Will volunteers soon be policing our fishing venue?

The policing of Britain’s banks could soon be placed into the hands of volunteers, Angling Times can exclusively reveal.

The Environment Agency has admitted that it is investigating the possibility of replacing its current enforcement officers with trained volunteer bailiffs from fishing clubs and associations. It would not only save the EA up to £2 million a year, but also see a huge shift of responsibility to fisheries and angling clubs to ensure anglers have the valid paperwork before fishing.

The plans for the change have been instigated by the Angling Trust that believes placing bailiffing duties into the hands of fishing communities will free up valuable funds that can be directly reinvested into the sport and allow EA staff to concentrate on other important issues, such as tackling organised illegal fish theft, movement and poaching.

“I believe our discussions with the EA are a huge step in the right direction for fishing because such a scheme would free up much-needed funds at a time when Government cuts are going to continue to affect our sport,” said Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust.

“We must ensure that it isn’t used as an excuse for the money saved to be used elsewhere instead of for the interests of angling. This is something the Trust would ensure didn’t happen.” John Woods is chairman of London Anglers Association and also believes that such changes could prove positive for the sport.

“I’ve always thought that anglers, wherever they’re fishing, shouldn’t be able to buy a ticket or permit without producing their rod licence, so putting an emphasis on showing them to club officials and venue owners can only be a good thing,” John told AT.

Not everyone is convinced, though, believing that the replacement of EA enforcement officers with trained volunteers would be a huge step backwards, not only putting people in danger, but also seeing the money saved swallowed up in further Government cuts.

“The fact that some EA bailiffs are now issued with stab vests just shows what an increasingly difficult and dangerous job this has become,” said Ashley Brown, secretary of King’s Lynn AA in Norfolk.

“To expect trained volunteers to take on these jobs is very dangerous as they will never command the same power or protection of EA fisheries officers.”