The new Minister for Sport sees a long term solution to angling problems. (A fictional story)
“Good afternoon Minister, can I welcome you to your new office as Minister for Sport” said the rotund Director for Culture, Tourism and Sport. Taking a seat at his new desk the Minister turned to look out the window and noted his view of Arthur Seat was obscured. With a resigned groan he recognised his place in the pecking order of government was not of the highest.
The Minister looked up and sighed “Thank you, John”, unpacking his brief case. All he wanted was a few minutes of peace to set out his pencils in proper order, an OCD quirk of his, “It’s been a busy morning.”
“Yes Minister, I understand that you have already met with the Secretary for Business and the Environment Secretary who may have briefed you on matters, from their perspective.”
“Oh yes” replied the Minister “and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Secretary collared me and Tourism”
“Goodness, what a morning.” replied the Director.
”Unfortunately, I must bring to your attention a rather pressing matter, a can of worms you might say, that your predecessor opened, he was a keen angler. Are you an angler minister?”
A look of disdain from the Minister was answer enough.
Good then I believe we can deal with the matter quickly given the briefings you have had today from Business, Environment and Agriculture”
”Yeah, and Tourism. Not so much briefings more shots across the bow not to rock the boat, unlike the last chap who used to occupy this seat” replied the Minister distractedly rolling up a fragment of paper “what is all this faff about fishing anyway?”
“Angling, Minister, the ancient art of the angle”
Arranging his pencils, the Minister adopted a resigned look. “OK, it’s angling, shoot!”.
“Very well Minister. We have had some strong representations from a number of angling organisations.”
“There are issues relating to sea lice infestations in the vicinity of off shore fish farms.”
“Huh! Hang on, sea lice, what have bugs got to do with me? I do footie, rugger and golf buggies, I’m Minister for Sport not bed bugs, fleas and nits.”
“Minister, sea lice are parasitic crustaceans that suck the life blood from living creatures.”
“Like some politicians of my acquaintance then.”
“Sir, there is evidence to suggest that the disastrous decline in migratory fish in the West Highlands and Islands is linked to mass infestations of sea lice parasitising wild fish stocks. This has gone unchecked and regulated for decades.”
“Right, so you are saying there are less fish in the sea, what’s the evidence?” replied the Minister “evidence, evidence, evidence please” lining up the ball of paper for a shot at his carefully arranged goal mouth made from his pencils.
“Research is ongoing, some of it generously funded by interested parties.” The Director offered.
“You mean government and the fish farming industry.”
“Who else, sir?”
“Sounds to me like a lucrative funding source for scientists especially if their findings continue to be either inconclusive or they disprove there is a link between fish mortality and sea lice infestations” replied the Minister feeling quite smug about his apparent grasp of matters, “funding them is a lot cheaper than doing something about the issue.”
“The Business Secretary briefed me, the fish farming industry’s worth £600 million in exports and rising. Don’t rock the boat, it’s not as if angling is significant, says she, next.”
“Then there is predation by seals and birds. Conservationist and the RSPB are powerful lobbyists, they can turn voters heads to negative thoughts about politicians and parties that suggest taking action to cull seal and fish eating bird numbers to manageable levels.”
“Yes, Tourism marked my cards on that one, worth a few bob having twitchers and wild life enthusiasts come to take pictures. Don’t rock the boat, it’s not as if angling is significant, he said, next.”
“Water abstraction, declining water quality, industrial and domestic pollution the latter coming from inadequate sewage treatment.”
“Yes, Environment, Agriculture, Business and Tourism have briefed me. Complaints from conservationists about the decline of fresh water mussels; tourism not happy that canoeist are splashing about in diluted poo soup; Environment concerned that green energy targets for hydroelectric might be compromised if they can’t divert water from rivers; business worried that investors might be scared off if they are required to install fancy kit to prevent “accidental” pollution; water companies saving cash to boost profits by under investing in sewage plant. Don’t rock the boat, it’s not as if angling is significant, they all say, next!”
“Well sir we have manged to understate the value of angling both economically and socially for example one consultancy estimates that the Tweed fishery is worth about £25 million to the Borders while another says £3.5 million, we off course use the lower of the two estimates.”
“And by underestimating the value of angling to the economy….”
“Yes Minister, we are able fob off the angling fraternity as a fringe element. We have managed through the mechanism of committees, research funding, consultations, inquiries and commissions to avoid doing anything to help the angling fraternity with their concerns, delaying action for decades. In doing so we have pandered to the anti-blood sport lobby by initiating regulations requiring anglers to practice catch and release. Anglers are becoming more persistent in their demands for support, for example, claiming that numbers of salmon and sea trout are in serious decline. They even claim that over fishing for krill and bait fish means migratory fish are starving at sea which is an issue because the RSPB claim that some bird colonies are in decline too due to the lack of fish to feed their chicks. The RSPB has real lobbying power, God forbid that they and anglers get together on this, they might cause trouble.”
“First you go on about bugs now its krill, what the heck are they and what have they to do with sport”
“Well Sir, krill and bait fish are caught and processed into food to feed the fish in the fish farms, you know the salmon you see in the supermarket”
“I repeat, what has this to do with sport?”
“Well Sir, without the food that is used to feed the fish in fish farms, wild fish are famished.”
“Sounds like a lot of fs to me, And?”
“Wild fish numbers are in serious decline doing considerable damage to the sport as there are less migratory fish for anglers to pursue and herein lies the long-term solution.” Replied the Director with gleeful glint in his eye.
“Well due to the negatives linked to poor catch returns less and less people are taking up the sport, it’s boring enough and I assume that catching next to nothing will make it even less appealing. In some surveys they find that the age range of anglers indicates that 90% are over 45 and off that number 65% are in their 50s and 60s.”
“Gotcha, less and less people taking up the sport, 10 to 20 years from now loads of ‘em could have popped their clogs!”
“Yes Minister, we have dragged inaction out for at least 30 years with our strategy, I suggest you commission further research, set up a commission or two and require further reports and inquiries. I am sure my colleagues in Business, Environment, Agriculture and Rural as well as Tourism will want to contribute, in time the concerns will die out”
“Yes John, just you do that and do it slowly, in the meantime I’ll have someone look into whether angling is really a sport, some people say that it is a pastime in which case we can cut sports funding to them, just to help the decline along.” The Minister twitched his finger flicking his paper ball between the pencil posts.