Well it’s been quite a week recently, set against the turmoil in government circles.
We had meetings with Natural England and the Environment Agency discussing its Broads fisheries management or lack of it and an update on all things Hoveton.
Lets start with Hoveton and the plan to isolate it with Fish Barriers and bio-manipulate its fish stock. After 5 years of campaign and legal challenges, Natural England still can’t conclude all the necessary steps needed to invoke any barriers. So has decided to “pause” its own words and abandon the current concept of isolation set against an improvement in Phosphate levels since it removed much of the sediment and more significantly is the improvement in water quality on the River Bure. So the intention now is to improve the riverine flow into the Broad and increase the monitoring over the next 3 years to measure any further improvement.
We feel this is a significant outcome, set against our long 5 year campaign, which in recent months has shown the wider ecological challenges facing the whole Broads is Climate Change and Salinity and not the single focus on a private Broad, albeit in poor condition to the decrement of the wider system and any precautionary principle.
Whether our co-ordinated campaign on September’s significant saline event brought this to the fore, we don’t know. But our joint legal challenge with the Angling Trust and Fish Legal clearly raised the bar and gave us the right result.
EA Fisheries Engagement
Moving on to the discussions with the EA management team led by Simon Hawkins.
Simon introduced the meeting he had called with us and positioned the EA as being put into a corner by government policy and funding cuts. He felt that more was to come for 2023.
Set against this, he is looking for new ways of supporting environment objectives within the constrained financial framework.
We produced a 15 page evidenced portfolio challenging their ability to provide any meaningful fisheries service within the Broads and surrounding catchment. Yes it was quite expressive in its language as set against other fisheries teams under Simon’s leadership clearly something is amiss.
The local management naturally attempted to defend their teams position, which I personally challenged as poor leadership and gave examples that under my time in business both public and private sector, these sort of performance outcomes would have serious ramifications for both the staff and the management for overseeing it.
We agreed that communications had failed on every level and we would be more than willing to publish some good news if only we had notice.
We could have continued discussions with this challenge looking at the past, but Simon felt the time was right to look forward and giving the political landscape it needed a new approach in working in partnerships, something BASG had achieved previously. But in recent times had become stalled for whatever reason.
Moving forward we agreed in principle to explore a wide range of 3rd sector engagements in order to enable improved environmental outcomes in the Broadland fishery.
We all felt that this is broader than just fisheries, but the whole Broads Ecology and it’s wildlife as they are intrinsically linked. With avian flu being one such example on who should manage the collection of dead carcasses, no different to dead fish, both subsequently left to rot currently with the resultant public disgust.
So we felt setting some high level definition of what service would we want to see provided would be a sound building block.
The next steps would be to define some sort of underlying grouping of activities such as reactive, proactive and defensive. It would then follow on who would deliver these resultant outcomes, either through statutory authorities or through the 3rd sector in a new model of engagement. Something akin to what we see in the Netherlands VBS.
Therefore, there is lots to think about and what this means to BASG and whether anglers should broaden their horizons and become part of a wider Ecological task force to help save the Broads we all dearly love.
Across in the Wensum, finally after nearly two years the bank breach above Bintree Mill has finally been repaired. Not a good reflection on how to look after one of England’s prized SSSI’s.
The Agency has also now also agreed to investigate the health of Wensum Roach, following the initial concerning findings of PhD student Calum Ramage of the poor health of Roach at Hellesden. The EA will be undertaking their own studies with the National Fish Labs based in Brampton in the next two months.
After careful consideration, we have decided that little has being forthcoming from the numerous monthly members meetings we have held since the start of 2022. We have therefore decided to go back to a single annual general meeting and hold focused working groups when needed to progress items forward.
Finally I would like to clarify our position on damage caused by the September Saline incursions. BASG are all volunteers nobody is paid for anything, its volunteers spent 100’s of hours undertaking salinity readings and taking images of dead and dying fish right across the Broads. Be in no doubt the clear evidence is that around a million juvenile fish died through salinity. Yes we were surprised and pleased that the Broads Angling Festival was a success again this year with some excellent weights. But you don’t catch the class of fish that was overcome by saline, that’s next years and the following years target. It’s so easy to dismiss this and just say, well we caught so it must be fine. That’s not what the fishery science and evidence is telling us.