Anglers claim Government planning compulsory charge
Government local election candidates told to expect voting backlash if fee is imposed
Fishing on Lough Ramor, Virginia, Co Cavan. “People think if they pay the angling contribution, they can fish anywhere in Ireland, but that is not the case. It just allows them to own a fishing rod.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Government party candidates in the May local elections are facing a concerted campaign by anglers similar to that during the rod licence dispute if the Government proceeds with controversial plans to introduce a compulsory angling charge.
Anglers claim that under new proposals aimed at updating the 1959 Fisheries Act, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources plans to introduce a series of measures including a compulsory angling charge for all game, coarse, pike and sea anglers.
They say the draft proposals drawn up by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) for the department also involve the introduction of a national angler register, an identity card for anglers and a penalty point system for anglers.
Inland Fisheries Ireland is the State agency charged with management of inland fisheries and sea angling in Ireland. The department stressed that nothing had been decided yet in terms of the content of the planned legislation.
Although the proposals have received the support of the Angling Council of Ireland, the umbrella body for most of the angling federations, it has provoked an angry response from the two main game angling federations, which are not represented on the council.
The Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland, which has 16,000 members, and the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers, which has 12,000 members, are both opposed to the charge and have expressed concern about the planned legislation.
Those two associations withdrew a number of years ago from the Angling Council. The only game anglers represented on the council now are members of the Salmon and Sea Trout Recreational Anglers of Ireland, who are supporting the new measures.
However, the Government’s proposals will affect all anglers, including members of the Irish Federation of Pike Angling Clubs, which has 5,500 members, and which last month voted at its annual general meeting to oppose the proposed new compulsory charge.
Concerned anglers have already prepared a draft leaflet to be given to all Fine Gael and Labour Party candidates in the local elections, warning that they will not get the votes of the majority of anglers if the Government proceeds with the new legislation.
They have also organised a public meeting at the Hibernian Hotel in Mallow, Co Cork, for next Saturday, April 12th, at 5.30pm and have contacted clubs throughout the country and invited all anglers to attend to show their opposition to any such moves.
Already, Trout Anglers Federation regional councils in Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster have all voted to oppose the proposed compulsory angling charge. One Trout Anglers Federation source has said they see the plan as an attempt by the State, through the IFI, to take over local fisheries run by clubs.
“It is estimated that angling is worth €755 million annually to the Irish economy but this plan will be detrimental to angling and angling clubs,” a federation source said. “That angling is worth €755 million is down to the angling clubs, not the IFI. That is because anglers maintain and develop the rivers, train the youth and put in stands for disabled anglers and we do it all on a voluntary basis – that’s our contribution to our sport and we don’t need to pay a fee to do the work.”
According to the Trout Anglers source, anglers, as it stands, pay for an annual or daily permit from a local club to fish the club’s waters and the money goes to the club to develop and maintain those waters for both local and visiting anglers. However, under the new proposal, anglers will have to pay an annual compulsory angling charge which will only allow them to own a rod and which will go to the IFI, with the anglers still having to pay for a permit from a club to fish its waters.
“People think if they pay the angling contribution, they can fish anywhere in Ireland, but that is not the case. It just allows them to own a fishing rod; they will still have to pay for a permit to fish on a particular fishery, be it owned by a club or the IFI,” the source added.
“Unfortunately the way this is going, we may end up going down the road of 1987, 1988 and 1989 with the rod licence dispute where we will block the tourists from fishing. “The State is looking for complete control of lakes and rivers, which we will never hand over.”