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Angler accuses Environment Agency of endorsing 'mass trespass' in river

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 15, 2012

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The serene waters of one of Devon's picturesque waterways has become the latest flashpoint in the battle between anglers and canoeists.

Earlier this month, the River Tavy was the scene of a clean-up organised by kayakers and supported by the Environment Agency.

A team of about 20 paddlers, armed with rubber gloves and bin bags, removed 200kg of rubbish from the water, including a rotting lawnmower.

But the action has enraged a Dartmoor-based fishing expert, who has accused the Environment Agency of being irresponsible. Robert Mountjoy, who is the author of the Sea Trout Diaries, said the clean-up was likely to have caused more harm than good.

"The timing was bad as fish were spawning.

"There was risk of the spread of disease and it was unnecessary as clean-ups were already planned for more appropriate times."

Mr Mountjoy said the incident had highlighted the problems caused by canoeists and said the Environment Agency had endorsed a "mass trespass".

He said the sport of canoeing on inland waters "clearly needs regulating much the same as angling is already controlled" and he added that he was stepping up a campaign to achieve that.

The Environment Agency dismissed Mr Mountjoy's criticisms.

"We refute the claim that the Agency encouraged a 'mass trespass' by canoeists," said a spokesman.

"On the day, it merely supplied the volunteers with bags in which to collect the rubbish and gloves."

The spokesman said there were "clear environmental benefits" to be gained from the actions of the volunteers, who often removed items such as fishing tackle left by anglers.

He also said there was "little evidence" that fish would have been disturbed as salmon normally spawn on the Tavy from around Remembrance Sunday through to mid-January, while the clean-up took place at the very start of the spawning season.

"Importantly, fish tend to spawn at night. The clean-up took place during the day," the spokesman added.

Kayaking coach, Mark Allen, from Exeter, who organised the clean-up, said he was surprised by the criticism and that they had received praise from people on the riverbank.

"We enjoy the environment so much we like to see it clean and by doing this we feel we are putting something back into the local community."

The team cleared a massive amount of rubbish from the stretch of river, including an old lawnmower whose handles were sticking above the waterline where it had been dumped. Numerous plastic bottles, footballs, general items of rubbish and even a chair had also been removed, Mr Allen said.

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  • dougoutcanoe  |  November 16 2012, 12:17AM

    To travel down a river in England and Wales is not TRESPASS. The land owners may own the banks and river bed but they do not own the water. We river users do not damage the river, we take nothing away, we do not kill animals and we leave no trace of our passing. We have a legal right to travel along a river which the fisheries and some anglers wish to deny to us. They use threats and bullying but at no stage have they ever taken the matter to court, I wonder why?? It is time the Mr Mountjoy's, fisheries and some anglers simply shut up and accept that they have to share our nations rivers.

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  • pete_thorn  |  November 15 2012, 9:44PM

    Mr Mountjoy's attitude is curmudgeonly and out of step with public opinion. On rivers we get smiles and waves from the walking public and strong support for such community action. He is still in the mindset of those wealthy owners of grouse moors who barred ordinary people from walking on open land in the 1930s. Exclusive use for the privileged few. Canoeing is the least intrusive in ecological terms of any outdoor activity. No chewed up paths. No evidence of passing. Natural England, in impact assessments, can find no evidence of harm or significant disturbance on rivers which are SSSIs or Special Areas of Conservation. And here is a real positive, leaving the river in a better state than you found it. Not many activities do that.

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  • bobbyojo  |  November 15 2012, 8:28PM

    Is there nowhere in this country where mankind cannot be at ease and peace with each other. Mr Mountjoy is obviously attention seeking for himself and other self centred anglers (not all anglers are of the same ilk thankfully). Kayakers only wish to enjoy the beauty of nature from a different angle, preserving it and occasionally pitting ones wits against it, but at all times respecting nature and those around us. Of all users of our country waterways, including walkers, paddlers do the least damage as we float in a boat harming no growing plant or living thing, we often pick up balls and remove hanging fishing lines and hooks that are a danger to other users including young children and family pets. Anglers we wish you no harm; we are not a threat to you or your sport, we only want to pass with a nod and good day.

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  • bobbyron  |  November 15 2012, 3:00PM

    As i took part in the litter pick one is a little biased. However given allot of the rubbish i collected and removed from the river was evidently produced by fishing, one would have thought Mr Mountjoy's would have thought his comments through Items removed by myself on the day included a fishing reel, fishing line with hooks still attached at least two lots, net loop with half of the net still attached. Might take photo's for the press next time ! if this is what comes of a good deed. 90% of the time litter was collected from being seated in the kayak not by wadding around in the river. We leave that to anglers ! I do think its very disappointing that peoples hard work with good intention is used by Mr Mountjoy's to create a negative spin. I have had a good rapport with anglers for years and occasionally these selfish individuals with a some what blinkered attitude pop up. I feel its important to remind people about my sport/hobby Kayakers enjoy the river environments they paddle they don't damage them. Our time on the river is spent floating ontop of the water - we hurt nothing,we take nothing, we leave nothing and in this instance we have given back to it. Rob harris

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  • ResidentXXX  |  November 15 2012, 2:02PM

    I have to agree with all the comments posted so far. The complaint is simply weird. I do take issue with the description of the 'battle between anglers and kayakers'. There are a few anglers who get very hot under the collar when faced with sharing the river, usually during the fishing season. A very tiny number resort to violence and threats (casting at paddlers, damaging cars etc). That said most anglers seem entirely reasonable, and an increasing number kayak as well. From the kayakers point of view there is absolutely no problem with sharing the rivers, as long as any angers encountered point the route the kayaker should take, or maybe withdraw their lines to allow passage. This is the case in most other countries in the world. It is only really in England that this obsession with 'get orf my river' seems to arise, despite the fact that the landowners do not own the water constituting the river itself. Looking forward to more clean-ups and would encourage the angling people to get involved.

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  • domparkes  |  November 15 2012, 12:46PM

    What selfish and irresponsible people these paddlers are, tramping over gravel beds and other sensitive habitats in pursuit of their hobby - catching litter. It beggars belief that litter catching remains unregulated, when one thinks of the efforts that are required to keep litter levels well stocked. Furthermore, they are a public nuisance - many is the time I have been enjoying an afternoon's peace quietly littering by the river bank when I have been disturbed by angry threats and abuse from these litter catchers. Where will it all end?

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  • GrumTheGrump  |  November 15 2012, 12:07PM

    Glad to see such a good response from the EA, how anyone can try to claim a clean up action is not good is ridiculous. Mr Mountjoy is obviously trying to make a poitn from a very personal agenda. The comments from John Wood, Mark Allen, S Westgarth and Devonsmiffy all make valid points that I don't need to duplicate, but I do thoroughly support them!

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  • MarkAllen  |  November 15 2012, 10:05AM

    I would like to add to my comments in the article that the River Cleans are an annual event and the good works that we continue to do will only ever grow. Mr R Mountjoy - please come and join us next year. You never know you may enjoy the day. Mark Allen Litter Clean Organiser.

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  • James__Wood  |  November 15 2012, 10:02AM

    Is it the 1st of April? I find it hard to believe the first part of this article isn't a spoof. A few anglers are particularly self-centred when it comes to their form of 'conservation'; they are only interested in conserving their prey – quite happy to stamp around gravel beds in the fishing season, killing off invertebrates and other 'non-prey' fish eggs. They are only too happy to cut down trees and plants that would make it difficult to cast. And yet they moan about boats using the river, – err that float over gravel beds? The EA's research shows that canoeing causes no harm to fish, the fact that many anglers use boats/canoes to catch fish from really does indicate that they don't scare fish off and how many times have we seen nature programmes showing bears sitting on rocks hooking out salmon as they come up stream to spawn – it's been happening for hundreds of thousand years and it still hasn't put the salmon off. On one side we have an Olympic sport that added 2 gold and 1 silver medals to the 2012 haul. One that needs to use river such as the Dart and Tavy for its grassroots participants (all of the Olympians started off paddling rivers with their local club). One that gets kids out and about taking part in a fitness sport that is great for cardio, teaches them patience, hones their decision making skills, about nature and the environment – how many other sports have the kids watching the weather fingers crossed that it'll rain! The only downside is kids often get taught new abusive language shouted by a very small minority of vocal anglers. Where as angling is a pastime, a cruel one at that. Only half the participants get any enjoyment out of it, I'm sure no one would argue that the fish have any fun. One that is fairly sedentary, I'm certain you'd get more exercise going for a walk. Mr Mountjoy hasn't done the angling fraternity any favours with this outburst it really just shows the majority of the population how deluded and out of touch some anglers are. Some people need to realise that Downton Abbey's era was 1912 not 2012 the World has moved on, so whether you are a wild swimmer, Triathlete, dog (owner), child enjoying a paddle, canoeist get out there and responsibly enjoy our national natural resource that are our rivers. They belong not to one person but all of us and they are there to be used in an environmentally responsibly way – just take home your litter and it would be nice if you picked up anything discarded by others – fishing litter is particularly important as the RSPCA estimate 3000 swans are injured or killed every year by fishing tackle- http://tinyurl.com/bpeefyt

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  • S_Westgarth  |  November 15 2012, 9:36AM

    Mr Mountjoy is of course completely over reacting with hot air and bluster, which is typical from the game fishing community, who wish to keep the rivers solely for themselves. His old world view have paddling down a river is some kind of trespass, is simply not correct. If that was the case there would be thousands of cases to draw examples from, and there are none. The water flowing in the rivers is owned by the crown, hence why farmers pay an extraction licence to the EA, the crown representatives to draw water from rivers. As to damaging spawning beds, through extensive dialogue with local EA fisheries officers, the locations of these "redds" are know, they are normally in the far upper reaches of watercourses, and those that are not are of course avoided. The Salmon Fisheries Act 1975, would back it illegal for us to wantonly damage spawning grounds. The EA supports in the form of materials to collect the rubbish & litter with must be commended. The situation downstream of our moorland towns is not a picture of pristine nature, and who else is going to get to the difficult places on the river to remove the litter. The fact that 200kg of material was extracted in a 3 mile section of river speaks realms. The 11th November clean up only managed to get to double waters on the Tavy after 6 hours work. There is at least another 8 miles left to Lopwell Dam. For our 2013 clean up we'd welcome the likes of the fishing community to help, after all its all our rivers to share. Lastly, the repeated calls for paddlesports such as kayaking to be regulated along the same lines as fishing, is a little left field. The conservation, stocking and upkeep of fish in the river, comes at a considerable cost, which is in part recovered by EA rod licence's and subsidise through the EA grant. Paddlesports, do not require the same extensive resources to use the rivers, much like hiking, kayaks simply pass through the landscape without having a direct impact on its conservation. Within the south west kayaking & canoeing are the dominant river users, whose impact can be congressed carparks and tea houses on any given weekend through the autumn & winter when most rivers have good flows. It's our role to take nothing but picture and of course good times, and if we see the environment being littered, it's no doubt our collective responsibility to clean our rivers especially as paddlers can get access to the problem, others simply can not. In the future, expect to see more paddlers, going more often and taking an active role to ensure our rivers stay pristine. Simon Westgarth Organiser of the River's Source, the annual event that works with local kayakers who run the current river clean up initiative.

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