Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 10 April 2008

Ulster Angling Federation

10 April 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Raymond McCartney
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Mr Robbie Marshall )
Mr Alan Kilgore ) Ulster Angling Federation
Mr Alan Kirkpatrick )

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):
Our first evidence session will begin with a briefing from the Ulster Angling Federation. I welcome Mr Robbie Marshall, the federation’s development officer; company secretary, Mr Alan Kilgore; and the federation’s director, Mr Alan Kirkpatrick.

I refer members to the website extract on the Ulster Angling Federation that is contained in the members’ pack. Members may wish to use this opportunity to seek the federation’s views on the salmon and inland fisheries stakeholder forum, and, in particular, views from angling representation on the forum, including the subcommittees. This subject has exercised the Committee in the past few weeks.

As a matter of protocol, does the Ulster Angling Federation intend to release a press statement following the briefing to the Committee? We are not trying to put the federation in the dock.

Mr Robbie Marshall ( Ulster Angling Federation):
No, we had not intended to release a press statement.

The Chairperson:
Protocol requires me to ask that question. It is over to you, Robbie.

Mr Marshall:
I will give the Committee a brief outline of what the federation is all about. We will then take questions.

The Ulster Angling Federation is the representative body for game angling in Northern Ireland. It has a membership of 60 clubs, with a total individual membership of around 7,000 anglers. The federation represents anglers in discussions with public bodies, Government and other non-governmental organisations, and has been in existence since 1930.

The Ulster Angling Federation is a member of the Northern Ireland Angling Advisory Council (NIAAC), which includes the Coarse Angling Federation. The Federation of Sea Anglers also recently agreed to join NIAAC. That representative body will cover all aspects of angling in Northern Ireland.

A joint response to the recent consultation on the new stakeholder forum has been submitted on behalf of NIAAC, representing the vast majority of freshwater anglers in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Angling Federation is administered by a board of 22 unpaid directors, drawn from the ranks of member clubs, which meets once a month. The federation employs a part-time assistant secretary, and I am employed as a part-time development officer. Fees paid from member clubs fund those positions.

The federation was originally solely concerned with fishing. However, in the past decade or so, it has broadened its outlook to embrace the issues of nature conservation, habitat protection and sustainable drainage, along with other groups that are interested in the environment.

The federation also looks to source funding opportunities for clubs. That allows clubs to carry out improvements to their waters. Examples of those are improved access for disabled anglers and improved habitat for fish invertebrate life, which includes spawning beds for fish and groynes in the river to improve flows. We also give advice on restocking where fish kills have occurred.

The federation has formulated policy on a wide range of issues to try to ensure a clean environment and the proper protection of fisheries. We have policies on biological monitoring and water quality; water supply; Lough Neagh; fish farming; the protection of river corridors by planning; pollution control; water rights; water abstraction; canoe access; child protection; and fishing rights.

A development officer sits on a number of committees to ensure that the concerns of anglers are addressed. These include the stakeholder forum for the EU Water Framework Directive, the Lower Bann advisory committee, the Lough Erne advisory committee, the Loughs Agency advisory committee, the freshwater task force and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund for Northern Ireland. In addition, the federation makes submissions to Government on fishing matters, as well as on environmental issues.

That concludes my presentation; we are all happy to take questions.

Mr McCarthy:
Thank you for the presentation. What is the federation’s response to the argument for an independent environmental protection agency (EPA)?

Mr Marshall:
I was asked that question during a radio interview yesterday. A series of Departments and agencies are involved with fisheries: the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), the Rivers Agency, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), the Environment and Heritage Service ( EHS) and Roads Service. Not all those agencies always talk to each other.

Mr McCarthy:

Mr Marshall:
It would be better if the responsibility that those agencies have for fishing was brought under one umbrella. It would lead to better management and would result in savings.

Mr McCarthy:
Should an environmental protection agency be independent?

Mr Marshall:
It is important that such a body be independent; that seems to work well everywhere else. In the past few years, 62 reports have been carried out by some eminent people, who have all concluded that an independent environmental protection agency should be in place.

Mr K Robinson:
I thank the federation for coming to the meeting. Do not waken me so early when you are doing your radio interviews.

The question on the environmental protection agency is important. Having had to chair two meetings with developers and all the agencies that are responsible for the protection of the river corridor, I know exactly what the federation means. If an EPA were to result in a one-stop shop, that would be an advantage.

I am worried about the proposals for DCAL to take over some of the functions of the Fisheries Conservancy Board (FCB). The federation has presented a comprehensive report on its role. Its members have expertise from having been in the field for a long time, and they have seen improvements set back because other agencies have not played their parts. Is the federation convinced that, under DCAL, it will be able to continue to bring its expertise to the fishing, angling and tourist industries, all of which are interrelated? Does the federation fear, as I do, that it might be sidelined by bureaucracy?

Mr Alan Kilgore ( Ulster Angling Federation):
That matter has exercised us greatly. When I was preparing for this meeting, I dug out from my files a 1983 report in which the Ulster Angling Federation identified that the Fisheries Conservancy Board and angling are strangled by bureaucracy. Subsequently, I looked at papers from another visit to this House in 2001 when that issue was also addressed.

The balance of the control of fisheries and angling rights in Northern Ireland is held by angling clubs and angling interests. Several of the commercial interests exercise their rights almost by default, particularly those that operate intercepting nets in the open sea. The current proposal reduces the numbers of anglers who would be on that body. One of our difficulties is that, historically, a provision was made for what were called “unaffiliated anglers”. They are given an equal status, and they become personal representatives — they do not have any means of reflecting general opinion.

The Ulster Angling Federation has two members to represent all the organised angling interests. We split that between the course anglers and the game anglers. We have always had good links, and we co-operate through the Northern Ireland Anglers’ Advisory Committee. We have been told that the proposed forum will always have to arrive at consensus, and that immediately creates a problem if there is a weighted majority in that body where the commercial interests outweigh the angling interests. Currently and historically, that has been a major problem. I have served for more than 20 years on the FCB, and that has been a continual problem. Without a mediating force mid-stream to create a balance, lots of hours of work can come to naught when consensus cannot be arrived at, or when the decision goes to a vote and the majority vote holds.

If a body is constructed with a built-in majority for commercial interests, the anglers will always have difficulty. I hope that as we move forward, we will not always be at loggerheads with the commercial interests, but that has been the situation so far.

Mr K Robinson:
I have seen the work that has been done by a very active fishing club in a public housing estate, where the river that I referred to has been turned from a sterile river to a one stocked with salmon, and it now has protected status. It is a struggle. If anglers do not get their message through this official curtain, we will be going backwards. The Inver River and the Glynn River in Larne Lough have been brought back to life, along with a stretch of Belfast Lough close to the city centre. The potential for tourism and leisure activity is tremendous. I am concerned that we will rewind that wheel and that we will strangle that initiative and that hands-on experience.

I have seen kids out fly-fishing on a car park in Monkstown. I thought that they were going to riot, but when I looked closely, I saw that they were being taught how to cast their lines. I am very concerned that we would lose out on that level of social and youth involvement, simply for the sake of bureaucracy . Can the federation suggest anything that would allow the Committee to go back to the Department and tell it that the outline of its idea is not bad, but that we have serious concerns that we want to see addressed in a more proactive way?

Mr Kilgore:
One of the difficulties that the federation is aware of, and which is at the root of many problems in Northern Ireland, is the issue of the revenue and resource base. The Loughs Agency is responsible for the fisheries in the Carlingford and Foyle areas. They are funded by subvention — 50:50 from the two Governments. According to the Loughs Agency’s business plan for last year, which contains the most recent figures that I could obtain, it had to spend £3·6 million, of which £1·2 million was dedicated to the inland fisheries resource, both commercial and angling.

The breakdown of spend on angling provision and development is readily available. Historically, the FCB ran out of revenue of approximately £150,000 a year, which is exactly the same amount of revenue derived from licence sales by the Loughs Agency. If the FCB transfers to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, we have received no assurance that the figures would change drastically.

The federation’s difficulty is that although DCAL funds the public angling estate, it is almost regarded as a commercial entity, and I regard it as such. Unless revenue is available to DCAL to fund fisheries, over and above its angling estate, the eastern section of the Province — not Foyle or Carlingford — will still be the poor cousin.

Mr K Robinson:
I would love that to be repeated for the benefit of the Chairman — the eastern side of the Province will be the poor relation. Hansard staff are scribbling away.

Mr Kilgore:
As anglers, we are not interested in “small-p” politics or “capital-P” politics. It is purely a matter of equity. Look at the 50:50 spend from the two Governments on the North/South body: the angling spend is approximately £1·21 million.

Mr K Robinson:
Who pays for the restocking of the rivers?

Mr Kilgore:
I can personalise my answer, as I have been involved with the Kilkeel Angling Club since 1976 or 1977. We established our own hatchery in 1983, and we have licences to rear 70 to 100 brood stock to the unfed fry stage — and for the benefit of members who may not know, those are the little fry before they start looking for natural food — and we produce about 250,000 fry per annum.

I was delighted when Ken Robinson referred to the Three Mile Water because, for the benefit of our fellow anglers, Kilkeel Angling Club has twice provided the sea trout stock for that river at cost price — something that is replicated throughout the Province. Sadly, due to pollution, we will possibly have to do that again.

The Three Mile Water Angling Club has bailiffs on the ground. Kilkeel has a force of 14 river watchers or bailiffs — the name differs according to the administration. We look after our own bailiffing, environmental improvement and hatchery, and that is replicated in angling clubs throughout the Province.

We were discussing what would happen if the FCB were to be absolved into DCAL. Unless additional revenue is available, the FCB will stagnate with funding of £150,000. To put that into perspective, within the past few months, the Loughs Agency announced that it had £100,000 available for small grants of £5,000 each for tourist and angling interests. That one block of money almost equates to the total expenditure available through the FCB.

People must wake up to the balance of moneys and payments. DCAL spends just over £1 million on the public angling estate, but that is a commercial provision that benefits about 5,000 anglers in the Province. That is generous and welcome but were public angling treated as a commercial enterprise, it would have to treble its costs to the angler. It is being subsidised; probably to the tune of £100 a year for every angler. All those issues must be teased out.

Mr Shannon:
Gentlemen, thank you very much for the presentation. It is interesting to hear about some of the nitty-gritty issues, of which the Committee is aware, from someone on the ground. I was struck by the points that were made about funding.

It would be remiss of me not to use my area as an example, as Ken did earlier. The federation may be aware of an ongoing project in Killyleagh. A minuscule amount of money came from DCAL. Do members know where most of the money comes from? It comes from the police. The project aims to interest young people in fishing and is a follow-up to the night football scheme. The police fund that project to the tune of £16,000. I am one of many who have been working on the project for just over a year and a half, and we will launch it shortly.

That is an example of what can happen. I agree with Ken’s point about getting young people interested in fishing. It is a sport that people either love or loathe but, by and large, those who fish are committed to it for life. I believe that nine out of 10 of the 20, or perhaps 25, young people from Killyleagh who will be involved in the project will be fishermen or fisherwomen for the rest of their lives. Therefore, it has a positive impact.

Last week, the Committee saw the proposed make-up of the new committee of the Fisheries Conservancy Board for Northern Ireland. It comprised one representative from the fishing organisations and one independent fisherman. Is that representation of direct fishing organisations and individuals sufficient to deliver on decision-making?

It was mentioned that the Ulster Angling Federation has concerns that it would be outgunned or outvoted — perhaps I will not use the word outgunned. [Laughter.] Can the proposed make-up of the committee deliver for the fishing organisations? Does the federation envisage its representation solely in that committee or could a subcommittee that represents all the fishing organisations deliver?

Mr Kilgore:
Talk of a committee that meets once a year, plus subcommittees, evokes concern in the angling community — how can anything be achieved at one meeting a year? If the new committee is tasked to review policy, how can we return to our representative bodies and make progress if the committee will not meet for another year?

The second issue involves representation. Historically, under the Fisheries Act ( Northern Ireland) 1966, the panel of representatives and the reasons behind that are clearly explained. The Ulster Angling Federation — the organised anglers — have lost two places to the “unaffiliated anglers”. The Committee and, indeed, DCAL need to identify and define “unaffiliated anglers”. Does that mean anglers who primarily use Department-controlled waters? That group requires only one representative.

Of our two representatives, one represents the coarse anglers, and — if we want to be fair — the other represents the game anglers. Lough Neagh fishermen and those with a commercial interest have greater numbers than that. Therefore, a major debate on the regulation of coarse fisheries to benefit the angling community, versus commercial considerations, would uncover imbalance on the committee. Consensus will be always difficult to achieve.

Mr Shannon:
Does the federation anticipate difficulties with representatives’ competing interests?

Mr Kilgore:
Historically — and Alan Kirkpatrick can outline the more recent FCB formulation — that has been a problem because certain sections declare that they are not interested in angling, but rather the livelihood of fishermen, and refuse to vote or participate. However, the angling community has to confront some of the practices and exploitation of fish.

Without a reasonable balance, such board-level difficulties are inevitable. Alan Kirkpatrick can vouch for that; the proposed inland fisheries board must avoid that blocking situation. However, other issues, such as the proposed one meeting a year with subcommittees, must be addressed first.

That leads us on to issues such as what the arrangements would be for having members on that body substituted. For example, if I go to a meeting in June and I cannot make the next meeting that is held the following June, my substitute will need to be aware of what is going on. However, things will have changed so dramatically — even in the space of a year — that the policy issue may be completely different. Therefore, all those issues, such as representation and numbers, are germane to the whole task.

Mr Shannon:
Would it be appropriate to have a subcommittee comprised of fishing organisations and rod fishermen that would influence the greater committee?

Mr Marshall:
Such an arrangement is in place with the Loughs Agency and it works very well. Commercial netsmen have their own subcommittee, as do anglers. The subcommittees deal with issues and feed back to the main committee. However, it is important that both groups sit together, because that provides an opportunity to debate and to get issues out on the table. We will not always agree, and, therefore, what is said in the consultation about consensus is absolute nonsense, because there is never going to be consensus among everyone. However, it is still important to have the issues out on the table. At the end of the day, we usually come to some sort of agreement — everyone is not always happy, however agreement is reached and is fed back to the main advisory committee.

Mr Shannon:
Does the federation feel that it could deliver if there were a subcommittee representing rod fishermen, which fed back to the executive committee — if that is how it should be referred to — and if its representation on that committee were increased from, say, two to four representatives? The reason that I make that point is because I used to sit on the Strangford Lough management committee — while wearing another hat as a member of Ards Borough Council — and there were three or four fishing representatives on that. I believe that that created a power block on that committee, and, by and large, consensus was reached on many occasions. Do you feel that increasing the federation’s membership on the committee — perhaps not necessarily on the central or management committee — from, say, two to four representatives, may give the federation more peace of mind?

Mr Marshall:
I believe that it must happen that way. There is a crazy situation wherein netsmen from the north coast and other places are being invited on to the forum. However, negotiations are taking place with DCAL to have nets removed because they are illegal under EU law. Therefore, given that netting is either going to be stopped, or a voluntary arrangement will be reached whereby people will agree to stop it, there is absolutely no need for those representatives to be on the forum. There needs to be fair and equitable representation on the forum of other people from Lough Neagh and other places, which is not currently the case.

Mr Shannon:
I appreciate that response; it is very helpful.

Mr Brolly:
In reference to Lough Neagh and the tension between angling and commercial fishing, representatives from Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society have previously presented to the Committee about their difficulties. Although it was said that the FCB was fundamentally on the side of commercial fishing, we did not get that impression from those representatives. The Committee has not heard about the angling interest on Lough Neagh.

Mr Alan Kirkpatrick ( Ulster Angling Federation):
Recently, I formed the Lough Neagh Angling Association. Through the Lough Neagh Partnership and DCAL, we were commissioned to do a two-year study into the feasibility of rod and line angling on Lough Neagh. That was completed recently and has had very positive results. We have had meetings with the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Co-operative Society, which has agreed that we can promote rod and line angling on Lough Neagh to tourists and to others. However, we will have to administer permits for that because the society does not want to do that.

The Lough Neagh Partnership is formulating a plan to promote angling. The plan will include packages for tourist anglers and the development of slipways on the lough. It will also include other facilities, such as accommodation. The commercial end has gone downhill, so there is an opportunity there for fishermen to work as angling guides. With their local knowledge, they could take tourists and visiting anglers out. The whole thing is very positive, and it will be a huge success if we promote it properly.

Mr McNarry:
You are welcome, gentlemen. Is the federation content with the decision to stand down the Fisheries Conservancy Board?

Mr Marshall:
We made a representation to the Minister on our concerns about the FCB, as it is no longer fit to do the job for which it was designed. Last season, there was no protection on the east coast. The boat that was sent to be used on the east coast was not even seaworthy. Nine bailiffs cover the whole of the Fisheries Conservancy Board area, which runs from Kilkeel to Fermanagh. There is only one bailiff in the whole of Fermanagh, and the bailiffs simply cannot do the job that they were intended to do, which is to protect our fisheries. Therefore, we were keen that something had to be done. However, those problems still exist.

A Bill went through the Assembly granting the FCB’s functions to be transferred to DCAL. However, we pointed out to the Minister that a disproportionate amount of money is given to the Loughs Agency compared with the FCB. That issue must be addressed, and the correct amount of money spent.

I gave evidence to the review of the St Andrews Agreement, and I was asked about the Loughs Agency. To be perfectly honest, considering the size of Northern Ireland, we do not need two bodies to look after our fisheries — one is more than sufficient. When asked who should look after our fisheries, I said that the Loughs Agency should be responsible because it is properly funded. That is the bottom line.

Mr McNarry:
We have taken a position on this matter, and we wrote to the Minister regarding representation on the forum and on subcommittees. He responded stating that the need for angling representation on any committee would be assessed by the forum, and it would depend on the issue at hand. In my opinion, that is a kack-handed way to do anything. It is similar to the victims’ forum being asked to define certain things. If the federation is not involved when the forum is established, it could be squeezed out completely.

Mr Marshall:

Mr McNarry:
The Committee believes that it is imperative that the federation be involved from the outset. Is there a fear that the federation will be squeezed out at the beginning, and that it will be difficult for it to get involved? Could the Committee do anything further to emphasise the need to have representation from the very beginning?

Mr Marshall:
I am concerned to hear Mr McNarry say that the issue will be decided after the forum has been established. As he rightly said, that seems to be putting the cart before the horse. We would need to be involved in the forum from the beginning.

We represent over 7,000 anglers; that is a substantial number of people who will not be properly served if the federation is not adequately represented in that forum. In our submission, we suggest that the numbers should be changed to ensure that we have equal representation.

The entire process has been flawed from the outset; DCAL does not seem to be aware of its responsibilities. It does not make any sense to send out a consultation suggesting that that body should meet once a year. If those meetings only occur annually, the relevant people may have moved on, and, therefore, could not be held accountable. Also, as Alan said, it is likely that Government policy will have changed in that time.

We have stated our concern about DCAL’s apparent confusion over its role:

“As has already been indicated to DCAL staff by the Ulster Angling Federation (UAF), the Introduction and Background document was inaccurate and misleading in a number of areas. The first paragraph of “Part 1 Introduction” is apparently incorrect when it states that salmon and inland fishery interests in the Foyle and Carlingford areas “are the responsibility of the Loughs Agency”. In an exchange of correspondence in December 2006, the UAF and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NI) were able to establish that DCAL was responsible for NI Government salmon policy input in respect of the Loughs Agency area even though the Permanent Secretary of DCAL at the time was not aware that he was responsible”.

Mr McNarry:
I do not want to put words into anybody’s mouth —

The Chairperson:


Mr McNarry:
However, am I correct — to interpret from that — that anglers continue to be neglected, and that the transition from the Fisheries Conservancy Board to the new forum needs to be stopped and repaired? Does the federation agree that there needs to be a more robust presentation to the departmental officials, if the situation has escaped the Minister’s notice?

I hope that the Minister is aware of the situation, although it seems that he cannot be on top of everything, and that he is being guided by his officials. I am not saying that those officials are deliberately misrepresenting the situation. However, the Department has made an absolute Horlicks of the FCB and rather than admitting to that, that policy will be maintained. The forum will merely be the FCB with a different name. How robust can we be in making the officials recognise the depth of concern?

Later, we will be considering a response to the stakeholder forum consultation. Since our meeting is being recorded by Hansard, it would be prudent if the Committee agreed that a copy of that Hansard report should be sent with our response. That would certainly be expedient in light of the replies that we have had, and particularly those that I will receive now.

Mr Kilgore:
The stakeholder forum consultation was published in December — an inappropriate time to request a response from anyone. Nevertheless, on my first receipt of that consultation, I did respond, saying that the information in the advice note is seriously flawed. Furthermore, the accompanying form did not make any provision for identifying the responders or the consultees.

I asked the relevant person to withdraw that form and to reissue it with at least an identifier on it, be it numerical or whatever.

Mr McNarry:
Is that the situation that the Committee heard about whereby a guy in a pub — who could be eating his lunch or having a pint — was approached by somebody who would ask him to sign a random form without him even knowing what it was for?

Mr Kilgore:
A signature was not even required. There was no verification on the form. Therefore, I could download the form properly — and I know of one club that did so for every member — so that every member was given a copy and told to make his or her personal response on it; or, if the members did not want to make personal responses, they could submit the official form.

When I queried that matter with DCAL staff, the response that I received was that the force of the argument rather than the weight of the argument would apply. I said that surely that would move us into a very subjective appraisal. I raised the issue at the next available main meeting of the federation, and we have pursuing the matter ever since.

The one alteration that was made throughout that process was that, on the version that could be downloaded from the website, a box for personal identification was inserted, with the suggestion that anyone else who wanted to sign a form could do so. However, so many forms had already been issued that there was no way of identifying to whom they were sent. The process and content were flawed, and much of the information on the form was incorrect. We told DCAL staff that a wise option would be to withdraw the form and start again. However, we are still tied in to it; and it concerns me that there seems to be an element emerging from what we are hearing here today that decisions may have already been taken. Sadly, in this Province of ours, a consultation is very often to confirm an already formed opinion rather than to inform. I would hate to find ourselves in that situation.

The Chairperson:
Time is running out, but I am going to ask Dominic, then Nelson, and, finally, Kieran perhaps to put their points together, if they do not mind.

Mr D Bradley:
Most of the points on the forum have been covered. However, a serious pollution incident at a river that the federation restocked was mentioned. We hear about such incidents all the time on the news. After such a serious pollution incident, is the federation compensated for its investment in rivers?

The Chairperson:
OK, just hold that for now; perhaps the federation could answer all three questions together.

Mr McCausland:
The voluntary and community unit in the Department for Social Development has a joint consultative forum with the voluntary sector across Northern Ireland. They have four meetings a year, which I think is a reasonable number. Rather than having just one meeting a year, how many would the federation see as being reasonable?

Mr McCarthy:
The document that the federation has supplied is from a detailed inquiry, in which some of us were involved, that was carried out way back in 2001. That inquiry was to be the panacea. Have those recommendations been carried out, and, if not, why not? At the time, we were happy with that report, which was to be answer to everything. Have we come back to where we were in 2001? In other words, was the inquiry a waste of time?

Mr McCartney:
Has the federation suggested formally that all those areas to be dealt with should become the responsibility of the Loughs Agency?

Mr Kirkpatrick:
Clubs receive no compensation whatsoever for restocking after a pollution incident. The EHS is solely responsible for pollution since that responsibility was removed from the FCB. EHS investigates incidents of pollution but not what damage has been caused to the fishery or the habitat. FCB is supposed to visit the site of the incident and carry out a damage assessment. After one recent fish kill, no FCB staff were available to do that assessment. They only way for clubs to get compensation is if there is a prosecution and an assessment of the damage. After a successful prosecution, a civil case can be taken against the polluter. That is the only way that compensation is available.

Mr Marshall:
The submission from the Ulster Angling Agency suggests meetings at least quarterly. The people concerned would then have the chance to get something done. It would also provide an opportunity for follow-up work. To make that a yearly measure would be stupid.

The Chairperson:
The point that was made earlier was that momentum is lost.

Mr Kilgore:
Much of what is contained in both documents suggests that there has been an endeavour to follow that through. In 1983, it was recommended that there should be one body. At that time, the major proposal was to amalgamate the DCAL responsibilities into an expanded FCB. What has happened is that the FCB has been subsumed into DCAL. If that was done properly, it would amount to the same thing.

In 2001, the Committee made something in the order of 60 major recommendations, and there was an endeavour to follow through on most of those. There has been some success, but some of the major issues are still relevant. The main argument in the federation’s proposal was to have one central authority for Northern Ireland.

The bureaucracy often eludes those who are not anglers. Before I can go fishing, I need to have two licences in my possession — one from the Loughs Agency and one from the FCB. I also need two log books — one for each of those bodies. If I intend to retain a sea trout or a salmon, I have clip-on tags to identify a retained fish so that I can maintain a quota. There is other bureaucracy in addition to all that. Those issues are relevant because one central authority management body is not in place.

Mr Marshall:
I was asked to give a submission to the review of the St Andrews Agreement as a Loughs Agency advisory committee member. The opinion of the federation was that Northern Ireland did not need two angling bodies. It is crazy for visiting anglers, because they could come from England and fish the Bann one day, and might want to go fishing in Derry the next day. They would need a different permit to do that, and that does not make any sense.

There are bound to be economies of scale if everything is amalgamated. The right place for fisheries is within the remit of the proposed environmental protection agency.

Mr K Robinson:
Far be it for me to push a North/South agenda, but what happens across the border? How does the Republic approach this subject?

Mr Marshall:
The South has various fisheries organisations, but has a central body — the Central Fisheries Board. That is split geographically. One licensing system is used for salmon, and no licence is required for trout. Trout fishing is free on the Great Western Lakes. The South is light years ahead of Northern Ireland regarding the number of anglers that it attracts as tourists. If the rivers and lakes of Northern Ireland were properly monitored, looked after and cared for, they would be as good as those in the South.

In addition to the proposals for Lough Neagh mentioned by Alan, Lough Erne could be one of the best areas of water in Europe. I am a member of a club in Fermanagh and have been for a number of years. We, and other clubs, stock Lough Erne, despite that lake being DCAL-controlled water. Until this year, the Department had not spent any money on Lough Erne for six years.

Mr K Robinson:
The tourist potential that the Committee suspects is out there is not being tapped.

Mr Marshall:
Not anywhere near what it could be. We all know the value of rod-caught salmon to the economy.

The Chairperson:
Thank you for your illuminating presentation. The members enjoyed that engagement. I thank Mr Marshall, Mr Kilgore and Mr Kirkpatrick for coming along this morning.

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