The Former head of the police's National Wildlife Crime Unit has joined fishing’s governing body to stamp out crime and protect UK fisheries.
Nevin Hunter has been an influential figure in law enforcement in the South West for over 25 years, who’s glittering career culminated in the passionate angler taking on the role as the head of the NWCU - a position in which he won many awards including ‘Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year’.
Now, in a massive coup for the sport, he’s been headhunted by the Angling Trust to aid angling’s fight against crime and further improve enforcement.
In an exclusive interview with the Angling Times, Nevin reveals how he intends to help rid the sport of criminal activity.
Q: What made you want to join the Trust?
A: I am passionate about winning the war on poaching as it is a problem I have dealt with for my entire career which gives me bags of experience I can use in my role with the Trust. I’ve been hugely impressed with Dilip Sarkar and the professionalism in which the Trust’s enforcement team is run and I wanted to be a part of it.
Q: How vital is it for the sport to have former police officers like you on board?
A: It is a massive coup for the Trust to have the likes of me, Dilip and also former West Midlands police officer Kevin Pearson, who’s also just joined the ever-growing enforcement team.
There are also other police officers I know who are joining the hugely successful Voluntary Baliff Service.
We understand how the police work and have first-hand knowledge of the justice system. We can use this experience to help catch poachers and help inspire the police to get involved more with fishery enforcement.
Q: Is poaching a priority among UK Police forces?
A: There are still a lot of officers who are not fully informed with how serious poaching is and how to go about prosecuting offenders. But that’s where I step in.
By providing guidance and liaising with forces on identifying the best ways to catch would be offenders and informing officers of the laws.
Every force has a Wildlife Crime Officer and dozens of forces across the UK are beginning to work with the Trust with regards to anti-poaching operations, so to say it isn’t on their agenda would be wrong, but there is work still to be done.
Q: What needs to happen in order to reduce the problem of poaching and illegal fishing?
A: I would like to see greater punishments handed out to those who commit fishery related crimes. In order to do this we have to get courts and the sentencing council to better understand the seriousness of poaching and the damage it can do to fisheries and anglers.
This is something that Dilip and I have already been working on by producing guidance for police officers.
It is also about education as many migrant anglers still don’t know the rules and this must change, I would like to see more migrant anglers who do know the rules to help us by working with us or taking part as voluntary bailiffs.
Q: How useful is the internet in catching poachers?
A: There are plenty of forums and social networking websites where anglers have been posting what is believed to be evidence of people committing offences.
These are often looked at by the police and can be used as evidence but anglers are better off sending them directly to the police or their local VBS coordinator.
Q: What can anglers and fisheries do to help?
A:Anglers must also take responsibility and always call in whenever you spot anything suspicious. You don’t have to join the VBS to be a part of the fight.
Even just remembering the number for your local Police Wildlife Crime Officer is a step forward. The more ‘intel’ we provide the police the easier it is for them to catch and prosecute offenders.
Q: What future plans does the Trust have with regards to enforcement?
A: We are in the process of trying to roll out the Voluntary Bailiff Service nationwide rather than just in numerous regions like it is now. This will benefit us massively with intelligence as it will help us to build a better picture of what is going on across the country and something angling has never had before.
5 things for fisheries and clubs to protect their waters
1. Ensure that all staff are familiar with the law and how the system works: download the Angling Trust's guides, all of which are police endorsed, from www.anglingtrust..net.
2. Ensure that appropriate fishery protection signage is displayed - a crucial part of the evidence chain in securing a prosecution. Multi-lingual signage is available free from www.anglingtrust..net.
3. Ensure that incidents and information are reported, as appropriate, to the EA on 0800 80 70 60 and/or police on 101. Contact your local police Wildlife Crime Officer and introduce yourself.
4. Ensure that property is marked with the unique forensic taggant SmartWater - developed with the Angling Trust as a bespoke property marker unique to individual customers. SmartWater has a 100% conviction rate in court - criminals are frightened of it! Also, if possible, make a photographic record of fish stocks.
5. Any problems, contact the Angling Trust for advice. The Angling Trust Enforcement Team will also help resolve any occasions when anglers have not been provided an appropriate level of service by the enforcement agencies.
With the closed season on UK just days four days away, the Police, Environment Agency and the South-Eastern Voluntary Bailiff Service are teaming up in the fight against illegal angling.
Operation Clampdown 3 will see police officers and bailiffs patrolling venues across the South-East during the closed season, a time when poaching and illegal angling is at its peak.
The Angling Trust's National Enforcement Manager, retired police officer Dilip Sarkar MBE, said:
"The VBS exists to principally support the EA in the fight to protect fish and fisheries, and we are delighted to have the police's support in this endeavour.
Likewise, if we can help the police in the fight against Rural and Wildlife Crime - we will."
The VBS remains a pilot project in the South-East, but all anglers throughout the UK can contribute to the process by reporting offences in progress or any information either to the EA on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111