Today is World Environment Day and the theme for 2020 is Biodiversity. Biodiversity encompasses the variety of life on Earth of over 8 million species. From plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, and the ecosystems that house them, there is much genetic diversity among these species but all of which provide the essential infrastructure supporting life on Earth and human development and thus needs our help in protecting it.
World Environment Day makes us anglers consider just how much we appreciate the wildlife and nature around us when fishing. We, here at Angling Direct love nature in all its forms, and we think the changes in seasons can be seen at their best near the waterside. You can never get tired of the beautiful countryside and the creatures that inhabit it. Anglers derive such enjoyment and stress relief from their surroundings that catching a fish is occasionally thought of as a bonus!
Not only do anglers benefit from spending time at the bankside. Angling provides an opportunity for people to become advocates for the environment while being out there and enjoying themselves. There are numerous ways in which recreational angling participation generates positive impacts on the environment.
Anglers are helping by looking after the aquatic ecosystems. As the ‘eyes and ears’ of waterways, many anglers take great pride in being the first to report any events or negative environmental impacts on fresh and saltwater habitats. Those that fish or are part of angling clubs are also usually involved in monitoring the health of wildlife and invertebrates, such as participating in fish count events, working with the Environment Agency and the Riverfly Partnership to carry out ‘health checks’ on the Rivers and Lakes as part of the nationwide Riverfly Partnership Angler Monitoring Initiative or participate in [aquatic] surveys. These surveys and monitoring take part in various forms of water management for the benefit of both themselves and the wider environment. Not only do anglers get a sense of personal achievement from carrying out this sort of voluntary work but, as this work is usually carried out in the local area, this benefits the local community as well.
Unfortunately, not all angling is practised in an environmentally responsible way and there is so still so much the fishing community can easily do to help cut down on environmental impacts. In the spirit of World Environment Day, we, here at Angling Direct have decided to put together a guide to help do our bit.
The widespread endorsement and application of catch and release principles by anglers in wild fisheries help to protect livestock. You can further protect fish by following your local byelaws from on .GOV or research the rules of the fishery you plan to use when angling. Often you will find fisheries outline the bait, rig presentation, hooks and more that is banned from the water to protect the welfare and give all anglers a great session of fishing.
When practising eco-friendly fishing such as catch and release, in addition to choosing barbless circle hooks, keep your catch wet and limit the time the fish stays out of the water to increase the chance of survival.
With fish stocks being finite there are controls such as sensible minimum landing sizes, restricted commercial quotas for commercials, bag limits for recreational fishing and even closed seasons for certain fish and disciplines. Some disciplines such as Sea angling has a slightly different approach as they must make an informed decision about whether to keep a fish for the table or release the catch safely back to the water. Give Fish a Chance is a voluntary guideline for anglers that states the minimal landing sizes for frequently caught sea fish species.
From 2015 there are some Water Protection Zones in the UK but there are still many canals and rivers affected by farming and other agriculture disposals causing major damage to fish populations. All anglers can do is notify local Stewards of the water you are fishing from and support Angling Trust, Defra and Fish Legal in their pushing for government discussions of food product and waste that directly affects surrounding wildlife.
As well as reporting any pollution of the nature surrounding the water’s edge, anglers can also work together with organisations such as Angling Trust to face the problem with poaching and over-abstraction or any other issue on a river, still water or canal, etc. Reports of poaching and pollution are important as it helps local and in some cases national issues that impact the environment to be resolved.
Many recreational anglers are cleaning up litter, not only after themselves but joining anglers clubs and angling-related organisations in scheduled events of litter removal from waterways and surrounding land. Anglers are growing more conscious of the adverse publicity linked to fishing, cleaning up after themselves with fishing line, unused bait and their own packed lunch. If you change your mentality to leaving the fishing area cleaner then what you found it, it will help the marine ecosystem improve.
When collecting up your rubbish from a day at the bankside, go one step further and spare a thought of how exactly you will dispose of it. With old, used fishing line you can save it up and take it to your local Angling Direct store to pop into our line recycling bins.
Whether you are a freshwater or sea angler, if you find that one of your fishing nets has a huge hole that is somewhat irreparable, consider recycling this too as many items such as clothing, footwear and homeware, even sunglasses can be made out of it!
Making changes to what angling products you use can help reduce the negative impact on the environment. One way of achieving this is with switching to reusable, fish-friendly bait such as artificial sweetcorn or lures. Anglers can also opt for biodegradable monofilament fishing line that breaks down faster yet still has the same performance characteristics as the regular line. Using lead products can be dangerous to fish so consider changing the friendlier materials such as steel, tungsten or tin.
Eco-friendly angling also concerns your choice of hooks. By choosing circle hooks instead of J-hooks you can minimize internal damage, especially when practising catch and release. It is also recommended to look for rigs made of materials like glass beads, to pick knotless nets and when you’re picking out other gear like waders or tackle boxes, look for those made from recycled materials. You can even get environment-friendly paper bags or Hessian bags from Angling Direct for the items you purchase.
Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species starts with a cooperative effort by all persons and agencies involved with recreational activities such as anglers.
The general clean, drain, dry, dispose procedure can be used when washing mats, nets, tackle and other fishing equipment. The first step is to clean off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from fish care gear and fishing equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access. It is also a good idea to scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.
If you are using your own fishing boat, remember to clean and rinse boat hulls with high pressure or hot water when possible and rinse the interior compartments of fishing boats with low pressure, hot water when finished with. Then drain the boat motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell, portable bait containers and other water-containing devices before leaving water access. When keeping live bait, drain bait container and replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water.
Many organisms can survive in standing water so remember to dry everything for at least five days or at least wipe with a towel before reuse, especially when moving between waters.
Finally, the additional step of disposal is also recommended to avoid contaminating waters. By correctly disposing of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts rather than dumping into other waters. Together with the three steps of Clean, Drain and Dry greatly minimizes the risk of spreading Aquatic Hitchhikers into new locations.
The use of chemical prophylactics or disinfectants (e.g., bleach) is not recommended for treating watercraft and fishing equipment as it may damage the equipment, cause environmental damage and harm human health whilst not being overly effective against many aquatic invasive species.
Getting young anglers involved in such events mentioned above helps to teach the next generation to respect and understand the environment and wildlife where they fish and join environmental projects that benefit the local community. Also sharing volunteering opportunities with friends and family of your local fishery can help.
Supporting fisheries and related charities and organisations can really make a difference as a collective. Funds help organise events and the resources needed to clean rivers, re-stock waters and tackle poaching and pollution issues! You can help by simply remembering to buy a rod licence before you fish. The small price of a rod licence goes directly back into the Environment Agency’s efforts meaning we are all supporting each other in achieving great quality waters, fishing and the continuance of environmental improvements.
We, here at Team AD also try to do our bit when it comes to waste. In 2019 we teamed up with Korda to reduce the amount cardboard packaging was put to waste in deliveries. Find out the full story on our blog!
We hope these tips can help all of us to work together in protecting the biodiversity of the UK. Whether it's freshwater or saltwater fishing, keep this guide in mind for every trip you take to the water’s edge.