If there’s one thing every true angler can agree on, it’s the way we hate seeing litter on the bank! Fairly or otherwise, fishing often picks up the can in more ways than one.
However, the better news is the current shift in attitudes right across the angling world. From those taking direct action with fishing licence supported campaigns such as Anglers Against Litter, through to tackle and bait companies switching to fully recyclable packaging, change is already happening!
Angling Trust blogger Dominic Garnett has been catching up with some of those literally cleaning up on this issue, from the big guys like Dynamite Baits to bold independents Aptus tackle, as well as our own Environment Manager, Dr Emily Smith.
THE ANGLER ON THE GROUND: CHRIS TURNBULL
Many will know Chris Turnbull for his brilliant fishing artwork, but he’s also a conservation-minded and highly experienced angler (or “a bit long in the tooth” as he less modestly puts it!). He’s seen the best and worst of attitudes to litter, but has been encouraged by the response to his Anglers Against Single Use Plastics group on Facebook.
“There is so much tackle, and packaging, nowadays!” he says. “Not so long ago most items were sold loose. There was zero plastic waste and at places like John Wilson’s shop you’d literally count out hooks or sinkers! Nowadays the market is vastly bigger and very competitive, and packaging is all part of the battle.”
Does it have to be this way, though? “A cultural shift is needed,” he says. “It’s up to tackle makers to educate their market and make green credentials a selling point. It’s daunting, but change has to be possible- and we need more anglers to think about the environment, not just the big fish or end product.”
While Chris sees plastic and litter as a society-wide problem, he’s adamant that an angling must act to clear its good name. For him, it’s about setting better standards at all levels of angling, including the careless minority. “Just look at fish care,” he says. “It’s now unthinkable for carp and specimen anglers not to use an unhooking mat. We need the same change with litter.”
“The message has to be consistent and everyone can help” he believes, from media sources to the tackle industry. “The consciousness is growing- just look at the Anglers’ National Line Recycling Scheme”. Meanwhile, he also cites fisheries clubs doing their bit. Simple rules like leaving your peg clean (regardless of whose litter it was) and bans for the worst offenders clearly help. But he also wants to see the industry and tackle shops step up, whether that’s ditching plastic rod tubes for cardboard, or selling bait by the scoop.
“Angling can definitely be part of the solution” he says “but it will take joined up thinking with everyone on board.”
THE INDUSTRY GIANTS: DYNAMITE & NORMARK UK
While non-recyclable waste is still a huge issue, it’s fair to say that parts of the angling industry are already changing. And while we couldn’t cover every company in one article, I have to say that a conversation with Normark UK and Dynamite Baits proved to be both surprising and uplifting.
For Duncan Lennox, Operations Manager at Dynamite, a lot of the responsibility to evolve falls squarely on the industry being brave and pushing change. How refreshing is that to hear?
“As anglers ourselves, this is personal!” he says. “It’s vital we give people the ability to make informed choices. Much of the industry is ready for change- and we’re keen to make the necessary leap forward.”
Digital Marketing Manager Mark Peck fills me in on further details and ambitious targets, along with some direct experience of how public awareness is growing. “People now ask us straight up at events and online about packaging and the green credentials of new products” he says. “We’ve even had the odd one saying ‘you’re too big to care!’ We really take those comments to heart, but in many ways the bigger we are the more responsibility we have to care.”
Anyone can say the right things, then, but it takes knowledge and commitment to take bold action. Switching to fully recyclable packaging is a huge part of this- and Duncan has made it a huge priority for Dynamite Baits. “Most of our flexible bags are now fully recyclable” he says, “and we’ve totally eliminated black plastic which can’t be reprocessed, other than our black trays.”
Dynamite is committed to at least 90% recyclable packaging across their entire output by 2023, but it doesn’t stop there. They are also trying to switch to 100% renewable energy in a similar timeframe, as well as harvesting rainwater for their product processing.
As for the bait itself, this is subject to strict criteria on sustainability these days, and is cleaner and more efficient than ever. Of course, Dynamite is just one part of the Normark family, which now has sustainability as one of its KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). From “Recycline”, (one of the world’s first fully monofilaments made entirely of recycled line), to Rapala’s rapidly rising quota of hard lures that use fully recycled body materials and come in recyclable packaging.
The company are currently working on several strategies to become super eco-friendly. They already use only FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified balsa wood in their current range of wobbler lures and have already shifted to 100% renewable energy at their production facilities.
Nor do these changes always increase costs to the consumer- and Mark cites products such as Carp Spirit Razor hooks where a reduction in packaging to make them more has actually given the customer a cheaper product.
It’s fair to say that there are more innovations than we could easily cover in one blog post! The company has even distributed 30,000 paper bags to tackle shops at its own expense, to help push their ethos of sustainability. Nor are they finished yet by a long way!
“We want to keep going and do even more,” says Duncan. And in line with other industries such as cosmetics, he makes the point that sustainability is no fad these days, but a constant evolution that is becoming more and more cost effective. Great news for everyone?
THE INDEPENDENT INNOVATORS: APTUS TACKLE
While it would be easy to argue that it’s easier for the biggest fish in the industry to act responsibly, it is also great see independent companies doing their bit. Carp and specimen fishing company Aptus Tackle is a point in case, bringing brave steps and an eco-friendly approach to the very heart of what they do. Not only this, but they have very kindly agreed to give an exclusive 15% discount to Angling Trust members, as well as to donate a share of profits to the Angling Trust’s campaigning for cleaner waters!
“As anglers we’re so connected to nature, we should all be fishing in a way that’s eco-friendly. It’s a no-brainer!” says owner Jack Sherrin. But should it be up to the smaller guys and independents? It’s certainly a bold move to go ahead with completely plastic free, card-based packaging. I’m already wondering if the costs are prohibitive?
“It’s slightly more expensive, but not as much as I expected!” says Jack. “There were few commercial templates for what we wanted out there, though, so we had to get specialist help.”
He’s insistent, however, that change is possible. And while it’s up to the consumer to recycle what they can (and Aptus even offer a freepost “return to recycle” scheme!), the best way of all is to stop plastic and future landfill at source. “With much of the tackle we buy, it’s not like food or bait. There’s no physical reason other than being cheap and easy!”
So is it therefore up to the industry? “If there’s something that an angler wants they’ll buy it regardless of packaging, so it’s up to the companies themselves as well as the consumer” says Jack. “It does take extra effort, but hopefully the more consumers become aware, the more pressure there’ll be on the rest of the market to change. If we talk about it more and get these issues in our collective consciousness, that’s when the industry has to act.”
Again, it’s refreshing to hear fresh optimism and appetite for change. Like any savvy carp angler, it’s obvious he has a keen attention to detail- and even their mailer boxes for orders are completely plastic free and biodegradable!
Surely if an independent like Aptus can do it, so can anyone? You would hope so, and while there is still a dizzying amount of plastic in the world of carp rigs and components, other notable players, including Nash, also now making plastic-free or recyclable packaging.
Ultimately, it’s our call as anglers, because our pounds carry real power and innovators like Aptus deserve our support.
THE ANGLING TRUST & ANGLERS AGAINST LITTER: DR EMILY SMITH
Besides all the important actions individuals and companies are taking, another key part of they battle against litter and pollution is in bringing different strands together in one movement. In this respect, Angling Trust Environment Manager Dr Emily Smith sees potential in the bringing together of different groups within the angling world and far beyond.
“It’s vital we work together and bring different communities together. In that way we can open up the conversation” she says, citing the Trust’s partnership work with organisations from the RSPCA and Marine Conservation Society, to Keep Britain Tidy.
Does angling have a PR problem when it comes, to litter? It’s certainly something our Anglers Against Litter campaign has sought to tackle. “Most anglers are doing what they can, but unfortunately some litter is always associated with us- including discarded nets and other items that have nothing to do with recreational fishing!” she says. “A lot of our great work goes unnoticed, so we’re determined to show angling in a better, truer light.”
Among other initiatives, Emily has produced practical advice and a free resources for clubs and individuals to act. These include posters, stickers and other materials, along with a downloadable litter pick toolkit that takes a welcome chunk of the admin and hassle out of mobilising parties of anglers.
Click here to access our FREE resources!
Across all measures, however, runs the message that collective action is the best route to progress. Because as daunting as it can feel as just one person, lots of small actions soon add up; and angling has a huge pool of clubs, organisations and individuals to draw from!
“We want change to come from anglers themselves. If we all act together to do our bit we can make a huge difference!” Emily insists. Aside from group activities, the Angling Trust’s “Take Five” initiative is a great example of simple, regular action that anyone can take. Just imagine the impact if just half of the UK’s million plus anglers spent just five minutes cleaning up, or tidied today’s fishing spot!
“Even if it’s not your litter, you’re helping protect the environment and restore natural beauty,” Emily says. “It’s simple but broad behavioural change that will win in the end- and we can see other areas where public mentality has shifted. Just look at the steep decline of the disposable shopping bag.”
Everyone at the Angling Trust has also been massively heartened by the Anglers Against Pollution campaign, which of course includes plastic pollution as well as the continuing battle against sewage, agricultural run off and other threats. Far from being a fringe issue, we’ve helped escalate this debate on a national level, with additional clout and funds coming from the many anglers donning one of our exclusive Anglers Against Pollution hoodies and t-shirts. Our thanks to everyone who has bought one!
Join the battle for cleaner fisheries today!
The fight for a brighter, greener future and cleaner waters continues. At times it can seem like a daunting battle, but with so many organisations and individuals taking action, there is also cause for genuine hope. It’s up to all of us to take heart, spread the word and play our part, whether that means shopping smart, cleaning up your favourite swim or simply supporting our urgent work on litter and pollution by being an Angling Trust member. Change starts with each of us, today, if we really want it!