Fresh fears over the future of the UK’s river stocks surfaced this week after the Environment Agency revealed it would not be employing extra bailiffs to enforce the strict new byelaws which are due to come into force next year.
Anglers were celebrating two weeks ago when it was revealed that long-awaited legislation outlawing coarse fish removals would soon pass on to the statute books.
It was widely expected that the EA would be employing extra staff to enforce the new rules, with the use of ‘volunteer bailiffs’ from angling clubs also being touted as a possible solution to reduce poaching.
However, both approaches now seem to have been scuppered by the EA. Fisheries policy and process manager Adrian Taylor told AT: “Our experiences in areas where we already have local byelaws on fish removal suggest that it does not require huge enforcement. Any additional money is best spent by ploughing it back into fisheries improvements. Anglers will have a role in reporting incidents, but we do not see them being actively involved in enforcement. To do so, requires warranting and extensive training in police procedures.”
The news has been met with anger by those at the sharp end of the poaching problem. Roger Marlow, chairman of Quorn AS in Leicestershire, presides over a club whose waters continue to be blighted by fish thieves. Two weeks ago, club officials pulled an illegal net stuffed with pike, perch and chub from a stretch of the River Soar.
“I pay my rod licence fee every year and I expect the EA to help me out. I think pairs of anglers should patrol the banks on behalf of the Agency, and if they come across incidents they should have a direct line to an official bailiff who can then attend the scene,” said Roger.
There appears to be no shortage of people ready to help out with such ‘unofficial patrols’ ¬ people like Leicestershire-based Jason Nixon, who has already offered his security services to local fisheries. He said: “I’ve had my licence checked just twice in 20 years. There are so few bailiffs around, I can’t see why the EA doesn’t give people like myself the chance to go out on patrols ¬ it could drastically reduce poaching.”
AT columnist Keith Arthur believes enforcement should be left to official bailiffs, but that anglers should do all they can to put pressure on the Agency to fulfil its duties.
“If an angler suspects illegal fishing is taking place, it’s their duty to call the EA Hotline. If they get no response, or a poor response, make a note of the date, time and name of the person they spoke to, and tell the Angling Trust.”