Angling Trust condemns call to illegally trespass

The Angling Trust condemns the planned action of Extinction Rebellion and the Right to Roam Campaign in encouraging people to take part in a “mass trespass” on Saturday, 24th April. The action is being promoted as a way of getting people to reconnect with nature.

As we recover from the pandemic, the need to reconnect with our natural world is important.  Natural England has found that most people’s experiences with nature are close to home, with people making more use of nature on their doorstep.  The number of visits to urban greenspaces has almost doubled in the last 10 years. Whether that is a visit to the local park, spending time in a garden, by rivers or lakes, in our countryside or along the coast, being outside and close to nature is a great way to bring us calm, peace, fulfilment and a fantastic fillip for the stresses and anxieties we have all felt during this lockdown. We encourage everyone to spend more time outside, close to nature, but it is incumbent on us to respect nature, to act legally, and to show respect for wildlife.

This action by Extinction Rebellion and the Right to Roam Campaign risks doing untold harm to wildlife, particularly in this time of early spring when many birds are nesting, fish are spawning, and delicate flowers and plants are beginning to regrow.  It also risks exposing people who are new to the countryside to conflict with other groups.

The Right to Roam campaign are calling for people to, ‘…swim in a river that for as long as you’ve known it has been reserved for the exclusive use of fishing clubs.’  This at a time of the closed season for coarse angling on rivers to protect spawning fish.

Jamie Cook, CEO of the Angling Trust, said:

“For decades, angling clubs have worked with riparian owners to establish voluntary access agreements and in turn undertake hundreds of thousands of hours of voluntary environmental improvement work every year to improve habitats and maintain clean and healthy environments. Natural England note that around 4% of the population have been involved in environmental volunteering whereas that figure soars to 57% of the nation’s anglers.

“By working with landowners, managing and enhancing the environment and acting as custodians of the waterways local community angling clubs have created a template which can be followed by others. We would see this collaborative approach to enjoying nature as much more beneficial and sustainable than encouraging people to break the law and completely disregard the Countryside Code at a time of year when many anglers are observing a closed season to allow fish, birds and other wildlife to reproduce and develop in peace.”

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns, commented:

“There are a myriad of ways we can all get out and about and enjoy nature.  England has 140,000 miles of footpaths, 20,000 miles of bridle ways, 16,000 miles of a national circle network, many of which are close to or beside water, and 4,700 miles of canals and navigable rivers in mainland Britain.  Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of new people taking up fishing as a way of getting outdoors and improving wellbeing.

“The Angling Trust has been working flat-out to meet the demand and get as many people as possible involved in the sport at beautiful beginner-friendly locations around the country which are listed on our website ‘Get Fishing’.  We do, however, encourage anyone wanting to get out into nature to do so in a responsible way and within the law.

“Throughout the summer of 2020 we saw the damage caused to our countryside, National Parks and nature reserves by irresponsible behaviour; the litter, faeces, wildfires and the conflicts with those who live, work, and invest hours of their time is protecting and improving our countryside.  We do not want to see this behaviour repeat itself in 2021.”

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