Angling is being targeted by organised gangs who are using the sport to make vast sums of money, Angling Times can reveal.
The body charged with investigating serious crime within the sport, the Fish Health Inspectorate of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), has told AT that the criminal underworld has earmarked angling as a soft touch - smuggling fish and stealing tackle, as well as using the sport to launder huge amounts of money.
According to the body, this increase in criminal activity is because the smuggling and dealing of fish offers high reward for little risk.
Former police officer Stuart Katon is the enforcement and investigation officer for CEFAS, and despite 30 years of investigating serious crime, admits to being shocked at the scale of criminality within the sport, including:
Fisheries being offered up to £1.5 million in cash to launder money.
Huge consignments of carp being illegally imported from France.
Travelling anglers smuggling carp into the UK in wet sacks to sell to UK fishery owners to pay for holidays.
Organised networks of thieves targeting anglers’ tackle.
Stuart and his team have also admitted that they can’t bring these criminals to justice without the help of UK anglers and urge them to use the recently-instigated link with the Crimestoppers initiative.
“I’ve been shocked by the extent of the involvement of criminals in angling crime,” Stuart told AT. “This is a massive problem which is getting worse, but I’m working to bring these criminals to justice.” Steve Barnes, owner of Quiet Sports Fishery Management, the UK’s largest commercial fishery, said: “The illegal fish trade is the biggest threat to our sport and its future. We have to get behind CEFAS and its Crimestoppers initiative.” If you know of, or have seen any angling-related crimes, call Crimestoppers on: 0800 555111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org