Crimestoppers set to target fish smugglers

Shop a fish smuggler anonymously for the chance to bag up to a £1,000 reward.

That’s the bait being dangled in front of the nation’s anglers by a Crimestoppers initiative aimed at catching unscrupulous fish dealers and fishery owners handling illegally-imported specimen carp from the Continent.

It’s a move aimed at striking fear into the seedy criminal underbelly of the sport and providing the intelligence to bring offenders to justice.

The chance to make hundreds of pounds of cash looks certain to loosen the tongues of some anglers previously intimidated into keeping silent about this growing black market trade, which can see a 50lb foreign carp swap hands for around £20,000.

And if a recent seizure of over £250,000-worth of carp at Dover is anything to go by, the trade in illegal fish is on the up.

The seizure was by the UK Border Agency and Cefas’ (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) fish health inspectors.

“We need to step up our intelligence-led approach, working closely with other agencies to target organised groups,” explained ex-CID copper Stuart Katon, now the Fish Health Inspectorate’s enforcement and investigations officer.

“In order to be successful, we also need the support of the angling community. Tell us what you know, use the anonymity of Crimestoppers and help us help you protect your fisheries from deadly diseases,” he said.

Crimestoppers’ success over the years is due in part because it pays rewards for information that leads to people being arrested and charged. Its promise of anonymity, a key element in encouraging people to inform on criminals, has never been broken.

“Calls and online forms are not traced or recorded and no personal details will be taken. So if you have any information about illegal activity relating to the importation of fish and the theft of angling gear, pass it on to Crimestoppers to help improve your community,” said Dave Cording, Crimestoppers’ director of operations.

The Crimestoppers campaign is the result of collaborative efforts between Cefas’ fish health inspectors, ECHO (the English Carp Heritage Organisation), the Angling Trust, CEMEX Angling and OATA (the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association).

“After months of fundraising and bureaucracy, I am excited to reveal the Crimestoppers partnership to the angling and fisheries community, with a real hope that this joint initiative will unlock the information required to nail the carp smugglers,” said ECHO chairman Ruth Lockwood.

“Phone in confidence, tell them what you know, not who you are and have the peace of mind that the information will go straight to the guys who can, and perhaps more importantly, will act on it,” she added.