Working as one to tackle illegal fishing

Operation Traverse meeting.
Operation Traverse meeting.
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Getting anglers and authorities to work together, educated and confident in each other is key to the fight against fishing crime, says the lead in a national operation.

Dilip Sarkar, the national enforcement manager for the Angling Trust, along with members of the Environment Agency and police, met with local anglers on Friday.

Someone who comes to fish, he doesn’t do it because he breaks the law, he does it because this is how we have grown up

Polish angler Radoslaw Papiewski

They were discussing Operation Traverse – a partnership between local authorities to target illegal fishing and fish theft in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, including some which can be part of organised crime.

Mr Sarkar told those present at the meeting in Malone’s, Boston that they needed to report incidences of fishing theft as low numbers meant statistics weren’t showing the problem to its full extent.

He said: “Crime strategy is about increasing confidence in rural areas, because when confidence is low, intelligence is low because people don’t think it’s worth ringing up.”

He said some police also needed educating that illegal fishing is still crime – pointing out that some didn’t realise that it came under their remit because of a lack of prior experience with it.

“Theft of fish, is still theft,” he said.

BUILDING BRIDGES

People at the meeting were also told about a project run by the Angling Trust called Building Bridges.

Polish angler Radoslaw Papiewski, who leads the project, described the differences in rules and regulations between countries, particularly his home country.

He said in Poland it is essential to have a rod license and separate permit from the water authority and where people are allowed to remove a certain number of fish above certain sizes and of different types.

He said: “Someone who comes to fish, he doesn’t do it because he breaks the law, he does it because this is how we have grown up.”

He also described lessons the group could take from other countries such as using volunteer enforcers – Poland has 5,000 volunteers backing up 500 fishing authority officers.

He said the Building Bridges project aimed to help anglers from Eastern Europe understand UK laws and customs including seasons, and catch and release laws.

He said people and fishing businesses in the UK can contribute to Building Bridges by understanding that not every migrant angler is fishing for food and initiatives such as getting migrant anglers on board in their clubs, implementing signage around fisheries and holding integrated fishing matches.

REPORTING FISHING CRIME

People wanting to report fishing crime have been given several pieces of advice:

* You can report it to the Environment Agency or the police.

* Be concise – one officer told the meeting not to phone up saying ‘there’s people on the bank I think they’re fishing illegally’ but to give accurate locations, times and descriptions.

* Mr Sarkar said to be aware of which number to report it to.

He said if the crime is taking place as the call takes place you can call it a ‘crime in progress’ on the number 999, or if it is after you have got home, call the non-emergency number 101.