It's been a busy start to the new year for Environment Agency Area Director Lesley Worswick, as the agency tackles everything the elements can throw at us to continue the safe management of our blue and green areas for the benefit of us all.
I often wonder how long we can continue, to say the most repeated phase of January, but given that it has been a number of weeks since I last wrote to you, I will take the opportunity to say Happy New Year.
Three simple words, designed to spread optimism and no doubt uttered with more meaning than ever this new year with all the hopes for the future that it brings.
We certainly need that reassurance right now in our third and hopefully our last lockdown. Indeed, it could be said that 2021 has started off rather bleak.
In a few short weeks, we have already seen weather from almost every end of the spectrum, from snowfall to sun to rain.
The Environment Agency, both in local areas and at a national level, will always prioritise protecting lives, livelihoods and the environment. Our commitment to this does not change while dealing with the effects of coronavirus.
These past weeks our teams have been working day and night to reduce flood impacts. Officers have been checking defences, operating pumps and clearing debris to ensure our watercourses are running clear and free of blockages.
This activity will continue over the coming days to ensure communities are as protected as they can be from the risk of flooding.
In times of wet weather, we always encourage people to be prepared, sign up to flood warnings and to check the latest safety advice. But in truth, this is an activity that can take place on even the driest of days. You can register for free flood warnings in less time than it takes to boil the kettle and it could keep the things you care about safe. Sign yourself up at: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/warnings or by calling our 24-hour Floodline on 0345 988 1188.
CLEAN-UPS: Keeping water courses clear.
Sticking with the theme of water for a moment, our fisheries officers, alongside the Voluntary Bailiff Service, are also still out on the ground checking licences and carrying out intelligence-led patrols to prevent illegal and harmful activity.
In Greater Manchester, our teams are currently undertaking an investigation into reports of an illegal stocking of tiger trout into a fishery.
These reports have been fed into our team by calls received to our incident hotline (0800 807060) and they are absolutely vital.
The intelligence we receive from you, as our eyes and ears of the communities we serve, assists us in our ability to stop and prevent damage to our environment and wildlife.
In this case, illegal stockings can lead to improper management of species which, if allowed into the wider environment, can pose a threat to our native fish.
We’re pleased fishing has been allowed to continue throughout the current lockdown and its great see the well-being benefits this sport can bring are being recognised.
However, if you do plan to get out to the banks in the near future, it is imperative to act in a way that is safe and in compliance with the latest government guidance.
This month has also seen the publication of our Annual Fisheries Report which details exactly where the income from your rod licence is spent.
The money we receive is vital for the protection and enhancement of our fisheries and precious fish stocks. Sales of nearly one million fishing licences between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 contributed to helping us stock more than half a million coarse fish into our waterways across the country and to improve 515 kilometres of river and 185 hectares of stillwater fisheries, to provide habitat for fish to thrive.
Other works covered by the licence fee included the building of more than 58 fish passes, which allow fish to move up rivers more freely and 1,521 surveys to monitor fish stocks.
Between 2019-2020, licence income also meant we were able to encourage more than 40,000 people to take up fishing by funding 1,525 angling participation events.
ILLEGAL ACTIVITY: Fisheries officers keep watch.
Additionally, the Annual Fisheries Report details our enforcement activity over the year – we issued 2,054 offence reports, put forward 1,611 successful prosecutions and £285,902.50 in penalties.
We take illegal fishing attempts very seriously and we will always respond to any reports of illegal fishing or activity that is suspected of causing serious environmental harm.
So if you are buying or renewing your rod licence this year, remember that it is more than just a piece of paper, it’s helping to create a sustainable future for fisheries, putting anglers at the heart of protecting and improving the very things they care about!
Despite the current crisis, I am optimistic for 2021. One thing we know from our experience of incidents is that to get through to the other side, we need partnership, compassion, determination and patience.
It may take time but we have endured before and we can again. Looking after your own well-being is also essential and taking some time in your local blue and green spaces, where it is safe and sensible to do so, can make a word of difference.
Whatever you do, you can be sure that your local Environment Agency teams are here for you, working hard for the mid and long term to protect the environment and support the communities we serve.
Until next time, stay safe.
The Environment Agency team at work
TAKING ACTION: Palatine Road in Manchester was closed as preparations for the flooding were made when Storm Christoph struck.