The Environment Agency has revealed that more than £500,000 worth of fines were issued to rod licence cheats during 2015 and 2016 – the most successful crackdown on illegal fishing ever.
Enforcement has been given a huge boost this year with the national roll-out of the Voluntary Bailiff Service. Additionally, countless police forces have pledged their support to battling angling crime.
More than 62,000 licences were checked in the last two years, resulting in 1,987 prosecution cases being filed for those caught without one.
Dilip Sarkar, the Angling Trust’s National Enforcement Manager, said: “The team effort by the EA, police, fishery owners and anglers from all over the country has been immensely effective.
“We have been able to empower anglers via the Voluntary Bailiff Service, train the police and courts, address the migrant angler issue and initiate multi-agency operations which have increased intelligence and support available to the EA.
“As a result, angling has never been in a stronger position to protect fish and fisheries and crack down on licence cheats.”
Among the most effective forces on the ground in 2015 and 2016 were the Environment Agency patrol teams, deployed weekly to check that anglers are obeying the law.
Angling Times was invited to join an enforcement patrol day at Bedfordshire’s Manor Farm Fisheries to witness what happens during a routine sweep of a fishery.
Of the 30-plus anglers checked on the day, all had valid rod licences – although EA Fisheries and Biodiversity Team Leader Kye Jerrom warns that it’s not always plain sailing.
He said: “Today’s result came back 100 per cent positive but this isn’t always the case. Some days we’ll issue fines into double figures, so it’s important we conduct patrols like this.
“However, our job isn’t all about taking people to court – it’s about securing as much money as possible for fisheries by encouraging people to buy licences, working closely with fisheries and partners to spread the word. We’re now reaping the rewards for our efforts.”
Sarah Chare, Head of Fisheries at the Environment Agency, was equally positive about the new face of enforcement.
“Through working with our partners and taking an intelligence-led approach we are clamping down hard on those who are cheating the sport.
“The vast majority of anglers who fish legally deserve to see those who flout the law brought to account.
“To that criminal minority, our message is clear – we won’t hesitate to take action to stop illegal fishing.”