communities. Fishing for Answers: the Final report of the Social and Community Benefits of Angling Research was launched by the Environment Minister Richard Benyon MP earlier this year.
The report found:
25 per cent of anglers said that they were involved in environmental improvement work, maintaining and improving waterside environments.
22 per cent volunteered in teaching or coaching anglers.
The UK is a leader in the field of angling based youth education and inclusion work.
Angling organisations have helped restore and develop local waters as genuine community assets, bringing people together and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.
Angling can stimulate the economy in rural areas and coastal towns through tourism, particularly outside of the traditional season. In one case study angling tourists contributed around £1 million a year to a remote rural area.
Across the country anglers are doing great things for their communities:
In Nottingham the CAST project secured £433,140 of Lottery funding to transform 220 acres of land from colliery slag heaps into a new, eco-sensitive Country Park with a visitor centre with classrooms, workshop facilities and angling lakes.
In 2008, the Staffordshire Youth Anglers (SYA) began the conversion of a former railway embankment site at Carney Pools Fishery into a wildlife asset for use by local young people, schools and families.
In Taunton an experimental project for SEN students was launched with help from the Angling Trust to develop coaching lessons based on key curriculum subjects and to work alongside school staff to use sea angling to cover qualifications at GCSE standards. Teachers were impressed by behaviour changes in pupils that had often previously displayed violent characteristics.
In Tameside and Glossop a team has identified angling participation as providing particular benefits for stroke survivors. These include physical improvements such as increased muscle strength, improved co-ordination and exercise, along with improvements to mental and emotional well-being through skill development, socialisation and opportunities to relax.
The West Mercia Police have been working with Get Hooked On Fishing (GHOF) Shropshire in Meole Brace near Shrewsbury and has seen huge reductions in anti-social behaviour, year on year.
Here at the Angling Trust we make no apologies for regularly reminding the politicians and the public of Britain of the good that angling does for our society.'
Angling Trust: 01568 620447 www.anglingtrust.net Join for just £25 a year to support its work and get a range of angling benefits.
Angling Research Report: Find out more about the benefits of angling to communities, the environment and the economy at: www.anglingresearch.org.uk