Poaching and fish theft are of increasing concern to anglers and in addressing this issue the Angling Trust has gained support from the Association of Chief Police Officers and National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Currently Project Trespass aims to provide a coordinated response to poaching and raise awareness of this issue amongst police forces.
Under the umbrella of Project Trespass, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire Police - in partnership with the Angling Trust, Environment Agency and Fish Health Inspectorate - are launching Operation TRAVERSE to target illegal fishing and fish theft in Fenland.
One problem in this part of England - historically famous for predator fishing in winter - is the issue of migrant anglers from Eastern Europe sometimes not understanding British angling law and our conservation-based approach to angling. Here, National Byelaws limit the size and numbers of fish that can be retained, and removing fish from enclosed waters without the owner’s consent is theft.
To help deal with this problem the Angling Trust’s ‘Building Bridges Project’ aims to educate and integrate migrant anglers. In June 2014 key Angling Trust enforcement staff visited Poland and forged a partnership with its PSR government fisheries department and voluntary fisheries enforcement organisations.
As a result of this visit, information is now passed to the British authorities about those prosecuted in Poland who are likely to travel to England and details of offenders here are provided to the PSR. This process and exchange of information has now been adopted by other Eastern European countries.
As part of their participation in Operation TRAVERSE and the sharing of best practice and intelligence, PSR officers are meeting with British enforcement partners this month.
Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager, Dilip Sarkar, said: “This is a really important operation aimed at raising awareness of this serious issue and emphasising the partnership approach now being taken. It is essential that anglers contribute to this process by reporting incidents and information to the police on 101 or EA on 0800 80 70 60, quoting Operation TRAVERSE. The Fenland ‘River Watch’ initiative has a key role to play in this process and we commend those involved for their ongoing efforts and support.”
Sgt Dave Robinson of Lincolnshire Police said: “Poaching fits within the much bigger picture of rural and wildlife crime, which we are keen to address, not least because of the wider criminality frequently involved and the negative impact upon livelihoods. We very much welcome therefore, the opportunity to play a key role in TRAVERSE and work with all our partners to achieve the required result through raising awareness, education and positive enforcement.”
Adrian Saunders, Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Campaigns Manager, said: “We fully support TRAVERSE and look forward to this multi-agency approach - and especially to meeting and sharing Best Practice with the PSR.”
Angling Trust ‘Building Bridges’ Project Manager, Rado Papiewski, said: “We are most grateful not only to the police, Environment Agency and FHI but equally the PSR, for travelling to England and assisting us. We hope that this will increase awareness throughout the migrant community of the severity of this issue, and help educate more migrant anglers regarding the law and catch and release rules and culture.”
Pike Anglers’ Club Chairman and Angling Trust Ambassador Neville Fickling said: “This has been an ongoing problem for some time, and we are delighted to see that some joined up thinking and working will now help address it. Reporting incidents is clearly crucial to the success of TRAVERSE and I would urge anglers and the public to report incidents and information accordingly”.