The Connacht Angling Council has unanimously agreed to oppose the introduction of any compulsory angling charge as part of a new Inland Fisheries Bill for 2014.
The decision was made as part of a motion which was passed at the council’s annual general meeting recently, where members voiced their concerns over what they saw as an attempt by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI ) and the State to take control of, and police, Irish angling for the purposes of monetary gain.
The review of existing inland fisheries legislation, proposed by the Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd along with the support of his department and the IFI, began in the spring of last year, inviting members of the provincial angling councils to make proposals that they would like to see included in the new Inland Fisheries Bill. The proposed compulsory angler registration by O’Dowd is in response to the growing concerns of anglers across Ireland with regards to the funding and development of the sector.
It is the view of the council that the angler registration and charge is an attack on the tradition and way of life of Irish angling. Opponents of the charge have branded it a ‘rod licence’ in disguise, despite assurances from the Government and the IFI that this is not true.
“If you go around to people who have been fishing on a lake all their lives, who have been living beside that lake, and tell them that they now have to have an ID card with their photograph and PPS number to fish on that lake, they are simply not going to accept it. You are interfering with a rural way of life that has been there for centuries,” says Martin Kinneavy, chairman of the Connacht Angling Council. “We [anglers] all have one constant in common that binds us together for generations, and this is our rivers and lakes. The ownership and right to use these waters for angling are jewels that we have inherited from our forefathers – jewels our forefathers fought to keep and are not for sale at any cost.
“We are the custodians of these jewels and we must pass them on to the next generation as we found them, intact and without impediment. Once this principle has been conceded it can never be retrieved.”
The council representatives are also opposed to the possible establishment of a national angler register or database, an angler identification card which will include a photograph and the PPS number of the angler, and the imposing of a penalty points system for those found to be in breach of regulations. The council and Mr Kinneavy have ‘grave reservations’ over the possible establishment of such a database, as well as whether the money generated from these proposed charges would in fact go towards the development of the angling sector and the conservation and the protection of the rivers and lakes of Ireland.
“If you have a database and you have control over the lakes they automatically become an asset, an asset with a certain amount of registered anglers fishing it,” he said. “The lakes and rivers are a far bigger asset than angling and would be milked dry by those who crave for their possession to the detriment of all local communities.”
Finally, Mr Kinneavy also believes that the charge would have a knock-on effect for amateur and recreational fishing: “The other thing that people don’t realise about it is that people who would go down to the sea, who throw a rod out and catch a few fish are liable for the charge as well. Every single person who produces a rod is liable for this charge.”
The decision has received the full backing of the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland and its provincial councils, including the Munster Angling Council which has since passed the same motion.