ROD LICENCE sales are down a whopping 39.4 per cent since 2011, Angler’s Mail can reveal.
Latest rod licence sales figures, just released, and for the 2017/18 season, also show a continued trend of a 14.7 per cent decline.
Total rod licence sales reached a peak of 1,467,000 in 2011/12 which fell to 889,626 by 2017/18.
Environment Agency figures also show that rod licence sales for August 2018, compared to the same month last year are 14 per cent down, with an 11.5 per reduction in the number of people buying a licence.
There were many changes to the now 12-month rolling licence for the 2018 season… including price increases.
The full adult coarse licence had been frozen in price for seven years at £27 licence before going up to £30.
The one-day licence went up a whopping 60 per cent from £6 from £3.75, and the eight-day licence (designed for holidays) rose to £12 from £10.
An EA spokesman said: “We know these new licences have changed sales patterns and we will be able to make an accurate comparison next April.
“Other factors such as an ageing demographic, weather and competition with other forms of entertainment are contributing to a decline in participation in angling.
“We are working with our partners including Angling Trust and others, to get more people, particularly young people, fishing.
“Our latest surveys of anglers show that 93 per cent are satisfied with the fishing licence purchasing process.
“We have not seen an increase in fishing licence evasion which indicates that the number of people going fishing is genuinely falling,” he concluded.
Angling decline ‘reflected in rod licence’
The downward licence sales trend news was no shock for John Williams, chairman of the once-mighty Birmingham AA.
John told Angler’s Mail: “Sadly the fact is that angling as a sport is in decline and has been for 25 years so this is bound to be reflected in licence sales.
“Back then this club had 45,000 members and we are now down to about 9,000, although after two years of stable numbers we have actually increased 3.5 per cent this year.
“Keeping our price the same for four years has possibly helped, whereas the rod licence fee has just gone up.”
John continued: “The biggest decline has been in the number of what might be called social fisherman, lads who were members of a small group based on maybe a pub who used to fish together in matches half a dozen times a year – this has virtually gone.
“This is reflected in the number of bookings for matches on commercials which are well down, and also decline in the number of tackle shops.
“Our membership used to be an association of various groups and clubs but we had to change to individual membership four years ago.
“Lots of good initiatives have been tried to arrest the decline by people like the Angling Trust but to no avail – many who go on taster sessions don’t follow through and there is just less interest amongst young people.”
John continued: “Frankly, at the end of the day, it’s all just like spitting on a fire to try to put it out.
“The only real solution to declining licence sales and numbers of anglers is a radical one – remove the rod licence altogether.
“We are the only sport to have what is effectively a tax imposed on us for the pleasure of participation – canoeists don’t pay to use the water, or ramblers the countryside.
“Surely we pay enough in VAT on tackle and our general taxes to pay for the direct work the EA does on fishing, and clubs could then charge a bit more to improve what they themselves do.
“Money would be saved on enforcement and collection costs. What the EA do to keep rivers clean and flowing should be done anyway.
“Abolition would remove one impediment to people taking up the sport, but I doubt very much if it would ever be considered,” he concluded.
Tackle shop owner Neville Fickling commented: “Overall there is clearly an age factor involved with far more older anglers with fewer younger people coming through – obviously with the older ones dying off, not enough youngsters are replacing them.
“The weather this year has also been dire with the freezing March followed by the long hot summer when many people chose not to go.
“Business at the shop however has been quite steady although not booming,” added Neville, a regular Angler’s Mail magazine columnist.
Will rod licence sales drop ever further?
Many anglers fear the decline in angling is set to continue for the next decade as the internet generation is more interested in phone apps, social media and box-sets than angling.
Naidre Werner, chairman of the Angling Trade Association, commented: “Angling needs promoting to the general public positively and professionally as an activity that benefits families, groups of friends and individuals for pleasure, leisure and health purposes.
“This needs to be the responsibility of every person who has an interest in the sport surviving which could include clubs, fisheries, all businesses, coaches and membership organisations.
“The promotion of angling and its benefits should not be about particular brand awareness for an organisation or a manufacturer, but a singular message about how exciting, interesting and fulfilling angling can actually be.
“National Fishing Month (which is an ATA participation initiative) has benefited from EA contribution money for a number of years, but in 2018, it was halved due to not returning enough data sets in 2017.
“There is no funding received for Take a Friend Fishing, the agency provide the waiver for the free vouchers, the rest of the initiative and its promotion is funded by the ATA individually.
“ATA membership is static currently and tackle sales are being reported as down in some areas with lots of reasons given including weather and World Cup football,” she added.
£4.3m investment to promote angling
The Angling Trust have been responsible for promoting anglers to newcomers since 2015.
They have been given a whopping £4.3 million and that hasn’t halted the decline at all.
The Trust won a tender from the Environment Agency to promote angling and has received the huge sum over the 3.5 year term of the National Angling Strategic Services contract.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Trust, said: “As the EA starts work on updating their angling strategy Fishing for Life for the next five years, we really need to recognise that the decline in angling numbers both here and overseas is part of a wider trend and that it will need radical action to get more young people into the fishing habit.
“We need stronger engagement from the angling trade and from Government if we are to make progress.”
Mark continued: “The Prime Minister announced an end to austerity and we hope that means an end to slashing the budgets of the Environment Agency and getting more resources back into outdoor education and community projects.
“We need to make angling part of young people’s everyday lives and we will campaign and build programmes to get angling into the school curriculum and part of the growing scouts and guides movement.
“This situation is a challenge for all of us as every year the age profile of those going fisher gets older and older.
“The angling media, trade, representative organisations like ourselves, the EA, fishing clubs, coaches, guides, schools and even individual anglers need to step up to the plate and recognise the reality that our sport will wither away unless we can get more people back fishing.
“Government funding for fisheries and angling has been cut dramatically over the past decade and the £20m rod licence income now makes up the vast majority of the money spent by the EA managing fisheries throughout England, where it used to be almost matched by the Government,” he added.
HOW CAN THE LICENCE SALES DECLINE BE REVERSED? Email Angler’s Mail with your opinions on the rod licence slump and getting more people out fishing, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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