New unified organisation for angling and fisheries!

The Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) is looking into the possibility of merging with the National Federation of Anglers (NFA), National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives (NAFAC), and the Anglers Conservation Association (ACA), and, we very much hope, the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA)

The Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) is looking into the possibility of merging with the National Federation of Anglers (NFA), National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives (NAFAC), and the Anglers Conservation Association (ACA), and, we very much hope, the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA). However, research into how this might be done is still underway and, so that we do not instil fear into anyone, nothing will be agreed until we have circulated the entire membership for their views on the planned merger – and a postal vote.

So far, S&TA members we have spoken to have been very positive, but the overriding qualification has been that they do not wish to see game angling’s representation being too diluted within other disciplines. This is uppermost in our minds during negotiations, but it is worth standing back and deciding just how many issues we address can be pigeon holed into any one discipline.

Game anglers are interested in the management and protection of game species, as are sea and coarse anglers with their particular quarry, but the well being of the environment is common to all, and there is significant overlap between freshwater and saltwater habitats. Access is equally important to all anglers, as is education and angling development, so that participation is guaranteed for the future. Above everything else, perhaps, we are all passionate about ensuring that not only we, but also our children and grandchildren, retain the legal right to go fishing! A unified approach is far more likely to achieve all these goals than separate, disparate voices.

This was confirmed at the first meeting that angling and fisheries representatives had with the then newly appointed Minister for Fisheries, Jonathan Shaw. Seven members of the Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust (FACT) sat at his office table, all eager to put across our particular issues and, although there had been a pre-meeting to organise who led on which subject, there was an inevitable lack of real cohesion that comes from operating as a single unit. At the end, the minister thanked us all and then added, ‘next time, I want to speak to just two or three of you, representing the whole sector and knowing what you’re talking about!’

S&TA has concentrated much of its work in the last fifteen years on the water environment and species management and conservation, and our members are keen that any new organisation continues this approach unabated. While the structure of the proposed merged organisation has still to be finalised, we do feel that a charitable arm is essential, to allow us to continue and, indeed, expand this vital part of our work. Not only will it continue to influence the protection of our rivers and lakes for future generations, but it will perpetuate one of the three cornerstone benefits derived from angling – social, economic and environmental – and the one most likely to gain support from the non-angling public.

Some organisations presently operate solely within England, whereas others, principally S&TA and ACA, represent members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. How we continue to operate within the other UK countries is still under discussion, although a close working relationship with the existing angling governing bodies will be essential, so that we avoid duplication or treading on toes and, overall, anglers’ money is spent as effectively as possible for the greater good.

As much as we would like to think that anglers will flock to join any new, unified organisation, purely because they see this as a means of protecting their future, the stark truth today is that people want to see what is in it for them! Hence, we are currently researching a package of members’ benefits, the like of which could not be possible from any of the individual organisations on their own. Numbers count when it comes to buying such benefits, and the collective membership of existing organisations, together with the fantastic potential to multiply this many times over in the future, should help us to produce an extremely attractive package to attract all anglers and fishery interests. Not only do we hope to attract people into joining by our good works on their behalf, but we aim to make membership of the new organisation a ‘must have’ for everyone involved in angling and fisheries.

We will seek endorsement from our entire membership prior to our AGM in April this year, by sending out a briefing paper detailing the proposed new structure of the organisation, its governance and the benefits accruing from membership. Every member will be given the opportunity to vote by post prior to the AGM, at which point a resolution will be voted on, taking into account the majority wishes of those who respond. We feel this is the only realistic way in which as many members as possible can have their say in how the future unfurls for angling and fisheries representation.

My conclusion is to reiterate that we see this new organisation as having the potential to greatly improve what the individual bodies do at present. Mark Lloyd, director of ACA, and myself have worked very closely over the past two years with colleagues from WWF, RSPB, National Trust et al, over the Blueprint for Water project, and the ability of these organisations to operate on such an efficient level has been a salutary lesson for us.

In particular, their income levels allow them to employ specialists in particular fields, so that, whereas angling organisations presently have one or two people each to cover all relevant issues, the larger NGOs have departments looking after specific areas of their works. This allows them a much deeper knowledge and, hence, greater influence through operating as a thoroughly professional organisation.

We have to approach, as a single body, the numerical size and income of these other national NGOs if we are to be able to employ the people we need to specialise on all the different issues we cover on behalf of anglers and fisheries interests. Only then, we believe, will anglers exert the influence to which our collective strength aspires.