NFA makes a stance

The National Federation of Anglers (NFA) has at last come off the fence regarding the long running, controversial issue of maintaining a close season on rivers.

The National Federation of Anglers (NFA) has at last come off the fence regarding the long running, controversial issue of maintaining a close season on rivers. Its top brass wants it lifted unless evidence can be produced to support the 93-day statutory break.

The NFA is demanding a proper, scientific review which is expected to support the abolition. An appeal has gone out to all coarse fish rodmen and women to complete a questionnaire on this thorny subject, available in the NFA's free news sheet Angling Lines, which is distributed in tackle shops.

During the past two years the NFA has been lobbying the Environmental Agency seeking proof that river fish need protection between March 14 and June 16. It has been emphasised that the Environmental Agency spends a disproportionate sum of 70pc of licence revenues on salmon fishing, yet three-quarters of all rod licences are purchased by coarse fish anglers.

NFA chief, Paul Baggaley, said anglers needed to be informed why they cannot fish in the spring months while all other water users are able to enjoy the rivers all the year round.

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“It seems everyone but anglers can take advantage of these waters 12 months of the year, and we actually pay to use them,” he complained. “Ours predominantly is a working class sport, and we need to tell ordinary working people why they are banned from rivers for three months of the year. We believe it is a great injustice.”

Around the turn of the millennium, a salmon and freshwater fisheries review concluded that bylaws should be amended to abolish the close season on rivers and canals, except where it was believed necessary to protect fish stocks. There was no evidence available, yet canals were opened up for all the year round angling while the rivers retained the close season.

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The Environmental Agency insist there was no scientific evidence for lifting the break on rivers because they had been subject to a close season. However, this criteria was not applied to the canals which became exempt at a stroke of a pen leaving anglers still confused.

All rivers, including our own tidals, remain closed for 93 days under bylaws passed by the 1975 Salmon and Freshwater Fishery Act.

Commenting on the special Broads legislation, principal fisheries officer at the Environmental Agency's regional headquarters, Nigel Tomlinson, explained: “The Environmental Agency is the body with the statutory fishery powers, not the Broads Authority. There is no cross-warranting and the Broads Authority enforces separate regulations under their navigation bylaws.”

As popular demand to abolish the break on rivers gains ground, all tidal and non-tidal waters would come under a review and be subject to consultation at all levels.

Throughout the Easter break, holiday anglers were seen fishing the tidal rivers from the sterns of motor cruisers and others were spotted fishing from the banks of the River Wensum in Norwich and on the River Bure at Coltishall.

Most local angling clubs and many individuals now fish throughout the year and the Norwich and District anglers have lopped one month off their own Wensum Fisheries close season.

NDAA chairman, Tony Gibbons commented: “I cannot see any useful purpose in keeping a close season that is not being properly enforced. I do not believe it would harm our rivers to abolish it.”

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