While the UK Government was locked in talks with the EU over fishing rights off our coast, a deal was also being sealed on another fishing wrangle… in Scotland’s canals.
Those taking part in the increasingly popular sport of magnet fishing have been given the all clear to continue following a ban on the hobby a few months ago.
Scottish Canals halted magnet fishing over concerns about health and safety and littering on canal pathways. Now the metal scavengers will soon be able to operate with a licence on the Caledonian, Crinan, Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals provided they abide by new rules.
Official Magnet Fishing Scotland, a group of anglers who trawl canals for metal salvage, welcomed the news.
“The licence means we’re clear on what the health and safety rules are and ensuring we’re all taking our scrap away from the side of the canals,” said Calum Black, 19, of Official Magnet Fishing Scotland.
“It also means we agree that if we find anything historic we will contact Scottish Canals or Historic Environment Scotland to let them know. If we find a sword, for instance, we’ll let them have a look at it to see if it’s of interest to them.
“It’s great news, it means we can get back to cleaning up the waterways around Scotland.”
The burgeoning sport became a lockdown hit thanks to online videos and The Sunday Post joined one outing when a waterlogged pistol was hauled to the surface.
While groups adhere to rules on safety and cleaning canal banks after fishing expeditions, rogue fishermen put the activity into jeopardy.
“It was quite bad up at certain locations,” said Calum. “We had a charity event a couple of months ago before the ban and when we went to the location the side of the waterway was already covered in scrap metal and plastics. There were trolleys just lying abandoned.
“People don’t just use magnets, they’re using grappling hooks to dredge up what they can.
“We cleaned up all of that but you could see the mess some of the less careful magnet fishers were leaving.”
Magnet fishermen also have to apply for permission from Historic Environment Scotland to dredge Scotland’s canals – and a failure to do so could land them with a £50,000 fine.
“Magnet fishing is becoming more popular,” explained Calum. “During lockdown people have been at home looking for things to do and magnet fishing on YouTube is a big hit. That’s given people the idea to try it.
“I’ve found allsorts from safes to guns to grenades. Then there are the more every day objects like trolleys, bicycles and scooters.”
A recent expedition saw Calum fish a backpack from the Water of Leith. “We opened it and found some books and a couple of ID cards,” he explained. “We managed to track the owner down on Facebook, she lived in the borders.
“I had a chat with her when we were returning her bag. She’d been in Edinburgh having lunch with a friend in a cafe when someone snatched her bag.
“She thought she’d lost it. That was 20 years ago, she was quite surprised to be reunited with it.
“I’ve found knives. Who knows, they might be murder weapons.”
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