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Fisheries staff given insufficient time to prepare for safe return of angling: MLA

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Questions: John Blair

Questions: John Blair

Questions: John Blair

The decision to lift lockdown restrictions on angling has raised health and safety concerns.

The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Edwin Poots, confirmed on Friday that the Public Angling Estate (PAE) will gradually reopen to local anglers from Monday as part of the easing of Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

There are 30 PAEs across Northern Ireland but anglers have been encouraged to use facilities local to them and not to travel long distances.

Parking facilities will also remain closed until May 27.

Alliance's South Antrim MLA John Blair expressed concerns over the decision, saying it "came out of the blue" and has left "major questions" over health and safety.

Welcoming the reopening of fisheries, the chairman of the Ulster Angling Federation, Gary Houston, explained that the organisation had made representations to Mr Poots as to how they would safely reintroduce fishing.

"We are delighted that the Minister has stepped forward," he said.

"We put a plan to him of how we would reopen angling safely under the present difficulties.

"We wouldn't be asking for it to be reopened if we didn't think it would be safe. Angling is usually a solitary sport anyway so people aren't really together.

"We will be putting out guidance to clubs and individual anglers telling them to carry hand sanitiser just like you would be if you're going into a shop."

Mr Blair felt fisheries staff in DAERA have been given insufficient time to prepare for the return of angling.

"Pathways, slipways, stiles and fishing stands at angling locations will need to be inspected and cleaned, giving just a weekend for this to be done across Northern Ireland before they are open to the public again," he stated.

"Online sales of legally required angling licences has also been suspended, and therefore clarification on this is urgently required."

Belfast Telegraph