The Angling Trust | NEWS
The Angling Trust’s Voluntary Bailiff Service took part in one of the biggest crackdowns on illegal fishing during the coarse fish close season, with volunteers carrying out over 3,650 patrols amounting to a total of 8,798 hours.
Operation Clampdown 7, the seventh consecutive multi-agency close season initiative, ended on 15 June and saw 267 of the Trust’s 503 volunteer bailiffs actively involved in OCD7 – 72 more than in 2018.
Across the country, 131 offences were reported to the Environment Agency compared with 91 last year. Interestingly, only 34 criminal matters were reported to the police as opposed to 54 during OCD6, suggesting that offenders are getting the message that fishing without permission and the theft of fish are criminal matters that will be investigated by the police.
Crucially, this activity generated 77 intelligence reports, an incredible 76 of which were converted to actual intelligence logs shared with the Environment Agency and police.
National Enforcement Manager Dilip Sarkar MBE explained: “During the close season offenders stand out like a sore thumb, providing a firm focus for the Voluntary Bailiff Service to work closely with empowered partners, especially the Environment Agency and police forces throughout England. This year, for example, 40 joint patrols took place with the police and 48 with the Agency.
“The total number of hours committed by our volunteer bailiffs amounts to a huge effort and it was pleasing to see so many social media posts concerning joint patrols with the Agency throughout OCD7. This effort continues, under the auspices of Operations Traverse and Leviathan, so the message is simple: partners are working together, awareness of fisheries crime has been massively raised, and offenders will get caught.
“We now look forward to hearing the results of prosecutions arising from the essential work by the VBS to support the Agency and police in protecting our precious fisheries.”
Commenting on the success of the intelligence logs, Intelligence Manager Gary Thomas said: “A conversion rate of 98% is unprecedented in my experience - I would usually expect around 70%, even for the police. Last year, 97 reports were generated leading to 78 logs, a log being potentially actionable information provided in a certain evidential format.
“The incredibly high figure this year is clear evidence that the training our volunteers receive is spot on, and that the quality and commitment of our volunteer bailiffs is exemplary.”
Graeme Storey, Fisheries Manager with the Environment Agency, said: “Voluntary Bailiffs are eyes and ears on waterways across England. This network of anglers, able to provide good information, is valuable in directing our enforcement patrols to catch those who damage the sport through illegal activity - including coarse fishing on rivers during close season. Our rural policing partners also supported this partnership-based initiative, engaging on 49 patrols with our staff and volunteers.”
The Voluntary Bailiff Service is part of the Angling Trust's Fisheries Enforcement Support Service which is funded by fishing licence money through the National Angling Strategic Services contract with the Environment Agency.