Biggest ever bankside crackdown on illegal angling beats criminals

The biggest-ever crackdown on illegal anglers has seen more than £40,000 in fines handed out to law breakers in just one month.

Thanks to a massive increase in the number of bankside patrols and initiatives to stamp out illegal activity on rivers, lakes and canals nationwide, angling’s governing body, in conjunction with the Environment Agency, has this week named and shamed 154 people who have been fined for crimes committed on the bank.

The Angling Trust has just released a prosecution list via its website which details a catalogue of offences committed across 23 counties between September 2014 and March 2015, They were all dealt with by the courts in June.

Almost 80 per cent of the offences committed were for fishing without a valid rod licence, but more thorough checks and bankside policing have led to anglers being prosecuted for being too far away from their rods, using illegal baits and keepnets, along with fishing in the closed season and illegally removing fish.

All the information was provided by the Environment Agency, which along with the Angling Trust’s National Enforcement Team and police forces across the UK, has ramped up efforts to combat fishing crime.

The Angling Trust’s fisheries enforcement manager, Dilip Sarkar, believes that police involvement has significantly help change the fight against angling crime across the country.

 “Getting the police to understand that fishing without permission and a licence is part of their responsibility has been a huge turning point and this notion has played a huge part in the success of these convictions,” he told Angling Times.

“It has taken three years to get to the stage we are now at, with 24/7 action being carried out by all kinds of authorities, including the EA, police and enforcement projects such as the Angling Trust’s TRAVERSE and LEVIATHAN operations, which have seen 15 police forces join the fight against illegal fishing in that time.

“But this is just the start – ultimately the whole of England and Wales will be covered by these operations and I’m confident we will see more of these great results.”

The new records have also shed light on which counties have had the most convictions throughout June – with Yorkshire topping the table with 39 cases.

The Environment Agency believes it’s now harder for licence cheats and illegal fishermen to operate and intelligence on the ground is growing – specifically in areas well-noted for illegal fishing. 

Sarah Chare, Environment Agency head of fisheries, said: “Anglers who fish illegally show a blatant disregard for the law and the health of fisheries.

“People who don’t buy a licence are not only cheating other anglers and the future of the sport, but run the risk of a criminal conviction and a fine. Working in partnership is cost- effective and it makes it harder for offenders to get away with anything. It makes the most of more eyes and ears on the riverbank by using different approaches to detect, deter and disrupt illegal fishing.”

And the authorities are quick to point out that it’s not just the banks of running waters that now receive regular patrols, with a large number of private and commercial fisheries now enjoying regular checks.

Bluebell Lakes in Northamptonshire was just one of a long list of venues that was visited by the EA back in January, which resulted in one angler paying a £177 fine for not having a valid rod licence.

Bluebell Lakes owner Tony Bridgefoot added: “The EA works closely with us to ensure everyone is fishing legally. Nine times out of 10 the angler does have a valid licence, but a few do manage to sneak through. It’s important the partnership between authorities and fishery owners continues to keep the pressure on licence cheats, poachers and illegal anglers.”