Well, firstly – Happy New Year!
There hasn’t been an enforcement blog for a while, for the simple reason that I’ve been working all hours and have had no time to write. Nonetheless, Angling Trust members are frequently updated regarding our progress, and, of course, the wider angling community is appraised via the angling press and, inevitably these days, Facebook.
Since writing my last blog, things have moved on apace – my work now not only concerning the Voluntary Bailiff Service but more so, in fact, appropriately locating fisheries enforcement within the much wider framework of Rural, Wildlife, Organised, Business and – it must be said to due racial issues – Hate Crime. The police are now much more understanding of the fact that fishing without permission and the theft of fish are criminal offences – to which they have a responsibility. We work very closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, for example, (please see: http://www.nwcu.police.uk/), which has six priorities: one of which is poaching, in all its forms. Each priority is driven by a delivery group – and I, along with Adrian Saunders of the Environment Agency, with whom I work particularly closely, sit on the England & Wales Poaching Priority Group. The police are also more aware that poaching is criminal activity. Those engaged in it are frequently involved in much wider offending and are of interest to all kinds of enforcement agencies. This is why the sharing of intelligence and working together is absolutely crucial – and which is, I’m pleased to say, happening on an ever increasing and more effective basis. It is all about raising awareness of the issue and wider implications involved, to which end our Delivery Group launched Project TRESPASS in 2013, aimed at doing exactly this with an emphasis on police education (please see: http://www.nwcu.police.uk/uncategorized/poachers-being-put-in-their-place-6-months-of-success-for-project-trespass/). All of this fits within the current emphasis on Rural Crime, leading to our meeting with Mr Simon Prince, Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys and the Association of Chief Police Officers’ National Policing Lead on Rural & Wildlife Crime; we consequently have Mr Prince’s support regarding training police officers, as this excellent article appearing in the Independent on Sunday explains: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/poached-salmon-angling-groups-say-theft-is-rife-and-underpoliced-9731620.html.
This new wave of understanding an interest by the police has led to me presenting on the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign at such events as the recent National Anti-Poaching Conference, the Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference, the Hertfordshire Police Rural Crime Conference, the South East Wildlife & Environmental Crime Forum, and the East of England Wildlife Crime Network. We have continued to run Fisheries Enforcement Workshops, aimed mainly at anglers, angling clubs and fishery managers, in partnership with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Environment Agency and Institute of Fishery Management. These have also been well-attended by police Wildlife Crime Officers, and the training of police officers generally moves on apace: last month Adrian and I trained officers in Sussex; later this week we will be at Gloucestershire Police Headquarters, and next month will be training West Mercia and Warwickshire Police officers (more of which later).
Increased awareness and appropriate training is now leading, as intended, to major, joint, operations targeting poaching and fish theft. For example, on 12 November 2014, Mr Peter Davies, Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, opened Operation TRAVERSE at Lincolnshire Police Headquarters – a multi-agency operation involving that force, Cambridgeshire Police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit, the Environment Agency, Cefas and the Angling Trust. These force areas cover a significant portion of Fenland – which, as we all know, has been adversely affected by these issues.
It is a demonstrable fact that certain migrant anglers have had a negative environmental impact in this area – which is one thing we hope to positively influence through TRAVERSE. Indeed, last June Rado Papiewski, the Angling Trust ‘Building Bridges’ Project Manager and I visited Poland, where we worked with the Polish government PSR fisheries officers and volunteer bailiffs of the PZW and OSA. Our visit made us infinitely better informed regarding why there is such a cultural problem (and reported upon in a previous blog: http://linesonthewater.anglingtrust.net/2014/07/16/glocks-and-kalashnikovs-fisheries-enforcement-polish-style/). We were, it must be said, extremely impressed with the (armed!) PSR, whose operations against Organised Crime Gangs engaged in wide-scale poaching were impressive. For this reason, two PSR officers joined us for the launch of TRAVERSE, meeting with British police and Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers to share best practice. Importantly, an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the Polish authorities has been established – and our work with the Poles will be repeated with other Eastern European countries. Equally importantly, TRAVERSE also provides an opportunity to educate migrant communities as to our laws and conservation-based angling culture; prevention, they say, is better than detection – and it is this, in particular, that has also won us support from Daniel Kawczynski, the MP for Shrewsbury and the Prime Minister’s Envoy on Polish & Eastern European Dispora. Indeed, Rado and I are meeting with Mr Kawzcynski at Westminster on 19 January, to discuss ways he can help us better engage with the migrant press and open doors to other Eastern European migrant communities in England.
It is worth explaining how operations like TRAVERSE work, so that we are all clear. These are long term initiatives, involving much internal police and external publicity, to help raise awareness. The entire enforcement system, as I have said countless times, is driven by intelligence – which is to say incoming calls and information received. Intelligence, in fact, is everything – providing for limited resources to be efficiently deployed to key areas and at peak times, in addition to focussing on known offenders. This works. Over time, therefore, whilst, where appropriate, incoming calls will be responded to, when possible, the intelligence picture will lead to ‘Days of Action’, which will see combined police and Environment Agency teams execute warrants, make arrests, and patrol troubled spots. Indeed, the pre-TRAVERSE Operation VULCAN is a perfect example of such positive a multi-agency response to intelligence: –
TRAVERSE, in fact, builds upon Lincolnshire Police’s enormously successful Operation GALILLEO, which targeted hare-coursing (http://www.lincs.police.uk/Advice/Wildlife-and-Rural-Crime/Hare-Coursing-Offences-Operation-Galileo.html). We are lucky, in fact, to have the likes of Sergeant Dave Robinson and PC Nick Willey (the latter recently and well-deservedly made Wildlife Crime Officer of the Year), driving TRAVERSE forward in Lincolnshire, and Wildlife Crime Officers PCs Alun Bradshaw and Pete Mills in Cambridgeshire. With the police now supporting dedicated but thinly-spread Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers, our arm is considerably strengthened – which has to be bad news for offenders, regardless of ethnicity.
In the past, again as we all know, due to the lack of awareness and training, calls from anglers have not always been appropriately dealt with by the police. The idea of TRAVERSE, however, which has been subject to an Operational Order circulated to all police staff, including call-centres, is that all anglers have to do is quote TRAVERSE and hey-presto. Likewise, the Environment Agency call-centre has been briefed, and if anglers follow the instructions in our ‘Guide to Police Reporting’, all should run smoothly: http://www.anglingtrust.net/news.asp?itemid=2213&itemTitle=NEW%3A+Guide+for+Anglers+Reporting+Offences+to+the+Police§ion=29§ionTitle=Angling+Trust+News
Now, clearly, as intelligence is key, anglers and the public have to play their part by reporting incidents and information: 101 for the police, 0800 80 70 60 for the Environment Agency. Whilst TRAVERSE concerns a specific geographic area, this applies throughout England. The statistics arising from these calls is also essential to helping prove the extent of our problem on paper – and thereby increasing the priority afforded to it. So, make that call. Complaining in the pub or on Facebook is absolutely pointless – the only way we will win this battle to protect fish and fisheries is to do the job properly – and calling in is how we do that.
How long TRAVERSE will run we don’t yet know, except to say that it will be for some considerable time. So, with TRAVERSE up and running, what next: a similar operation working with West Mercia (my old force), Warwickshire and Gloucestershire to target poaching and fish theft in the Severn Basin. This area, of course, includes such rivers as the Severn, Teme, Wye, Lugg and Warwickshire Avon – not to mention countless stillwaters. Later this week, Adrian and I will be training Gloucestershire police officers, and on 3 February those from the other forces concerned. Again, we are fortunate to have such officers as Detective Inspector Sue Bradshaw, Sergeant Simon Clemintine and Police Community Support Officer Mike Shuttleworth working with us in Gloucestershire, and Sergeant Allie Webster in West Mercia and Warwickshire. Concurrently with the training there will be various planning meetings between us all – and a briefing will be set up for angling clubs and other relevant organisations in the Severn Basin in advance of the operation’s launch. This will, inevitably, be followed by other operations elsewhere in England – and judging by the interest shown by police forces at the Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference, there is an enormous amount of work ahead.
The Voluntary Bailiff Service continues to deliver Phase One in the South East, extension across England, and the delivery of Phase 2, having been delayed due to the Agency’s internal restructuring. This, however, is now complete and I was much encouraged to meet the new Head of Fisheries, Sarah Chare, last month. We now expect the long-awaited extension of the ‘VBS’ to happen later this year, and I am looking forward to briefing key Agency enforcement staff on the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign and our wider work later this month – it is vital that we are all on the same page, as it were, working together and sharing intelligence and resources. For further information on the Voluntary Bailiff Service, please see:
In sum, we are already starting to see the results of over two years very hard work to address the issue of poaching and fish theft – which a recent angler survey indicated as a priority concern. The Angling Trust has responded to that – and some – and personally I am looking forward to 2015 with more optimism than ever before. The downside is that my work commitments have prevented me from going fishing for weeks, in fact I’ve virtually written off this entire season. Now, however, is not the time to let up – there will be time enough ahead, I’m sure, for fishing, once the job is done. In fact, the last time I managed to get on the Wye, it was my wife, Karen, who found the fish – taking five double-figure pike between fifteen and sixteen pounds, topped by a 19.04, whilst I was just there to make up the numbers!
Will close now, but another blog follows our forthcoming Westminster meeting. In the meantime, anyone requiring further information concerning the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign or the Voluntary Bailiff Service can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dilip Sarkar MBE, Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager, 5 January 2015