Despite the planned voluntary loss of 1,400 jobs at the Environment Agency and cuts in funding to many programmes, the Grant in Aid to the agency for fisheries work is to be ring fenced at the same level as 2007.
The cuts follow last year's outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue as well as recent increases in flooding which have led the Government to increase spending on flood protection by £49 million and on environment protection by £4 million and are part of a review of the department's £3.94 billion budget after it was realised the department was facing a £1bn overspend in the next three years.
As part of the review, British Waterways sees its Government funding cut from a reported £48.5 million to £34.1 million.
From March 31, the cost of Environment Agency rod licences will increase. A full season adult licence for non-migratory trout, char, coarse fish and eels which currently costs £24.50 will go up to £25.00 from April 1. The junior licence will stay at £5.00 although an eight-day licence, currently £8.75, goes up to £9.00 and the one-day licence from £3.25 to £3.50.
Martin Salter, MP for Reading West and Labour's Angling Spokesman, welcomed the announcement that funding for fisheries work was to be ring fenced and added: "I have been lobbying furiously on behalf of Britain's anglers and have raised the issue of the mismatch between licence fee income and government Grant-in-Aid for fisheries work on no less than three occasions in Parliament in recent months. I am delighted that Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw has listened to the anglers' case and that the important fisheries work of the Environment Agency can carry on."
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative) has asked the Government to abolish fishing licences altogether. He said: "Would the Minister continue his successful run in abolishing licences that are ridiculously expensive to collect and extend his activity to getting rid of fishing licences in England? In Scotland, there is no requirement for such licences."
In response, Lord Rooker, Minister of State (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare) at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "I will look at that."
Anyone 12 years old or over who wants to fish for salmon, trout, freshwater fish and eels in England
and Wales and the Border Esk in Scotland requires a licence from the Environment Agency. Failure
to have a licence is an offence. Those caught fishing illegally face tough penalties, including fines of
up to £2,500 and a ban from fishing.
In 2007 more than 4,300 anglers appeared in front of judges across England and Wales for fishing
without a valid rod licence. They paid nearly £610,000 in fines and costs. In addition, 35 anglers
received cautions from the courts, a man from Hastings was banned from fishing for one year and a
man from Staines was banned for two and a half years.
Anglers can purchase their rod licences at around 15,000 Post Offices; by setting up a direct debit; over the telephone on 0870 1662662 or on-line at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence.