Midlands angling club warned it could lose fishing rights after holding fishing match in lockdown

Angling Trust boss warns against ‘irresponsible actions’ that puts fishing at risk

An angling club has been warned that continuing to hold illegal fishing matches during the current lockdown in England could result in the loss of their fishing rights.

The Canal & River Trust (CRT)  have written to HanKat Angling Society, based in the West Midlands, after a fishing match was held on a local canal at the weekend in contravention of the new Covid-19 regulations which includes restrictions on attending or organising public gatherings of more than two persons, including  sporting competitions. This was backed up by the Environment Agency and the Police. The offence attracts fines of up to £10,000.

The email to the club from the CRT West Midlands Fisheries Team says that as well as breaching the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations, “the organising of competitions at this time is contrary to the guidance of the Angling Trust and Canal & River Trust.”

It adds: “Providing that no further events of this nature take place during the current lockdown period, then Canal & River Trust would be prepared to consider the matter closed. However, should you go ahead and organise further match fishing events we would, regrettably, have little choice but to escalate the matter to our legal team as to what the Trust would need to do in order to ensure compliance with law, including the termination of your club’s angling agreement and termination of angling agreements for any club(s) who permit match fishing events to be held upon their waters.

“This is something we very much hope we can avoid having to do, for it would not put angling in a good light at this time and undo the work the fisheries team have been doing behind the scenes in fighting the case for angling to be allowed to continue.”

The CRT have asked the club to confirm in writing that no further matches will be organised during the current lockdown.

While pleasure fishing can continue during the current lockdown, the tightening of the Government’s rules on ‘gatherings’ means that match fishing or any other organised fishing or amateur sporting event is prohibited by law until December 2nd. Part Three of the regulations state:

Participation in outdoor gatherings

9.—(1) No person may participate in a gathering which—

(a) takes place in a public outdoor place and consists of more than two people, or

(b) takes place in any other outdoor place (including any outdoor part of a private dwelling) and consists of two or more people. (Para 8)

The Angling Trust has cancelled all its fishing competitions during the lockdown. However, competitive fishing will be able to resume once there is a return to the three-tier system of restrictions.

West Midlands Police are aware of the match which took place on Saturday 7th November and have confirmed that they will be writing formally to the club to remind them that the Coronavirus regulations do not permit organised gatherings of this kind. The police website states:

As a last resort, failure to comply will mean we’ll use our powers. We have the power to:

  • disperse gatherings of three or more people who aren’t from the same household/support bubble
  • remove a person from a gathering to their home
  • close any premises which are required to be closed under the legislation
  • issue a fixed penalty notice of £100
  • issue a fixed penalty notice of £200 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence up to £6,400

They also include on their website an online form enabling people to report breaches of social restrictions.  

Dr Graeme Storey, National Environment and Biodiversity Manager for the Environment Agency, said:

“The Environment Agency are delighted that fishing can continue through the current lockdown period. The Angling Trust have published detailed guidance and we would ask all anglers to familiarise themselves with this to ensure that anglers stay on the correct side of the law. We have seen great growth in fishing this year and angling is currently viewed positively by the general public. It is vital that anglers continue to act responsibly.

“The EA enforcement team will be out on the bank and there to help anglers to ensure that we keep our fisheries safe and that anglers are adhering to the law. We have received reports of a small number of match competitions being run this weekend – for absolute clarity these are against the law.”

Jamie Cook, CEO of the Angling Trust, added:

“I want to thank the vast majority of anglers for fishing responsibly during this lockdown. It is clear from the messages we have received that, despite the restrictions, thousands of anglers are adhering to the guidance and still enjoying their fishing. I understand the frustration of competition anglers, but it is absolutely vital that anglers continue to fish safely, locally and responsibly throughout this pandemic. The last thing we need to see is irresponsible actions like this that brings angling into disrepute and endangers the hard-won concessions we have achieved for us to keep fishing throughout the lockdown period.”

If you are an angler, club or fishery and you are unsure of what you are permitted to do during the current lockdown, the Angling Trust has produced a series of guidance notes which can be downloaded from the Angling Trust website and stored on mobile phones.

Venues & Travel

Fishery Management

Clubs & Fisheries

What You Can and Cannot Do

Boat Fishing

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