Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pike club makes its position clear

The following letter appeared in today's Eastern Daily Press, in response to various comments concerning pike fishing and the Pike Anglers Club which appeared in its Angling Section last Wednesday.

Letter from The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain

It is unfortunate Roy Webster did not contact us for a comment before writing last week's column, as this may have helped avoid some of inaccuracies it contained.

Firstly, a ban on livebaiting has not moved any closer as far as England and Wales are concerned. We are now given to understand from senior sources there is no ban currently on the agenda, because it has not been included in the areas of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review which are to be enacted by so-called Secondary legislation.

The recent convictions Mr Webster refers to did not tip the balance in Scotland and were not referred to during the debate in the Scottish Parliament, which is freely available on its website.

It is wrong to suggest “just about every other body” believes the current Section 30 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act to be ineffective and “subjected to such abuse it has become nothing more than an endorsement of a two-finger salute to anarchy”.

The EA has just streamlined the procedure to make it more effective.

The Angling Trades Association – whose 50 members include such household names as Daiwa, Shakespeare, Sundridge, Mustad, Masterline and Middy, along with with some of the country’s major retailers – last week came out strongly in support of livebaiting and the Pike Anglers Club.

In a statement, they said: “Bans impose unwarranted restrictions on the freedom of predator anglers to use livebait as a traditional, productive and legal method of capturing fish in fresh water and, indeed, in the sea.

“Unauthorised fishery-to-fishery movements of fish are already illegal, be it for angling or any other purpose, and they can only be prevented by effective enforcement of the existing laws.

“The association endorses the codes of conduct issued by the Pike Anglers Club and others, specifically by encouraging all anglers to act responsibly and use livebait caught on the day from the water being fished.”

You might think having the main trade body in a £500m industry which employs 18,000 people on our side lends a certain amount of credibility. To suggest that we are publicly in denial, accuse us of turning a blind eye to our members’ wrongdoings and state we have a tarnished image is simply laughable.

Where is this secret plant where some sinister criminal network is smuggling fish from the Broads to Ireland? If there’s irrefutable proof why hasn’t it been published?

We’ve been vetting supplies of coarse fish since last May, when we launched a kitemark firms could display on their packaging.

To date three of Britain’s biggest bait suppliers, who between them account for more than 70 per cent of the market, have signed up for it.

We know they mainly obtain their baits from a sustainable source, a large stillwater which is not coarse fished, where coarse fish are regularly netted and sold.

All three companies concerned would be happy to talk about the scheme and why they have signed up to it. I’m sure Neville Fickling would have been more than happy to do so, had anyone contacted him to give the bait industry’s side of the story.

He’d probably also have pointed out the former record pike he landed from the Thurne was caught on a deadbait – not, as Mr Webster reports, a livebait.