Britain’s rivers, canals and stillwaters are policed by what amounts to just 11 full-time bailiffs, Angling Times can this week reveal.
In a story that will stun and anger every angler in the UK, the Environment Agency released shocking figures that show, on average, each of its eight regions are patrolled by the equivalent of just 1.4 full-time bailiffs.
The region which received the most attention from bankside fisheries officers hunting down licence dodgers and lawbreakers was the Midlands region, where 3,551 hours were spent bailiffing from April 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009. But in the South-West that figure fell to just 489 hours.
The numbers provide a perfect explanation as to why some anglers have never had their rod licence checked in 50 years of fishing.
Anglers had been hoping to see an increase in bailiff activity next season as part of EA efforts towards enforcing vital new fish removal byelaws scheduled to come into effect this spring.
But, while the Agency has plenty of employees available for bailiff duties ¬258 at the last count ¬ these latest figures show that most of them spend very little time actually patrolling, with one officer taking part in just one 30-minute patrol over the nine month period.
“The last time I had my licence checked was on the Trent in 1963! And I usually fish once a week, it’s ridiculous,” claimed one irate AT reader.
And in a year which saw record fishing licence sales of 1.5m, Doncaster and District Angling Association secretary Ian Hurst wants to see more of anglers’ rod licence money being earmarked for bailiffs to patrol the tens of thousands of miles of river and lake bank in England and Wales.
“I know a South Yorkshire bailiff who retired four months ago and, so far, the EA has not replaced him,” said Ian.
“He once caught a man fishing without a licence who was happy to take the rap and an £80 fine. The fine ended up costing him much less than a licence as he admitted he’d never actually bought one! I know it’s impossible to put bailiffs everywhere all the time but if they were out more often, then every angler would be forced to buy a licence instead of chancing it and more money would be generated,” he said.
*Angling Times figures are based on the assumption of a basic 38-hour week with five weeks being taken as holiday each year.