The new, streamlined Angling Trust, formed in January, was designed to be fishing’s all-powerful voice, but it may struggle to survive unless membership levels improve. It was created by amalgamating several angling bodies in order to campaign more cohesively on issues such as pollution, poaching, commercial over-fishing, and to work with fishing clubs to increase participation. The trust, which combines the Anglers Conservation Association, the National Federation of Anglers and the Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust, represents all game, coarse and sea anglers in England its legal arm, Fish Legal, has about 80 cases running at any one time but it depends on membership fees to cover running costs, and has already had to downsize its structure.

Despite half a million leaflets being distributed with new rod licences in January, the trust only has just over 10,000 members, fewer than 1% of England’s four million anglers. ‘Each angler spends more than £600 a year on their sport,’ says Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, the trust’s chairman. ‘The cost of joining the trust is only £20. The problem is that people may not directly see the threats to their sport because there has been no equivalent of the hunting ban to get anglers rallying. But the threats are there, and angling needs representation at national level to continue the fight against these threats, to promote our sport, increase participation and to ensure business flourishes.’

The membership target by the end of the year is 20,000, with the hope that 100,000 anglers will join in the next five years. However, earlier this month, the organisation announced a staff restructuring programme, which has seen the size of the Nottingham office dramatically reduced, and a plea for more members. In response, anglers are citing the recession and the fact the membership costs almost as much as a coarse fishing-rod licence as reasons for not joining, and others say that they want to see if the trust will deliver on its promises.

But those at the forefront of fishing urge anglers to support this fledgling organisation. ‘It’s vital the trust has a chance to get through this rocky start,’ says Tim Knight, editor of Angler’s Mail. Country Life fishing columnist David Profumo comments: ‘Anglers are notoriously tricky to organise fishing is  riven with schisms and specialist groups. From the start, it was hard to see what the Angling Trust was going to achieve that was not already being attempted by other bodies, and its message probably never quite penetrated the bothies, bivouacs and boathouses of our millions of fishermen.’

Join the Angling Trust by telephoning 0844 770 0616 or visiting www.anglingtrust.net

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