Fisheries Improvement Programme
Thank you to all the clubs and fisheries who submitted proposals by the 31st March. We received over 60 project ideas (totalling more than £400k) that were forwarded to the Environment Agency. They are reviewing all these projects but unfortunately due to the current Covid 19 outbreak they may not be able to contact applicants directly and it appears unlikely that there will be sufficient funds currently to help deliver them. If the works are urgent please consider other funding sources such as Sport England. We will keep the portal open so if you have further ideas please keep submitting them, the Environment Agency are extremely grateful for your interest to protect and improve your fishery and they are committed to support you in the future when time and funds allow.
The programme was established in 2015 and since then the Agency has reinvested over £5million from anglers in projects that will directly benefit fish and fisheries. Last year, 162 projects were completed working with 374 partners, resulting in improvements to 127km of river and 23 barriers to fish passage being removed.
Falling licence sales has reduced the Agency’s income and places pressure in their ability to adequately fund all the fisheries work they want to do. As a result, it has less budget to reinvest in FIP and the Angling Improvement Fund.
However, they still need to develop good projects and ensure fisheries money goes further and works harder. To identify and co-deliver work, the Agency wants to develop a log of ideas and welcomes input from partners via the Angling Trust’s portal.
Please note: the FIP funding does not cover works to prevent predation. Funding for measures to protect fish from predation is administered by the Angling Improvement Fund. Watch out for an announcement regarding a new round of funding in April 2020.
Angling clubs, fisheries managers and other partners can submit project proposals using the portal. The system will ask you some basic information about the type of works you are considering. To help you understand the type of projects that may be supported, the Agency has issued the following advice regarding the priorities:
1. Angling benefits: water where the project is planned must be fished (or there is a demonstrable link).
2. Coarse, trout and eel habitat/passage: these are the key constraints for good fish populations, addressing them will result in more sustainable stocks and improved connectivity
3. Angling access and facilities: platforms, pegs and pathways for rivers and stillwaters
• Ensuring that the needs of less able bodied anglers are considered
• An emphasis on developing community and urban fisheries (which may require both habitat and access work)
4. Improving local evidence: it may be sometimes necessary to undertake investigations to better understand and manage fish stocks. Small investments over and above routine monitoring.
5. Socio/economic and wellbeing benefits: seeking wider outcomes from a fisheries project in particular delivering against Government priorities identified in the 25 year environment plan.
6. Reactive issues: for example managing the impacts of climate change such as prolonged dry weather or other incidents affecting fish and fisheries if needed.
7. Match funding: all projects need to secure additional funds or ‘in-kind’ support.
Anglers often ask us about how we spend the money raised from the sale of fishing licences. Whenever faced with this question, I pause to reflect on the wide range of activities this income pays for in order to protect and improve fish stocks and fisheries.
Our work includes saving fish if there is too much water (floods) or if there is not enough (drought). We manage the impacts being caused by the climate emergency. We improve habitats for fish and provide new access and facilities for anglers. Through targeted enforcement action, and working with other organisation such as the Angling Trust, we protect stocks from illegal fishing. The list continues; we grow and restock fish; we eradicate invasive species and, working with partners, we encourage people to take up fishing for the first time or to return after a break.
For people who want more details there is an annual report which provides more information on everything we do in fisheries.
The number of licences we sell determines our budget and the amount of fisheries work we can do. Recent years have seen the number of anglers falling. This has resulted in us needing to adopt new ways of working and in particular an emphasis on joining up with partners who have similar interests and who can contribute time or additional funds.
The Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP), is a good example of how we do this.
It was first established in 2015 and involves us reinvesting licence payers money into projects which benefit anglers and fish stocks. Over the last 5 years we have spent £3.5m in this way and completed 500 projects across the length and breadth of the country. We have worked with hundreds of different partners from organisations with a national presence such as the Rivers Trust, the Wild Trout Trust, the Canal and River Trust and Angling Trust to small angling clubs and local community groups. We estimate these partners have themselves contributed over £5.5m to the programme in this time.
The result is that long lengths of river have been improved and more fish are available for anglers to catch. As a snapshot, in 2017 we reported that the FIP enhanced 133km of rivers and we removed 23 barriers to natural fish passage. An estimated 120,000 anglers benefitted from these works.
Here’s some examples of the work:
Fencing a river in Cumbria to prevent cattle poaching and improve the riparian and marginal habitat for fish
Deflectors installed in a Midlands river to increase flow diversity and clean gravels and provide habitat for fish spawning
We remain committed to continuing with this programme of supporting fisheries partners and funding co-delivered projects. Through this work we are contributing to the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan and wellbeing agenda as well as supporting the aims of the new National Angling Strategy.
In 2019 the priorities for projects we will fund are:
• Coarse, trout and eel habitat and passage: these are the key constraints for good fish populations, addressing them will result in more sustainable stocks and improved river connectivity.
• Angling access and facilities: platforms, pegs and pathways for rivers and stillwaters. Ensuring the needs of less able bodied anglers are considered. Especially developing community and urban fisheries.
• Increasing fisheries resilience: reduce the impact on fish and fisheries of the prolonged period of dry weather. Also helping smaller clubs to help themselves through providing equipment and materials for small scale works.
All the projects we fund must demonstrate benefits for anglers and those we work with need to provide evidence of additional funds secured or ‘in-kind’ volunteer support.
Looking forward we want to hear from more clubs and fisheries about the work and projects they would like to see undertaken, as well as contacting your local fisheries officer to discuss ideas we are inviting people to register their project interests via the Angling Trust portal.
The Fisheries Improvement Programme provides us with a means of undertaking works that result in local outcomes for anglers who buy a fishing licence. The more people who go fishing, the more projects we can deliver. Please visit the gov.uk website to buy your licence today!