Chris Middleton, Fisheries Technical Officer, East Anglia explains how fishing licence income is reinvested in fisheries across England
Have you ever wondered how the Environment Agency invests fishing licence income? It is certainly something I often get asked by anglers and clubs here in East Anglia.
Whenever this question comes up, one of the best examples I can give is the Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP), designed to reinvest licence holder’s money into projects which benefit fisheries and anglers across the country.
I have been lucky enough to have worked on FIP projects since the programme’s establishment in 2015, and have seen first-hand the benefits it can bring about, not only to angling but to wider habitat improvement.
Within the programme, the Environment Agency and partners have improved long stretches of river and hundreds of hectares of stillwaters across the country. Over the past 12 months, more than £3.5 million has been invested through FIP, funding more than 100 projects, including habitat conservation to protect fish species and boost stocks, and improving accessibility by creating new fishing platforms, pathways and car parking.
Ultimately these projects are about improving the environment for anglers and creating new opportunities. As a snapshot, since FIP was established, we have completed around 850 projects across the length and breadth of the country, with £6 million invested from fishing licence sales alone.
We have worked with hundreds of different partners such as the local Rivers Trusts, the Wild Trout Trust and the Canal and River Trust. Angling Clubs can get involved too - many projects are completed with the help and assistance of local anglers.
What really makes a difference is the match funding partners can bring to a project: they can apply for external grants or connect us with volunteers who are willing to use their free time to give back to the community. We are delighted to have received £2.9M in total match funding this year. It is also great to recognise that over the last 5 years we estimate the amount of match funding has been in the region £11.5M. Therefore, the total value of our investment has more than tripled, delivering significantly more benefits for fish and for our local anglers!
The variety of improvements are diverse, but some typical projects supported through FIP include:
- restoring natural features in rivers and streams such as meanders and gravel riffles to improve habitats;
- providing reeds, cover, and refuges to help fish spawn, feed and evade predation;
- designing and installing fish passes and small weir removals.
In my patch of East Anglia, we spent almost £55,000 in 2021/22 on 16 local projects. The money has certainly been put to good use…
- Working with Verulam Angling Club and Bedford Internal Drainage Board in Bedfordshire, we have nearly completed restoring a stretch of the River Ouzel. This has involved creating new natural berms (mounds of soil designed to blend into the landscape) and coir rolls (designed to vegetate and stabilise the riverbank). The natural berms will help fish spawn by narrowing the channel and increasing the flow of the river, while their steepness will help create a safe area for anglers to fish from. This will be supported by the coir rolls which will help control further erosion.
- At Skylark Lakes in Cambridgeshire, we installed large fishing platforms which have enabled anglers to stay overnight. We have also used the funding to thin vegetation to provide better angling access and to allow light onto the lake which encourages marginal plants to grow.
- Funding has been used to complete a partnership project on the River Cam in Essex with Audley End Fly Fishing Club. The project provides refuge for young trout, invertebrates and other fish species, as well as creating varying flows throughout this section of the river and increasing channel velocity to create in-channel diversity.
Every penny we receive in fishing licence money is reinvested into angling. The Fisheries Improvement Programme is all about using some of that money to improve fisheries, fish stocks and fishing, benefitting anglers up and down the country.
By deciding to take up fishing and buy a licence, anglers will be contributing to fantastic local outcomes that will ultimately enhance their experience. The more people who go fishing, the more projects we can deliver!