I wrote, almost exactly a year ago, about why I was taking a punt and joining the Angling Trust. Even then, as a long term cynic of what the Trust could deliver for us sea anglers, I was portraying joining as a free gamble, with the sign up gift being worth just as much as the cost, in the form of a tackle voucher. Insurance came with it too, so it really was an immediate return with no risk of outlay.
Little did I know, at that point, just how much the Angling Trust would be required by anglers of all disciplines within 2020. I’m sure my contribution was but a speck in the ocean in what they been have required to spend to fight our battles this year, not just in ensuring angling maintained its place as an allowable form of exercise during various lockdowns and tier structures, but also in many of the less publicised cases their sister body, Fish Legal, pursue on our behalf.
I remain acutely aware that the long term perceptions of the Angling Trust, stemming from the recreational bass fishing restrictions and other issues besides, is not a good one. Even their efforts to pursue our right to fish during lockdowns has drawn criticism from some quarters, questioning if this is seeking loopholes in a way that is negative to the collective aims of the nation. However, all they have done is fought for the collective rights of anglers to continue to enjoy those rights where a safe way of doing so can be demonstrated.
Even if you disagree with the objective on this occasion, take a step back and appreciate the effort, research and sheer persistence in delivering this on behalf of anglers. What are the odds that next time a right to fish threatens to be eroded, you are content for it to be so? On this evidence, the Angling Trust won’t be content and will continue to fight to protect those rights.
So what has changed about the Angling Trust? I’m a great believer that things only ever change if there is a change from the top down. What a first full year it has been for the relatively new CEO, Jamie Cook. The first time, certainly in my life and I’m fairly certain for generations before, that an outright ban on angling has been threatened and indeed for a while implemented, whilst the impacts of Brexit on recreational anglers needed considering, the possibility of a recreational fishery for tuna grew in momentum, restrictive highly protected marine zones were threatened to be pushed through with minimal consultation and there were campaigns to increase the number of bass we can retain. All of this, just on the saltwater side, that the Angling Trust have the least financing for.
Despite the lack of funding, Jamie has routinely reached out to and engaged with numerous sea anglers, keen to ensure we are not the forgotten wing of the sport. Specific considerations to the social distancing benefits of sea angling were presented, acknowledging the unique differences of sea angling to various forms of coarse angling. All anglers rights, regardless of whether they had paid up as a member or not, were represented and protected.
You could consider it the baptism of fire for Jamie and the rest of the Angling Trust team, though with great challenges comes great opportunity. Last year, in the earlier referenced feature, I argued that the situation with the Angling Trust and sea anglers was one of chicken and egg. The Angling Trust routinely stated it needed more sea angling members to sign up to have the funding to properly represent them, whilst us anglers argued we needed strong evidence they were up to representing us before parting with our money. Funded or otherwise, the Angling Trust took the bull by the horns and represented us – we have the evidence now, the argument of a lack of proof has been eroded.
I didn’t foresee there to be a situation where I would be renewing my Angling Trust membership as anything more than a continuing reluctant cynic believing we may as well get some form of representation, because it is them or nothing. However, I am now here, as an absolute advocate of the Angling Trust, with full confidence and belief in its leadership. I am not saying it is perfect, but I am incredibly optimistic of what they could achieve with out funding and support.
Even if you remain unconvinced, let me refer you back to last years argument – the gamble remains risk free, there’s just a whole lot more evidence for the greater returns now.