‘If you have stocked catfish illegally then there’s nowhere to hide and we will find you.’
That is the message being sent out by the Environment Agency as it steps up its fight to control the number of un-licenced non-native species in UK waters.
The government agency has revealed that a nation-wide team of specialised fishery officers are now using the internet to seek out catch pictures on both angling club and fishery websites, plus social media pages in order to monitor the distribution of species such as catfish, grass carp, sturgeon and zander.
Any stillwater that contains the above species requires a special licence under the Importation of Live Fish Act (ILFA) as un-licenced stockings can pose a threat to both native species and fisheries, especially in the event of ‘non-natives’ finding their way into a river system - a risk vastly increased due to the recent floods.
“We regularly check fishery websites, forums and social media to ensure that those displaying pictures of the species are licenced to have them,” said an Environment Agency spokesperson.
“If they aren’t, and there is no other option, we have the power to remove the fish and then pass the costs of this directly to the fishery owner or club.
“This is the last resort, however, and although we won’t tolerate any breeching of the current law, we want to work with fisheries to ensure that they know exactly where they stand where it comes to licencing and assist them in any way possible.”
The Catfish Conservation Group (CCG) is dedicated to the welfare of the species and has assured clubs and fishery owners that they are also on hand to help.
“We know how popular this species is among UK anglers and we will do all that we can to advise and help anyone who is unsure about a current or future stocking of any catfish,” said CCG general secretary Richard Clarke