The Environment Agency’s re-organisation, under the title WATERBRITE, came into operation on October 1st.

The Environment Agency’s re-organisation, under the title WATERBRITE, came into operation on October 1st. From a fisheries perspective, the jury is still out as to whether the changes will make for a more efficient service, or, indeed, if fisheries will survive as a recognisable department at local level.

Agency’s Head Office fisheries staff has been strengthened, under the continued leadership of David Clarke. Guy Mawle has moved to the new post of Fisheries Strategist, and there are four more senior staff, plus assistants, to oversee two RFERACs each as well as other national responsibilities. At Regional level, just one dedicated fisheries position remains, as the new structure concentrates on “integrated management” of the Agency’s various responsibilities, with the exception of flood defence, which remains stand-alone.

Integrated management is a sensible approach to operating the Agency, and should benefit fisheries in the future, provided that the department is not absorbed so deeply into other activities that its own structure is completely lost. It is at Area level that the real worries over service delivery raise their head, and where, ultimately, the success of WATERBRITE will be judged. If the Agency cannot deliver a fisheries service at the bankside, then all the integrated management in the world will not save them from the wrath of owners, managers and anglers.

The Agency Area structure includes three six-person teams, each under an Area Environmental Manager who, in turn, all answer to the Area Manager. One of these teams will have a fisheries brief, but some relevant work, perhaps monitoring and enforcement, could also be carried out by members of the other teams as well.

The new system will take a little time to settle in, but after that, S&TA is keen to monitor its effectiveness at local level. We are asking all members, but especially those directly involved in fisheries management, to tell us of their experiences dealing with Agency fisheries staff at Area level. In particular, we want to know how easy it is to contact someone with fisheries knowledge, and how effective the fisheries teams are at responding to local situations. We also want to hear of your efforts to secure Section 30 movement orders to stock your water, although, with the exception of Stillwater fisheries, this may have to wait until the spring.

Please email us with your experiences. We will collate the information over the coming months and make a report for members during 2003, detailing how the Agency is performing in each Area and who the relevant individuals are to contact over fisheries issues.