With restrictions easing and months of milder weather ahead it promises to be an exciting time for fishing! In simple terms, the big increase in fishing licence sales over the last year or so also means more money to reinvest in the sport. But how much do you know about rod licence funds and what they are used for? Here are just some of the positive ways your licence is making a difference.
After last year’s fishing boom, a whopping £48 million was invested, thanks to almost a million licence sales topped up by partner contributions and additional government funding (which actually amounts to a great deal more than the face value of licences sold!). Not bad for what remains one of the cheapest fishing licences in Europe!
It would be difficult to summarise the sheer variety of work that goes on in one blog, but suffice to say this encompasses everything from emergency fish rescues to taking beginners fishing (and you can read more in the Environment Agency’s ‘s own annual report HERE). Let’s take a look at some key areas and statistics…
Investing in the next generation of anglers
Perhaps the single most important task for angling as a whole is getting newcomers on the bank. In this respect, licence sales are vital! They also go directly to funding the Angling Trust’s Get Fishing team, who work hard year round to get more people on the bank.
Even with the severe challenge of last year’s covid restrictions, over 40,000 newcomers tried fishing for the first time. This year promises an even bigger boost, with your rod licence money supporting special events, qualified coaches and equipment right across the country. This is work we can all be proud of!
Furthermore, this very year we’re delighted to receive additional support from the tackle trade. Some of the biggest brands in the sport are helping with development, while major retail chain Angling Direct are also generously stepping up to help give thousands of new anglers the best start possible.
Improving freshwater habitats and fisheries
Another key task supported by fishing licence funds is a huge variety of work to improve fisheries and the habitats that ensure healthy fish stocks. This could mean anything from boosting natural cover to help this year’s fry, to the 58 new fish passes constructed last year alone!
Much of this habitat work is done by organisations such as Rivers Trusts who receive funding for specific projects that include a contribution from fishing licence funds. It’s not just big organisations and huge projects like fish passes that get funded by licence sales though, every year, hundreds of thousands of pounds go to the best small projects suggested and delivered by angling clubs fisheries and and community community groups at grass roots level.
Key to this is the Environment Agency’s Fisheries Improvement Program (FIP). Using match funding and partnership work, our licence money is stretched as far as humanly possible each season, across lakes and rivers alike. This covers a huge spectrum of work, from creating fish refuges or putting in vital spawning gravels to new fishery car parks, disabled access and new pegs. In fact, in 2020 alone, 515km of river habitat was improved, alongside 185 hectares of stillwater habitat.
If you’re curious to know more, take a look at our blog archives for some key projects, from conservation works on historic venues such as the River Medway to the inspiring projects like Kingfisher Pond. Of course, our freshwater habitats also have many challenges to contend with- nobody is disputing this- but we’re determined to dedicate as much money and support as possible to improving what we have, and your licence funds make a big difference each year.
Restocking waters and scientific expertise
One of the biggest successes of your licence money has been the development of Environment Agency Calverton National Coarse Fish Rearing Unit. Leading the way with scientific expertise and innovative solutions, this operation produces in excess of 500,000 mint-conditioned fish every year, from roach to barbel and genuine crucian carp.
While the centre can’t stock every fishery in the land, it has been a lifeline for many waters hit by pollution and other challenges, giving them a kick start with healthy stock fish that will become tomorrow’s specimens. Check out our blog post on the centre for a behind the scenes look at the brilliant work your rod licence money directly funds!
Expert fisheries support and protecting fish from predation
Another key role of licence funds goes to providing expert support for fisheries, including predation defences. Thanks to your licence money, the Angling Trust has full time fisheries officers who are there to advise clubs all over the country. You can read more about Jake Davoile in our bog archives, who is a great example of the expertise offered and the difference this can make.
Besides staff on the water, your licence money also goes to the Angling Improvement Fund (AIF). This ring-fences funds to help with all kinds of improvements to fisheries. In the past five years alone, it has also helped fisheries with well over £500,000 worth of otter fencing to protect specimen fish.
Surveys, fish rescues and emergency intervention!
With issues such as pollution and climate change, our fisheries sometimes need urgent action to deal with threats. Much of this work would not happen without the vital contribution your rod licence money makes.
Hundreds of crucial surveys take place every year right across the country to assess fish stocks and water quality. Meanwhile, anything from pollution outbreaks to droughts and floods can affect fisheries- and licence funds support hundreds of emergency actions and around 1000 fish rescues each year! Check out our blog archives for a direct report from a fish rescue in progress, following flooding in the Midlands.
Combatting litter and invasive species
These days, anglers are more painfully aware than ever about the blight of litter, plastic pollution and invasive species. All of these issues can threaten the life on our waters and spoil the enjoyment of angling, which is why we’re committed to helping with direct action and long term solutions.
Licence money is a big help here, supporting national campaigns such as Anglers Against Litter and the Check, Clean, Dry campaign to prevent the spread of destructive invasive plants and animals, such as signal crayfish, Himalayan Balsam and floating pennywort (below).
Thanks to this funding, we are also able to hire a full time Environment Manager in Dr Emily Smith, who works on our various key messages and campaigns to make angling part of nationwide solutions to these ongoing issues. In response to the call for anglers for more support on this issue, further funding has been provided this year to fund two further full time Environment Officer roles. On the 25th May, a new national Floating Pennywort strategy was launched to encourage more coordinated action on this invasive plant across the country. These two new roles will help to facilitate action on this invasive plant, as well as providing advice to anglers on how to reduce the risk of invasive species spread, encourage litter picks and adopt other reduce, re-use, recycle opportunities to reduce litter pollution.
Among other activities, we provide resources such as posters, stickers and free downloads to empower clubs, fisheries and individuals to undertake litter picks, and ID sheets to help identify invasive species
One of the crucial ways the entire angling world gets such incredible value for money is through its use of tens of thousands of volunteers. It’s thanks to their efforts that so many of our fishing clubs can function at all, offering amazing value as a direct result of all the free help on offer.
Given this priceless asset, it’s only right that we support these generous people and ensure they feel safe and valued. On that basis, we have a National Volunteering Manager, who is there to empower this huge support base and to help angling clubs to make the best use of them. Judging by the amount of awards our volunteers win each year, it’s another modest amount of funding that goes an awfully long way!
To find out more or see how you could get involved, take a look at our dedicated volunteering section on the Angling Trust website.
Fighting illegal fishing
Another key function of rod licence money is to combat poaching and illegal fishing of all kinds. With a vast amount of water to cover, this is a huge task. Hence, licence funds not only support Environment Agency officers, but have funded training for the Angling Trust’s 500 strong Voluntary Bailiff Service.
Of course, this battle is ongoing and requires the eyes and ears (and reports!) of anglers, but the VBS is already the single biggest source of national intelligence on wildlife crime. This close season, Operation Traverse has been running patrols right across the country to tackle those breaking the rules and threatening fisheries. Recent cases include a Lincolnshire angler who was fined £1100 and had all his gear confiscated for illegal fishing and the unlawful removal of fish- thanks to efforts from the VBS and Environment Agency working with angler reports.
Our enforcement section has more on all aspects of this key area.
Don’t cheat on angling: carry your licence with pride!
While there are big challenges still ahead, we are hugely optimistic for 2021 to be a great year for fishing, thanks to every law-abiding angler. We can’t spell this out any clearer than saying categorically that every single licence sold makes a difference to the sport you love!
Don’t forget to renew your licence when it’s due. If you’re in any doubt about which particular licence you need, our handy blog post on choosing the right one is worth a read too.
Thank you for your support!