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