Ninety-eight per cent of anglers want to see more Environment Agency bailiffs out on the bank.
That was the result of an online poll of 2,380 coarse, sea and game fishermen, the vast majority of whom feel that not enough is being done to protect stocks.
With new rod-caught fish removal byelaws expected to come into force soon banning anglers from taking most coarse fish species, anglers are keener than ever to see more EA officers on the bank deterring poachers and other criminals.
But so far the Agency has been unwilling to commit more expensive resources to protect the nation’s fisheries ¬ despite our controversial story in February reporting that English and Welsh fisheries were protected by the equivalent of just 11 full-time bailiffs.
And the story struck a chord with those Welsh anglers who make up the Campaign For The Protection of Welsh Fisheries, a group which insists there are only three dedicated Environment Agency bailiffs across the whole of South Wales.
“We always need more bailiffs as we’ve had terrible problems with poaching, especially regards anglers stealing coarse fish to stock into other local stillwaters,” said Brian Dickman, head bailiff of Glamorgan Anglers Club, part of the campaign.
“We’ve got 800 members, but for every paid-up member I’d estimate that there are two poachers fishing on our local rivers.
“Our EA bailiffs are very professional and can’t help enough, especially Ian Wilson, but we definitely need more,” added Brian.
The Agency has always defended its enforcement strategy of ‘blitzes’ of day-ticket fisheries over bank holiday periods when it utilises all its qualified bailiffs to cover as many miles of bank as possible on those days when lots of anglers are likely to be out fishing.
The rest of the time it focuses on ‘intelligence’-led policing of known trouble spots where anglers have reported witnessing illegal activities.
While the Agency is currently not allowed to comment about future enforcment policies in the run-up to the General Election, enforcement boss Heidi Stone told AT:
“Last year we successfully prosecuted 4,140 licence cheats, and our enforcement strategy, teamed with aggressive marketing of the rod licence, has led to record licence sales five years in a row.”