Anglers’ fury at English ‘fishing tax’ imposed on Borders river

Anglers’ fury at English ‘fishing tax’ imposed on Borders river
Scotsman – UK

Anglers’ fury at English ‘fishing tax’ imposed on Borders river

WILLIAM CHISHOLM

SCOTTISH rod fishermen yesterday warned of “angling anarchy” over the imposition of a new licence system by an English quango which has provoked a political row north of the Border.

It is claimed that 99 per cent of salmon and trout anglers who fish the Border Esk will refuse to pay £63.50 a year when the licensing system is introduced from 1 April by the Environment Agency, and will lay themselves open to fines of up to £2,500 for fishing illegally.

Although two-thirds of the Esk lies in Scotland, the sizeable catchment has been classified as an English river for more than a century. So management controls rest with Westminster and rod licences are already necessary on the English stretches of the Esk and its tributaries.

The agency says all revenue raised through licence sales would be used to fund river works such as habitat improvements, removing obstacles to migration and increasing angling opportunities.

It claimed the introduction of the scheme followed extensive consultation between the agency and the Esk Liddel Improvement Association [ELIA] representing 30 riparian owners and the majority of fisheries interests.

But the controversial measures will be called into question in the Scottish Parliament later this month and may also face a legal challenge in the courts.

A parliamentary petition bearing over a thousand signatures has been lodged, while the Environment Agency stands accused of flexing its muscles and refusing to consider ‘reasonable alternatives’.

Mark Oddy, ELIA’s chairman, said almost every angler he has spoken to will refuse to pay “this English tax”. He told The Scotsman: “At the first so-called consultation meeting in Langholm, the agency’s officials made it clear they would take no questions and licences would be introduced. That caused uproar and now there is a real danger of anarchy on the river with anglers being prosecuted as poachers.”

ELIA had offered to supply accurate data on rod catches while the fishery owners had also agreed to pay a special stipend equal to the sum the rod licences would raise and hand the money over to the agency.

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