Government to boost fish stocks

Millions of anglers are expected to benefit from Government plans for new powers designed to improve freshwater fishing across England and Wales.

Fisheries Minister Ben BradshawThe measures, which are aimed at boosting stocks of fish, will put in place better controls to prevent the introduction of alien fish species; remove obstacles stopping fish reaching breeding and feeding grounds; and help to address the growing problem of fish theft.

Announcing that the new laws would be brought in as soon as possible now that a Government review had been completed, Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Angling is our most popular leisure pursuit with huge social, health and environmental benefits. Our existing laws are out of date and not effective enough. The new laws should mean better conservation and regulation ensuring a better future for anglers."

The government intends to use secondary legislation under the Regulatory Reform Act, the Water Framework Directive and other recent European measures to achieve the improvements.

However, cold water has been poured on the proposal by the Countryside Alliance. Alliance Campaigns Director Rob Gray said: "New laws are welcome, but the Environment Agency does not have the resources to deliver existing legislation. Defra has cut the Environment Agency fisheries management grant from £6.3 million to £5.9 million in 2006/7. The Minister says he wants to boost stocks of salmon, but he cut  £250,000 from the EA's Salmonid Improvement Project. He says he wants to prevent the introduction of alien fish species, but he cut £150,000 from fish movement enforcement.

"We support Defra's aspiration to improve fisheries, but we believe that new laws can't make up for funding cuts. It is time the Government as a whole faced up to the appalling unfairness of rural issues."

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