Nevin Hunter, Marine Coordinator for the Angling Trust, discusses the role of technology in communicating with sea anglers as we explore life under the new normal.
In November and December last year the Angling Trust ran a successful series of sea fishing forums across the South of England. This was in response to what our members asked for during our survey in July that year. The format of the forums was modelled on the way we had successfully delivered freshwater events, with forums held mid-week on an evening at a location central to a Marine Region and with attendees making bookings online. As a first series of sea fishing forums we identified speakers to present at each event that we thought would be of interest to local sea anglers. We had some great speakers covering diverse topics such as bluefin tuna and the Thunnus project, return of blue sharks to UK waters, wrasse as cleaner fish and How to build participation on family fishing days. Feedback on all was very positive. Unfortunately, election purdah issues meant that the participation of local IFCA’s was very limited which was a pity as we see their involvement as vital for future success and to offer reassurance.
Earlier this year we reviewed the forums and from this identified that in future they should be called Sea Angling Forums, that volunteers would be useful to help identify venues and help with the delivery of the forums. Also that we should consider how we could engage with and increase attendance of non-Angling Trust sea angling members, how we could identify local topics and speakers to engage local anglers and finally how we could roll out forums into new regions, using these as springboards to develop AT Marine Regions. Beyond that we recognised that some speakers and the topics they discussed were of real interest to all sea anglers. So we started to consider how we could make use of ‘virtual’ technologies such as online forums and meeting platforms to deliver these locally and wider…..and then the pandemic struck!
One of the consequences of the current situation is that Government are saying that social distancing will be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future. So, have we just stopped planning or considering how to build on our links to sea anglers? The answer emphatically is no.
Across society the pandemic has seen us all embracing new ways of doing things – privately we have all been ’Zooming’ using Facetime, WhatsApp and a host of other applications and making more use of social media increasing our digital engagement hugely. Businesses have embraced working from home and ‘virtual practices’. Privately and within business practice familiarity has seen us overcome the technical glitches and poor practice that have previously seen as good reasons not to embrace technology solutions. In the Angling Trust we are embracing this working hard to come up with solutions that meet your needs as sea anglers. An excellent example is the use of a Facebook ‘Live Event’ recently seeing our CEO Jamie Cook and Head of Policy Martin Salter taking questions from anglers on our work with the ‘#WeWillFishAgain’ campaign.
It would be wrong to assume that the solution to the current challenge lies solely in reaching out to sea anglers via technology. We see this as a vital and exciting part of the solution, particularly in short-term and are working to adopt best practice. Longer term as ‘normality’ evolves, we recognise that ‘virtual’ solutions need to sit alongside traditional methods of engagement such as our sea newsletters, taking the time to have one-to-one interactions with you over the telephone and with face-to-face forums to move on and even consider a ‘hybrid’ approach combining them with ‘virtual’ delivery. In doing so we hope to reassure sea anglers that we care about the issues important to you. This is our challenge and we need your help to succeed embracing new approaches!