A revamped bailiff system combining Environment Agency officials, volunteers and police officers is helping catch more fisheries criminals in the act.
Thousands of rod licence evaders and poachers have gone undetected in recent years due to a shortfall in EA staff patrolling the banks but the government body has moved to address the growing problems the sport is facing by requesting back up from the Angling Trust and the police.
The call for help has been swiftly answered, with the Trust trialling a volunteer bailiff scheme in the South East of England which attracted hundreds of applicants. So far 15 fishermen have received professional training and dozens more are set to go through the same process in coming weeks.
Police forces have also allocated more resources towards tackling fisheries related problems, with officers helping EA bailiffs catch 20 offenders during a recent rod licence blitz of almost 500 anglers across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and West Norfolk.
The scheme has been such as success that the Angling Trust is now even advertising for a project co-ordinator to oversee the expanding network of bailiffs and volunteers.
The Trust’s Chief Executive Mark Lloyd has been encouraged at the early results of the multi-agency approach: “Our volunteers have already caught people fishing illegally and the EA are now dealing with these cases. If our trial in the South East continues to be a success we will certainly be looking at rolling it out nationwide.”
Police officers in London have also held meetings with fisheries officials to swap intelligence, leading to a crackdown on fish thieves in the capital.
Constable Nick Bultitude of the Marine Policing Unit has been a key figure in the project and told Angling Times: “Poaching is an issue the Met Police takes extremely seriously and we would encourage anglers to report this type of offence. We investigate all allegations and work closely with the local wildlife crime officers.
“Improved co-ordination and intelligence-sharing with our partners and the fishing community mean we are better equipped than ever to deal with angling crime.”
This is a viewpoint shared by officials at the Environment Agency, and a spokesperson said: “We will continue to work with the police who have been able to assist us when we check rod licences. They can also assist when dealing with anti-social behaviour on the banks and make arrests if necessary.”
The Angling Trust is currently on the hunt Volunteer Bailiff Project co-ordinator and more details on the paid role can be found by visting www.anglingtrust.net