Fishermen win a cut in winter mooring space

November 2017 - Hard on the heels of fishermen attracting widespread condemnation for demanding that more Cormorants and Goosanders must be shot across the country, it seems fishing lobbyists have also persuaded Canal & River Trust to change the rules in their favour, and to the detriment of boaters, as Peter Underwood reports.

It was only when a sign appeared on the Lancaster Canal demanding that boaters on official winter moorings leave a five metre gap for fishermen that most people realised that C&RT had sneaked in another change in the rules without consultation in any form.

Many doubted the authenticity of the laminated notice but Jonathan Ludford, C&RT's top spin doctor confirmed: “This is one of our signs that has been provided to waterways to use where they have winter moorings in areas used by anglers. As pointed out it is a condition in the WM T&Cs.

“There are a couple of places where we regularly have issues (on the K&A), so the sign is intended to try and accommodate the anglers while still allowing Wms.”

Introducing a rule specifying a five metre gap on winter moorings – which C&RT has already stated should only take 50 per cent of existing visitor mooring space – has the potential to reduce the number of boats able to moor by between a quarter and a third, depending on boat length.

The T&Cs now state:

- If the Winter Mooring Site is in a location regularly used by anglers, you should leave at least 5m between your Boat and the next one along to allow space for fishing. You must be prepared to move temporarily to facilitate match pegging and where we are aware of when match pegging will take place, we will give you reasonable notice (usually 2 weeks).

Not only has there been no consultation with boaters generally about another change in the rules, using Terms and Conditions as way of avoiding debate, but the issue was not even brought up at the relevant Navigation Advisory Group committee as one member, Alison Tuck confirmed: “No mention of 5m gap for fisherman! First I heard was that post with the sign! At first I thought it was a joke!”

She went on to say: “I can see a case for specific sites that are fished on a regular basis and are always being fished but it should be up to the anglers to apply for space at that mooring. It definitely shouldn't be general terms & conditions.”

Back in C&RT world Jonathan Ludford told The Floater: “I believe that there is also advice to leave a gap between moored boats in terms of preventing fires spreading, however we know that in places where mooring space is in high demand boats moor quite close together.

“As with many situations on the cut, we’re trying to balance the competing needs and demands of different users and hope that people will take note and have a bit of consideration for each other.”

Many boaters are already concerned that the fishing lobby will be twisting C&RT's arm to include a similar provision in the general Terms and Conditions of every licence – a move that has the potential to shrink available visitor moorings across the country by a quarter or more. One disgruntled boater on Facebook said: “The Trust would be better employed writing into the leases when a fishing club takes on a stretch of canal that no fishing must take place on lock landings, water points and visitor moorings and that boats have priority in all those places – but that would mean putting boaters first.”

Meanwhile, wildlife loving boaters have been horrified by a move by the Angling Trust demanding Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, allows a doubling of the number of Cormorants licensed to be shot in England annually to 6,000. It also wants to shoot more Goosanders which they claim are also 'damaging fisheries'.

The demand is backed by the launch of the catchily named Cormorant Watch 2 - a website where members of the public can record sightings of cormorants, goosanders, red-breasted mergansers and their roost locations – presumably to make it easier to kill them.

Pressure from fishing organisations and businesses saw a previous government introduce a limit on cormorants licensed to be shot of 2,000, with a temporary increase to 3,000. The Angling Trust complains that Natural England has rejected 'several strong cases for goosander licences on the basis of insufficient evidence of need for lethal control'.

It seems the fishing lobby has had a much more difficult time getting its way with Natural England whilst the Canal & River Trust has been a walkover.

Photos: (1st) The official sign nobody knew about until it appeared on Facebook, (2nd) A Goosander with chicks, (3rd) The fishermen's website urging the public to tell them where Comorants and Goosanders are nesting, (4th) A Cormorant turns it's back on it all, (5th) Coming into land - a Cormorant on The Thames. By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK - Cormorant, CC BY 2.0,

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