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Griff paddling up the wrong creek


Griff paddling up the wrong creek

Griff Rhys Jones has been promoting his new television series by sticking an unwelcome oar into the issue of access to rivers by canoes and other craft. He has suggested that “we should disturb as many fishermen as possible” because “...the river isn’t there for a few, but for the many”.

The Angling Trust is alarmed that the actor might be advocating trespass or other illegal action and that he is not aware of the damage that unregulated access might have to the ecology of river systems.

The established law of the land, tested in the courts, is quite clear – with a few notable exceptions such as the Thames and lower Wye there is no public right of navigation on non-tidal rivers. In common with fishing, swimming, and all other activities requiring access, the right to canoe is a property right, whether it be in a river running through a private garden or the open countryside.

Fishermen are not ‘the few’ – estimates of the number of anglers are as high as 4 million. Angling clubs and riparian owners pay very substantial rents and capital sums for the pleasure and right to fish. Freshwater anglers also pay for an Environment Agency licence to use a rod and line which contributes about £25 million each year for fisheries conservation, as well as £3.5 billion to the UK economy. Angling is not allowed at certain times of the year to protect spawning fish. Anglers also invest huge sums in maintenance and improvement of rivers, and are responsible for monitoring and reporting pollution and other damage. Anglers have campaigned tirelessly for generations to improve water quality in all watercourses.

Angling clubs and riparian owners are actively offering Voluntary Access Agreements to canoeists. These agreements are designed to maximise access while protecting both conservation and angling interests. The Angling Trust has tried on several occasions to set up national meetings with the British Canoe Union, but has yet to receive a response. The BCU has been campaigning for nothing short of unregulated, 365 day access, without paying a penny for the upkeep of rivers.

The Government and Environment Agency have repeatedly stated that they support voluntary access agreements.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: “We are calling on Griff Rhys Jones to retract immediately his calls for canoeists to cause disturbance to anglers and to trespass. Anglers have a legal right to go fishing in peace and we are working with local canoe clubs to develop sensible agreements to increase access to rivers. The actor’s comments are uninformed and potentially dangerous.”

The Angling Trust recently released a policy statement on inland navigation which can be downloaded below.

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