For generations, anglers have wanted a single organisation to represent their interests. They have known that their collective political influence is potentially huge, given that it is such a popular pursuit. However, until now there have always been many different organisations claiming to represent different groups of anglers; we have divided and been ruled. In 2007 and 2008, discussions between all the main angling and conservation organisations took place, with the aim of bringing together all the functions of the major membership organisations into a new, single body for all angling interests. All the organisations involved signed a merger agreement on Sunday 19 October, which was completed on Monday 5 January 2009. This meant that the Anglers’ Conservation Association, the Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust, the National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives, the National Federation of Anglers, the National Federation of Sea Anglers and the Specialist Anglers Alliance all agreed to pool their resources and to create a new organisation called the Angling Trust.
The Angling Trust will, subject to anticipated agreement with Sport England, be the governing body for coarse, game and sea fishing in England. This involves running all the national and international competitions and investing in angling development and education programmes for all disciplines. It will also campaign and lobby government on all issues affecting anglers in freshwater and marine environments: pollution, abstraction, commercial overfishing, aggregate extraction, predator control, access by canoes to rivers, fish theft, poaching and illegal fish movements to name just a few. To do this, we will need to work very closely with clubs and consultatives to find out what problems they face. The Angling Trust is appointing professional staff who will take action on behalf of the members: writing letters, using the media to put pressure on local and national politicians and enlisting the support of other bodies. WWF, the international wildlife charity, has offered to provide funding over the next three years to support a number of environmental campaigns which are selected by the Angling Trust on behalf of its members. The Anglers’ Conservation Association (ACA), which has taken legal action against polluters and others who damage fisheries for over 60 years, has been renamed Fish Legal and is the legal arm of the Angling Trust in England. This means that as well as campaigning and lobbying, the Angling Trust can use its legal know-how to influence negotiations with polluters, abstractors and the government. It is also able to seek compensation for its members when their waters are damaged in any way and to secure injunctions to stop ongoing problems continuing. Clubs or riparian owners wanting this benefit must join Fish Legal in addition to the Angling Trust.
The Angling Trust will also protect recreational angling as a legitimate pastime and promote its benefits for the environment, society and the economy. To protect our freedom to go fishing, we need to make sure that more people understand the many positive things it contributes to communities. Angling has an image problem and we need to do something about that soon if we want our children to be able to go fishing. Individual members of the Angling Trust get all the benefits offered by all the participant organisations and many new and improved benefits, which include magazines and newsletters, free public liability insurance and an exciting new cardless loyalty programme called Fish For Free. This programme enables Angling Trust members to earn points automatically when they shop on the high street with participating retailers (e.g. Superdrug, Halfords, JJB Sports), or online via the Fish For Free web site at over 200 online retailers including eBay, Amazon, Comet, the Trainline and Powergen. These points can then earn members cashback when they make angling-related purchases such as fishing permits, tackle, future membership of the Trust and even their annual season rod licence, or they may be donated to the Angling Trust. Members will receive about 3p for every £1 they spend – far more than supermarket loyalty schemes, and the points can be accumulated in addition to any other loyalty programme such as Nectar. This ingenious new programme will raise money for the Angling Trust from the retailers and provide significant discounts to its members on things they actually want.
The Angling Trust will depend on anglers to support it and we have set a target of 100,000 members by the end of 2010. We need a mass membership to convince government that we are serious and to persuade sponsors and advertisers to give us significant funding. Most people scoff at this ambition because, they say, anglers are apathetic and tight with their money. I think that anglers have got this reputation because they have never had an organisation worth supporting before. Anglers will spend money on something that they think is worthwhile. I think that anglers are crying out for a professional body which will offer them six organisations for the price of one (and it will be much greater than the sum of its parts). They will join a body which offers them a new, improved benefit package which can earn them their membership fee back in cash rewards. They will have no excuse not to join either, because a million anglers will receive a membership leaflet when they receive their 2009 rod licence, thanks to the support of the Environment Agency. And, most importantly, you will join and you’ll tell all your mates to join! You can join online at www.anglingtrust.net or by phoning 0844 7700616 or e-mailing [email protected] with your postal address for a membership leaflet.