Well, it’s certainly been ‘all systems go’ since I wrote my last Enforcement Blog in April. In fact, it is fair to say that I am busier now than when a serving police officer!
So, what’s been happening? Too much, really, to report upon comprehensively here, but to give readers an idea of the high level of activity currently ongoing, here are a few snapshots: –
East of England Fisheries Enforcement Workshop
In addition to training and working with police officers, a key part of our strategy is to educate anglers regarding the intelligence-led system, the relevant law and best practice. In partnership with the Environment Agency, National Wildlife Crime Unit and Institute of Fisheries Management, the Angling Trust is holding Fisheries Enforcement Workshops in all eight of our regions in England. The most recent of these was held at Brampton on 31 May 2014, attracting delegates from many angling clubs, individual anglers and single-species groups such as the Pike Anglers’ Club and Zander Anglers’ Club. Joining us were Angling Trust Ambassador Mick Brown, Agency staff and police officers from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire Police. All feedback has been positive.
Mick Brown said: “This event was inspirational. Like many others I thought nothing was being done – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is a hard-core of dedicated professionals making waves behind the scenes and we have to support them. Listening to Rado Papiewski taking about his ‘Building Bridges Project’, aimed at educating migrant anglers and fitting within an overall enforcement strategy, was revealing – and has changed my way of thinking about this problem. In short, I really can’t commend this initiative enough, and would encourage all anglers to get involved. That way we can all play our part in protecting our fish and fisheries”.
These Workshops are essentially based around two documents, produced in partnership by the Angling Trust and Environment Agency, which have been endorsed by the National Wildlife Crime Unit and uploaded to the Police Online Knowledge Area. These can be downloaded free, and I would urge all anglers to familiarise themselves with the content: http://www.anglingtrust.net/page.asp?section=930§ionTitle=Voluntary%20Bailiff%20Service
Operation CLAMP DOWN 2
Intelligence – information – underpins and is crucial to all enforcement. Resources simply no longer exist to provide a constant presence, and with so many square miles of waterways, that just isn’t possible anyway. The National Intelligence Model, however, works through deploying resources in response to intelligence. For example, I wouldn’t spend six months fishing a water for big pike if I wasn’t 100% sure that the fish I sought were present; this is exactly the same. Responding to firm intelligence is a much more efficient use of resources – and is demonstrably effective. Furthermore, the National Intelligence Model emphasises the importance of all stake-holders sharing information and working together – and each individual organisation understanding that they are part of a picture much bigger than themselves alone. It’s a bit like a jig-saw – and although we’ve all got a piece of it, unless all the bits are put together the puzzle can’t be completed. In management speak it’s called the ‘multi-agency approach’ – but it’s really basic common-sense.
With the foregoing in mind, the Voluntary Bailiff Service at Phase 1 concentrates on gathering quality intelligence – which Volunteer Bailiffs, whose compliment now includes a number of migrant anglers, are trained to record and report to standard which could lead to prosecutions. The river close season provides a perfect opportunity for offenders to be identified, and for this intelligence gathering to be used to great effect. Operation CLAMP DOWN 2, which concludes on 15 June 2014, saw the Voluntary Bailiff Service working in partnership with Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers and – most importantly – police officers from forces including Thames Valley, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, and Kent. This is really important – because operations like this develop working relationships, intelligence-sharing and an understanding of the issues involved – which key into the new Rural Crime Strategy. The police increasingly appreciate that poachers are frequently involved in a much wider pattern of offending, including theft and drugs, but the point is that fish theft is not just victimless Wildlife Crime – these days it very negatively affects small businesses, so this new era of police cooperation really enables us to educate officers and get that message across.
So far, Volunteer Bailiffs have reported eighteen incidents to the Agency concerning illegal fishing – feedback regarding which we currently await.
What can’t be over-emphasised is the importance of calling in both incidents and information: intelligence, and statistics, are what make the enforcement world revolve. Without that information and those statistics, we are powerless –
So make that call: EA: 0800 80 70 60, Police: 101/999.
Visit to Poland
You may have seen the fascinating interview my colleague Rado Papiewski recorded with the OSA – the voluntary organisation responsible for fisheries enforcement in Poland: http://linesonthewater.anglingtrust.net/2014/04/14/fisheries-enforcement-in-poland-interview-with-osa/
This was a great piece of work, and demolishes the myth that there are no rules and regulations concerning angling, or private fishing, in Poland; the same is no doubt true of other Eastern European countries, which we will soon confirm. Moreover, poaching in Poland is the remit of organised crime gangs. These days, criminals travel – internationally – and will be involved with many other shady things. So, next week, Rado and I are flying out to Poland to spend a few days working with the OSA – to develop a relationship to facilitate intelligence (that word again!) sharing, and to research further information on the law over there for an Impact Statement we will submit to the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Adrian Saunders and Kevin Summerson of the Environment Agency, and I, have already provided one, contextualising the actual effect of poaching on the environment and livelihoods, to ensure that the courts sentence accordingly. This further statement will disprove any defence that Polish anglers have no perception of unregulated fishing. This is not racism, but very necessary – our strategy does not just involve education but is holistic: those who refuse to come to the party, as it were, can suffer the consequences. This, coupled with increasing intelligence, is how we achieve that.
We’ll report further on our Polish research trip next time.
16 June Fast Approaches!
Living in Worcester I’m lucky to have great river fishing locally, and these days I fish exclusively for zander during summer and autumn, and pike in winter; during the river close season, therefore, I don’t fish at all – but there’s always plenty of preparation to do. This close season, with the help of friends Steve Bown, Martin Jauncey and Chris Fowles, Karen and I have completely refurbished and upgraded our beloved boat, the good ship Ploddy Go Go. Well, Ploddy is now good to go, so is the gear, so roll on 16 June! This season, though, instead of being what is a pretty self-indulgent exercise, our fishing will have a much more serious focus: The Severn Basin Predator Study. Together with many other predator anglers we’ll be taking and recording scale samples from pike and zander on the Severn and Warwickshire Avon, and pike on the Wye, which will be analysed by the Environment Agency to produce all kinds of essential scientific data – on species with have hitherto been ignored in this area. So, this project represents a major step-forward and an unprecedented opportunity for the Angling Trust, Severn Rivers Trust and Environment Agency to engage with predator anglers. I’ll be talking about this in detail, in fact, at the Zander Anglers’ Club Convention at the United Services Club, March, Cambridgeshire, which starts at 10 am on Sunday 8 June 2014.