Anglers Against Pollution

Jamie Cook responds to Barbel Society rant on river pollution

The Angling Trust have responded to an article published online by the Angling Times in which Steve Pope (Chairman) and other members of the Barbel Society criticised the Trust over river pollution.

In pointing out “a few home truths to put the record straight” regarding the action we have carried out to tackle pollution including taking both the Environment Agency and Government to court, Jamie Cook, Angling Trust & Fish Legal CEO, said:

“I live in hope that one day Steve Pope and the Barbel Society might actually follow the likes of groups like the Grayling Society and join us in doing something positive on these issues rather than simply whingeing from the sidelines.”

You can read Jamie Cook’s response in full below:

“I see that once again we’ve been treated to one of Steve Pope’s embittered and fact-free rants against the Angling Trust – an organisation of which he has never personally been a member and from which the Barbel Society resigned because we refused to back their ill-judged, doomed and damaging call for a national otter cull.

Most laughable of his latest claims is that we have been silent on the issue of river pollution and failed to challenge the Environment Agency. So, here’s a few home truths to put the record straight.

  • No other organisation has done more to fight the scandal of pollution than the Angling Trust and Fish Legal and our predecessor organisation the ACA.
  • We have been calling out and prosecuting polluters since 1948 securing millions of pounds in damages for our member clubs.
  • We’ve spent the last three weeks lobbying all the major political parties at their conferences to reform the flawed and weak regulation of the water industry.
  • We were influential in the House of the Lords’ decision to block government plans to water down Nutrient Neutrality protections for river catchments.
  • Last month we, and other campaigners, secured a government amendment for greater protection of threatened chalkstreams.
  • And it looks like our call for the use of court fines for pollution to boost river restoration projects rather than disappear into Treasury coffers will be successful.
  • Back in 2021 we highlighted, in our Broken Waterreport produced jointly with Wildfish, the parlous state of the UK’s creaking and leaking wastewater network caused by decades of neglect and under investment.
  • It is in part due to our efforts that this is now a high profile national issue and major increases have just been announced in the Water Resource Management Plans for the upgrade of failing sewerage networks.
  • We engage the angling community in our fight for cleaner rivers through our Anglers Against Pollution campaign backed publicly by our ambassadors Feargal Sharkey and Paul Whitehouse. You can read how to join HERE
  • Last year we launched our national Water Quality Monitoring Network with sponsorship from Orvis which has seen all targets broken with 545 volunteers from 223 angling clubs collecting 3,000 samples from 170 rivers.
  • Our ‘citizen science’ data has revealed considerable breaches of limits for phosphate, nitrates and ammonia levels and provides important evidence in our calls for action against water companies and other polluters. More details HERE
  • We are a leading member of the End Sewage coalition and have worked directly alongside partners to develop the End Sewage Manifesto which multiple other NGO’s and sporting bodies have now signed up to support.

It goes without saying that the Barbel Society has failed to join the Water Quality Monitoring Network nor make any representations on behalf of its members to the consultation on the Water Resource Management Plans. The Barbel Society are not even supporters of the Anglers Against Pollution campaign which I find quite staggering. To be absolutely frank, I can’t help but feel that Barbel Society members deserve better from their leadership and are rightfully losing patience.

Our legal actions against the Environment Agency are a matter of public record and demonstrate both our transparency and independence when it comes to fighting for fish and fishing. Here’s just three for you to consider:

  • In July this year we took the government and the EA to the High Court in a landmark judicial review of their failure to require Yorkshire Water to upgrade their sewage treatment works that were responsible for the long-standing pollution of the Costa Beck in North Yorkshire.
  • We have stepped in following inaction from the EA to take a rare private prosecution of Southern Water for the pollution of the River Test at Nursling.
  • In 2021 we won a successful judicial review against the EA’s decision to allow a permit application from Natural England to install barriers to coarse fish migration in Norfolk’s Hoveton Great Broad – an important spawning site for bream and roach.

These are hardly the actions of an organisation inhibited from using the law to fight pollution or to call out the EA or the government for not doing their jobs.

Their allegation that we have a “significant conflict of interest regarding exposing and publicising pollution incidents, fish kills etc. to anglers and the public.” is palpably false.

A cursory glance at our websites shows that hardly a week goes past without us highlighting pollution incidents, failure of regulation and enforcement or challenging the government to take meaningful action. Our Fish Legal solicitors inform me that it is rare that in any of our legal actions against polluters the EA are not either listed as a defendant or an interested party.

And, of course, when the EA do take enforcement action, we offer our full support as we did last week in providing evidence in the case against Thames Water’s disgraceful and multiple pollutions of the River Ray in Wiltshire.

Finally, does Steve Pope really have a problem with anglers’ rod licence income being spent on otter fencing, predator control, fishery improvements, tackling invasive species, getting more people into fishing through our Get Fishing programme or helping to put local boots on the ground to provide a much-needed deterrent to illegal fishing through our Voluntary Bailiffs network?

This is anglers’ money, and we ensure that as much of it as possible is ploughed back into angling. These EA contracts are secured through a competitive open tender process and in no way inhibit any organisation from going about their core business. Indeed, it would be strange if, as the national representative body for angling, we didn’t bid for these funds where we feel we can help make a difference.

I realise that however much Steve Pope is exposed to the facts nothing will alter his antipathy towards myself and the Angling Trust, however I live in hope that one day he and the Barbel Society might actually follow the likes of groups like the Grayling Society and join us in doing something positive on these issues rather than simply whingeing from the sidelines.”

Jamie Cook
CEO, Angling Trust & Fish Legal



You might also like