UK first as magnet fishing in Scottish canals gets green light

People are now legally allowed to fish for ‘treasure’ in Scottish canals for the first time using a controversial water-based metal-detecting technique.

The move comes after national body Official Magnet Fishing Scotland was granted scheduled monument consent from heritage body Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which will allow the pastime on the country’s canal network from today.

It’s a first for Scotland and the UK.

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Members of the group will now be able to use high-powered magnets to catch metal objects.

Fishing with magnets, a water-based form of metal-detecting, is to be allowed in Scottish canals for the first time

The practice, which has become increasingly popular in recent times, can be used to retrieve items of value as well as litter, helping keep the inland waterways clean.

Elly McCrone, HES director of heritage, said: “We have been working with Scottish Canals for many years to ensure the ongoing protection and management of Scotland’s historic canal network.

“We are pleased to grant this consent, which will enable the magnet fishing community to legally remove objects from the canal, helping to ensure the continued enjoyment and protection of this important piece of our heritage.”

The initial area covered by the SMC is for Edinburgh, with further consent applications being submitted for Inverness and Glasgow in the coming months.

Without the consent, magnet fishing in a canal is considered as unauthorised work on a scheduled monument and could lead to fines of up to £50,000.

Catherine Topley, Scottish Canals chief executive, said: “At Scottish Canals we are delighted to be working with our partners to allow safe, responsible and accessible magnet fishing to take place along the historic canal network.

“Magnet fishing will have a positive impact on our network and this activity will help our operations staff ensure that our canals remain positive green and blue spaces for the people of Scotland and navigable for our boating customers.”

The UK's first magnet fishing agreement was signed between Scottish Canals and Official Magnet Fishing Scotland in December last year, setting out safe working practices and waste-disposal policies.

Calum Black, chairman of the group, said: “On behalf of magnet fishers across the country, we would like to thank Scottish Canals and Historic Environment Scotland for their determination to find a viable solution to magnet fishing.

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"Over the last year magnet fishing has become hugely popular and the canal network has proven time and time again to be our members’ destination of choice.”

Despite the rise in popularity of magnet fishing, stark warnings have also been issued over the potential dangers of the hobby.

Like with any waterside activity, there is a risk of drowning, but this can be exacerbated due to the strong magnetic forces triggered when an object is detected.

On top of that, finds regularly include weaponry such as knives and guns and abandoned ammunition, which could explode when disturbed.

A father and son died while magnet fishing in England’s Huddersfield Canal in 2018, prompting a coroner conducting an inquest into the deaths to warn about the pastime’s “inherent dangers”.

The bodies of the two men, who had been using a strong magnet on a rope to snare pieces of metal, were found “vertically submerged”.

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