Many British anglers believe that the sport is at risk of dying out in this country or at least becoming less relevant. Their concerns surround an ageing population of enthusiasts with less youngsters taking up the sport. Now, Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, is launching a new campaign aimed at encouraging more young people to get involved in fishing.
Dominated by the older generations
Angling cannot survive if it becomes the exclusive preserve of the older generations. But children these days have far more choices than ever before. Many prefer spending their time playing video games with their friends and even if they want to play outside, parents worry about them adventuring alone in the great outdoors.
Decline in rod licences
There has certainly been a noticeable decline in the number of people taking up fishing. This is extremely bad news as it is estimated that 40,000 people depend on angling for their living. Freshwater angling is believed to contribute almost £1.5 billion to the UK economy. Sea angling contributes a further billion pounds.
The sense that interest in the sport could be waning is supported by Environment Agency statistics. These show that the number of rod licences have fallen by 300,000 in the last 10 years. There are still over million anglers with licences, but the trend is worrying. There have been even more dramatic falls in licence applications over the last 12 months, or at least there appears to have been a significant fall.
The Environment Agency has offered some comfort by explaining that the way the figures are recorded has changed as have licencing procedures. These changes mean that direct comparisons between different years isn’t possible and so the situation may not be quite as bad as it appears to be at first glance.
Price drops for youngsters
The Agency has dropped the price of junior licences in a bid to encourage more kids to take up the sport and youngsters aged 12 and under no longer require a licence at all. But this won’t help unless they are first inspired to take an interest in fishing. Concerns about the costs will always come later.
Pollution and extreme weather are two factors which have led to dwindling stocks and low rivers. It is entirely possible that these factors have led to a drop in the number of rod licences.
The Angling Trust is planning to hold a Future Angling conference at which a strategy will be evolved for promoting the sport to younger people. The trust will also be holding regional forums as well as speaking to angling clubs and other significant bodies. There will be concerted attempts to encourage more women, ethnic minorities and migrants to join the angling community. The Trust’s Building bridges programme is making progress in this regard.
Angling faces an uncertain future with less young people being drawn to the sport. The time to act is now and it would appear that moves are being made to turn the tide.