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Angling Trust chief executive, Mark Lloyd brings you this week’s blog.
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CANOE UNION IS UP THAT CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE
THE Angling Trust has been getting increasingly concerned at the conduct of the British Canoe Union (BCU) and Canoe England (CE) who are encouraging canoeists to defy the law and paddle illegally through our members’ waters.
They have been promoting a ‘Right to Paddle’ campaign for several years and simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of limitations on navigation in civil law.
Both organisations promote canoeing guides and events which encourage canoeing on rivers where there is no lawful right of navigation.
They have also hinted on their web sites that the law might not be clear about whether there is or is not a right to canoe on any river.
As a result, canoeists get the impression that they can go where they like and organised trespasses are also becoming all the more commonplace and are promoted through the ‘independent’ website ‘Song of the Paddle’ which promotes what they call ‘open canoeing’.
The Angling Trust recently asked Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to confirm the Government’s position on this and he strongly rebutted the notion of an automatic ‘right to paddle’ up every stream, brook and river in the country regardless of the impact on either the environment or other river users.
He stressed that there will be no legal right to paddle without the riparian owner’s permission.
Q – Angling Trust: Will you rule out a statutory ‘right to paddle’ for canoeists?
A – Richard Benyon: I want to be really clear about this. While we want more people to get out and enjoy activities in the countryside they must be complimentary. There are plenty of places to canoe where it is appropriate and others where it is not. There will be no change to our policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as the only way forward. Anglers and fishery owners spend a lot of time and money caring for our rivers and streams and their rights deserve to be respected
We’re not anti-canoeing, by any means. All we want to see are some sensible rules, agreed on a river-by-river basis, that make sure that canoeing doesn’t interfere with anglers (who pay a licence and a permit to fish) and that canoeing doesn’t cause damage to the natural environment.
Most sensible canoeists support these agreements, because they don’t want conflict and they are generally very keen to protect rivers.
The BCU is standing in the way of these agreements, because they insist that any agreement must allow them to go paddling whenever and wherever they like.
We’d all like to be able to go fishing wherever and whenever we liked, but there are rules in place to restrict angling so that there aren’t hundreds of anglers fishing the same pool and to protect the natural environment.
We’d all also like not to have to pay for our fishing, or carry a rod licence, buy by doing so we help fund the management of our waters and we can also be identified if any of us breaks the rules.
The BCU expects their members to be able to paddle wherever they want, pay nothing to anyone and carry no registration so that it’s difficult to identify paddlers who break the law.
I don’t think that’s a responsible position for a national governing body of a sport to adopt, and we have written to the BCU to say so.
Previous experience suggests that this will fall on deaf ears, but at least the Angling Trust’s position is supported by the Government and the Environment Agency.
If anyone wants more information about canoeing and the law, please download our statement on this issue here.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone reading this. If you’re not a member, why not make “join the Angling Trust and Fish Legal” one of your New Year’s Resolutions?
It only takes a few minutes to join online at www.anglingtrust.net or over the phone and costs less than 50p a week – please call 01568 620447 during office hours.
THE NEXT ANGLING TRUST BLOG WILL APPEAR ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22.
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