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Angling Trust campaigns coordinator Martin Salter brings you this week’s blog.
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SCORING A HIT WITH THE NATIONAL MEDIA
WE ARE delighted that the BBC Radio Four flagship programme Face the Facts decided to pick up on one of the major Angling Trust campaigns which is aiming to see radical reforms to the way water is abstracted from our rivers.
Tomorrow at 9pm on R4 you can hear the episode ‘Sold Down the River’ which focuses on the price our are rivers paying for cheap water and the Charter for Chalk Streams which we launched in May.
Following the unprecedented winter drought in early 2012 national wildlife and conservation organisations were brought together by the Angling Trust in an alliance with local river restoration groups to press the government and its agencies to radically reform water policies to enable England’s endangered chalk streams to return to good health.
The Charter for Chalk Streams followed on from a special chalk stream summit held last December chaired by George Hollingbery MP and organised in Hampshire by the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association.
At the time the Charter for Chalk Streams only received any serious coverage in the specialist and angling media but that all changed this week when the BBC Radio Four flagship programme Face the Facts devoted a whole episode to the plight of England’s chalk rivers in a special ‘Sold Down the River’ programme. It focuses on the price our are rivers paying for the government policy of cheap water and how the Charter for Chalk Streams provides the case for change in the way water resources are managed and costed.
FACE THE FACTS
The Face the Facts team contacted the Angling Trust shortly after the launch of the Charter for a background briefing on the problems facing our chalk rivers.
The timing was considered particularly relevant for a national programme with the publication of the government’s disappointing new Water Bill following hard on the heels of the Charter’s call for radical action.
I was interviewed along with Environment Minister Richard Benyon, Rob Cunningham Head of Water Policy at the RSPB and representatives from local river restoration groups, The Environment Agency and the water companies.
The programme heard how water consumption per person has doubled in the UK since the 1960’s and compared the condition of Dick Walker’s once favourite and now chronically over-abstracted River Beane in Hertfordshire with nearby fast flowing River Mimram. They demanded to know why governments have not taken seriously the need for both abstraction reform and effective measures to cut demand and improve storage.
One of the great challenges for those of us involved in campaigning for angling and fisheries is to get our message out to the wider world beyond the confines of the fishing media. Whilst we are incredibly grateful for the support that the Angling Trust receives for its work in Anglers Mail and in almost all the specialist fishing publications if we are to be successful it is vital that our message is heard by both the general public and by those who are in a position to influence policy. The award winning BBC Radio 4 Face the Facts is a programme with a proven track record of making governments sit up and listen.
The depth of expertise that the Angling Trust now in its ranks is taking our campaigning and media work to new levels of professionalism not seen before in angling in the UK. Because the Angling Trust is taken seriously we now have excellent access to decision makers both in government and across the relevant agencies and national organisations.
However, the challenge remains to get them to do more than acknowledge the need to give our rivers the protection they need but to actually do something about it. That’s why the coming months will see us working hard to try and strengthen the current lily livered Water Bill as it goes through Parliament.
‘Sold Down the River’ can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer here for the next year.
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