It is clear that hitherto, fisheries enforcement has not been appropriately located within the wider frameworks of Rural, Wildlife, Business, Hate and, indeed, Organised Crime. Likewise it is obvious that there has been a pronounced lack of awareness of the wider criminal implications throughout the police service. Moreover, there has been a demonstrable lack of consistent partnership working between the various stakeholders involved. Because of this, intelligence sharing and mutual support has suffered – and, given the National Intelligence Model – it is intelligence around which the enforcement world revolves, or at least it should. The Crown Prosecution Service and courts also need educating, and assisting through the provision of Impact Statements accurately contextualising the negative environmental and fiscal effect of poaching and fish theft. All of these things the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign seeks to address – and is making massive progress.
To be fair, even though I have been a passionate angler for forty-five years and a West Mercia Police officer for twenty-five of those, I was unaware of the criminal law and police responsibilities involved until I retired from the service. At that point I took over the lease of a prime fishery on the river Severn: only then were my eyes opened and the confusion apparent. That was when I decided to do something about it – and working for the Angling Trust, the sport’s governing body, coupled with my police experience in criminal investigation, partnership working, intelligence sharing and working with volunteers has made that possible. Starting with a blank canvas in 2013, and taking over management of the Voluntary Bailiff Service pilot project in South East England, what is now the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign vision was rapidly born and has already evolved to make a significant impact at all levels.
It is clear to me, speaking as an experienced retired officer, that police officers are highly trained and motivated – and effectively experts in the criminal law and Criminal Justice System with an enormous amount of contacts. This is why I have been able to achieve the cooperation and support of the Association of Chief Police Officers, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit and an increasing number of forces – including The Metropolitan Police. Indeed, being able to talk the right language and know how to present fisheries offences in a way that the police understand has been absolutely key – enabling me to speak at numerous police conferences, train officers, improve intelligence sharing and initiate joint operations. The torch has, therefore, been lit and the path ahead now clearly signposted.
Imagine, though, if we had a team of Regional Enforcement Officers, all with police experience, to deliver the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign locally. To date, I have worked on this nationally – but to me, policing is always better when delivered through a more local arrangement. Such officers could collectively achieve so very much – and act as a liaison, a bridge, between the anglers, the police and Environment Agency. Retired police officers have enormous experience – which, being perfectly mercenary about it, we need to cash in on. With this in mind, I am delighted to have recruited two retired officers as Key Volunteers assisting with the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign: Kevin Pearson, a retired West Midlands officer who now runs the Birmingham Anglers’ Association’s bailiffs, and Nevin Hunter, who retired from Devon & Cornwall Police when Head of the UK National Crime Unit last year. Please see: –
Kevin will be delivering the ‘Best Practice for Angling Club Bailiffs’ at the forthcoming North East Fisheries Enforcement Workshop – these being essential briefings for anglers, by enforcement professionals, on such topics as The Theft Act 1968, Environment Agency fisheries enforcement, Conflict Resolution, the migrant angler issue and ‘Building Bridges’ Project, Health & Safety, Risk Assessment and more besides. The point is, of course, that until we all understand the law and how the system works, we can’t make it work for us. Please see:-
Nevin and I first came into contact whilst he was running the National Wildlife Crime Unit and I joined the board of the Unit’s Poaching Priority Group. Nevin perfectly understood my vision and what we needed to achieve, and supported this process entirely. Since retiring, Nevin has helped us, amongst other things, by training police staff in Devon & Cornwall, Avon & Somerset, and Dorset. We have other things planned for the South West – watch this space and please see:-
For my part, this is all very encouraging, biding very well indeed for the future. I’d be very interested to hear from fellow retired police officers in other parts of England keen to learn more or get involved: email@example.com.
In January, Adrian Saunders and Al Watson of the Environment Agency joined me at Gloucestershire Police Headquarters to train that force’s Rural & Environmental Crime Liaison Officers. The following month saw Al and I at West Mercia Police Headquarters near Worcester, speaking at my old force’s Rural & Wildlife Crime Conference. Today, West Mercia, comprising the counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire, has an ‘alliance’ with Warwickshire Police. Collectively, all of these counties form the Severn Basin and include the rivers Wye, Lugg, Severn, Teme and Warwickshire Avon, and countless other waterways. Last November, we launched Operation TRAVERSE, a partnership between Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire Police, and the Environment Agency, targeting illegal fishing and fish theft in Fenland; anglers confirm that quoting TRAVERSE when reporting incidents has overcome the previous confusion, and already these vital calls have led to arrests and detection of various offences. This is exactly what we are now replicating, on an even bigger scale, with West Mercia, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire Police: Operation LEVIATHAN will be launched soon, across those force areas, as another high profile and ongoing initiative. Ultimately, it is my intention to have the whole of England covered by such joint operations.
Down in the South East, the Voluntary Bailiff Service now has Operation CLAMP DOWN 3 underway, targeting illegal fishing on rivers during the annual statutory coarse close season. This operation, now in its third consecutive year, features Volunteer Bailiffs being ‘eyes and ears’, feeding information into the system for the police and Environment Agency to act upon. This is also an important opportunity for Volunteer Bailiffs to engage with Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers – whose work the Service exists to directly support – and the police. Working together is the only way forward – it really is as simple as that.
We are currently recruiting for the Voluntary Bailiff Service in SE England – the closing date for applications is 30 March 2015. Interested parties should email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. A mandatory training and induction day for the new intake will be held at Get Hooked on Fishing on Saturday 25 April 2015. Anyone outside the South East but elsewhere in England should forward their details to me for addition to our database: this enables us to invite you to formally apply immediately we recruit in your area. We expect the Voluntary Bailiff Service to be rolled out nationally, at last, later this year. Further information can be found in my other ‘Lines on the Water’ blogs and at: – http://www.anglingtrust.net/page.asp?section=930§ionTitle=Voluntary%20Bailiff%20Service
What else is on the agenda? Too much to mention here, but all Angling Trust members receive regular updates and bulletins concerning our work and progress. For £2.50 per month, how can any angler afford not to be a member?
The only problem is that setting up and getting a band wagon moving consumes an enormous amount of time and effort. Because of the momentum gained in spite of very limited resources, my personal fishing particularly suffered last season. I was able to do virtually no zander fishing, and little piking on the Wye and Severn compared to previous seasons. This, however, was an important one, marking the first of the Severn Basin Predator Study. It was important to get out there, therefore, and ultimately I managed to record a respectable number of pike to 20.03, and, much more importantly, encourage others to get recording. This really is a crucial project, an unprecedented opportunity for predator anglers to engage and contribute to achieving a better understanding of pike and zander on the Wye, Severn and Warwickshire Avon. Together with Brecht Morris of the Environment Agency, the scientist working with us on the project, I’ll be speaking about the Study at the forthcoming Severn Rivers Trust Conference at University Worcester on 28 March 2015. Very much looking forward to seeing old pals and fellow speakers Des Taylor and John Costello; a good time will be had by all, of that I’m sure! For more information and to book a ticket: –
For more information on the Severn Basin Predator Study, please see: –
Or join our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/581320218654141/
Talking of Facebook, it’s great to see anglers getting involved with the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign, doing their bit to promote our work and spread the message. Special mention must be made of, in no particular order: –
Juan Coetzee’s ‘Fish Poachers Exposed UK’ page: –
Ady Paul’s ‘Lincolnshire Against Poaching’ page: –
Darrell Graham’s ‘Fenland River Watch’ page: –
And remember: Facebook is a great source of intelligence, so let us have anything which identifies potential offenders – and be careful what you post; ‘Big Brother’ IS watching.
Tight lines – and make those calls – police 101, Environment Agency 0800 80 70 60!