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When I was growing up in rural Shropshire on that slightly dilapidated farm of ours, my father often reminded me that if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail. He called it thinking ahead.
Back in those days, farmers in the Marches seemed to have brilliant memories and best I could tell, didn’t seem to write very much down. Dad even kept a record in his head of the arrival dates of swallows dating back to the 1930s. As for me, if I don’t write stuff down these days it’s gone in a flash. I have yet to work out where those thoughts disappear to. You could conclude that, in my case at least, a plan that isn’t written down is nothing more than a fleeting dream.
The launch of the Trusts’ angling strategy in 2013 was a major commitment illustrating to the outside world that the new organisation was rapidly becoming serious about its fisheries and angling responsibilities and the tremendous associated opportunities that could be unearthed to help grow the Trust. During 2014 we undertook a survey of our existing angling club customers. Over 200 of the 224 clubs took part in the survey, which clearly illustrated their passion for the waterways. Here is a copy of the angling survey report.
Eventually it became apparent that to begin to turn things round and deliver what our fisheries needed, I had to lead the way on getting the necessary actions and opportunities down on paper. The concept of the waterway Fisheries & Angling Action Plan (FAAP) was born. There are several possible approaches to determine the content of such plans. Perhaps the most efficient way is for a fisheries expert to just get on and write the plan, making all the decisions as to the content. There are clear advantages to this approach – for a start it’s certainly quicker and less expensive.
On the other hand, get it wrong and big trouble quickly brews. For a start, nobody knows it all in fisheries and angling, it’s way too diverse a profession for that. Getting customers and stakeholders involved, genuinely contributing and bought into the process ought to pay dividends in the long term.
Achieving a significant input from a multitude of internal and external stakeholders does take time and energy. It pains me to say it, but sometimes I’m minded to agree with the often quoted observation of others within the industry that too many in the angling world are signed up members of the apathy club when it comes to getting involved in anything other than actually going fishing.
Or at least they would sign up if only they could be bothered. But, however challenging it might be at times and despite the occasional disappointment of an evening sitting in the half empty room, stakeholder involvement is imperative. In the long run it should produce significant dividends.
Deciding which of the eleven waterway FAAPs to kick off with as a pilot was potentially quite a challenge for Becca and myself. To cut a long story short, Becca won the day and so we plumped for her beloved north east waterway. It turned out to be a wise choice. Jon Horsfall, the local Waterway Manager, was extremely supportive and the attendance at the two stakeholder meetings was close to twenty on each occasion, a record later equalled by the south east waterway. What quickly emerged, following initial stakeholder meetings around the country to which customer clubs were invited, was that the numerous fisheries issues could be grouped into ten broad themes as listed below:
The north east FAAP has now been launched. The other waterway FAAPs and the all Wales FAAP will be available to view online on our fishing pages early in the New Year.
Our FAAPs are by their very nature aspirational and we were clear at the outset that in order to deliver even a fraction of what is needed on the ground, new sources of funding would be required. Take the identified fish passage requirements for example. The cost of upgrading the four River Severn fish passes to accommodate all fish species is many millions of pounds. Only by being successful in LIFE Nature and Heritage Lottery Fund bids can we realistically hope to undertake fisheries work on this scale. Find out more about this by reading the shad blog.
Two important sources of smaller sums of money for FAAP projects will be the Environment Agency’s river & natural fisheries improvement fund and the Angling Trust angling improvement fund.
Should anyone wish to consider partnering with the Trust on a joint bid, in the first instance email me at Fisheries Enquiries.
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.