Personally, I can’t believe sometimes how far we’ve come in putting fisheries crime well and truly on the map – a long way to go yet but progress is now clearly visible. Just have a look at this for starters…
Voluntary Bailiff Service & Fisheries Enforcement Support Service
We have recently won a major contract through a transparent and competitive public process in which the Angling Trust was judged to be far and away the best partner to deliver three particular outcomes for the Environment Agency (EA). One of these concerns the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) and creation of the Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS!). So, what does this mean?
There are two phases to VBS – but first it is crucial to understand that the enforcement system is ‘intelligence-led’. What that means, in simple terms, is that the information provided by incoming calls in particular create patterns, meaning that resources can be efficiently deployed to hotspot areas at key times – rather than aimlessly patrolling which, experience confirms, achieves very little. The volume of calls also confirms the extent of a problem and thereby the priority given to it. Gathering that intelligence is absolutely vital, therefore, and underpins everything.
At Phase 1, Volunteer Bailiffs (VB) are trained by the Angling Trust, EA and National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) to patrol and report what they see to a high evidential standard to the appropriate authority – criminal matters to the police, fisheries offences to the EA. Although the EA is not resourced to attend every reported incidents, on occasions an immediate response IS possible and DOES happen – hence why the reporting of incidents is crucial. Earlier this year, to cite just one example, a VB reported two anglers fishing in the coarse close season; EA officers responded and the offenders were reported for various offences – subsequently leaving Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court over £1K poorer each. Previously, VBs discovered firearms hidden on the banks of a southern river – evidence of Organised Crime in the rural area. So, this veritable army of eyes and ears can only be a good thing for angling and rural communities as a whole – and hence the support we have from the police.
At Phase 2, carefully selected volunteers will receive exactly the same training, equipment and powers to EA fisheries enforcement officers – who they will work both with and directly in support of.
For over three years, VBS has been a pilot project in SE England, where we have trained nearly 100 Phase 1 volunteers. Across the rest of England, we have some 500 anglers registered on our database pending an invitation to formally apply immediately we are able to recruit in their area. Anyone wishing to register interest, in fact, should forward their full name, date of birth, address and contact details to Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org (secure server) – because now we have the contract, VBS is coming at long last!
My work on a national basis these past three years has shown the way, it is fair to say – hence why we are now recruiting six part-time Regional Enforcement Managers (REM) for the FESS. Ideally, applicants should have policing or fisheries enforcement experience. The idea is that REMS will deliver the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign (FEC) regionally, working with anglers, the police, EA and other partners to raise awareness, increase confidence and intelligence, initiate joint operations – and set up VBS. Anyone interested in applying should see this link:-
Once the REMs are in place and the FESS set up, we can deliver the FEC and crack on with VBS! Sorry, but the police service runs on acronyms and old habits die hard!
So, Phase 2 will soon be introduced into the SE VBS pilot region, whilst Phase 1 is at last rolled-out across the rest of England. The wait has been frustrating but worth it in the end – and all credit to our existing VBs who have kept the faith and cracked on throughout what was a long a difficult time.
VBS is not a cure-all – but it was a catalyst to review fisheries enforcement and try a different approach, one of partnership working, more in line with modern policing methods and policy. That is the game changer. Well done team!
TRAVERSE – ‘We Won’t Eat Your Fish!’
As is widely known, last November we launched Operation TRAVERSE as a partnership with Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire Police, the Polish PSR, EA and Cefas. This continues to make steady progress and we are now in the process of signing up both Nottinghamshire and Humberside Police.
Nottinghamshire Police, responding to concerns from anglers on the Trent, recently appointed Special Constable Haddon Smith in an angler liaison role; please see:-
Last weekend, Lincolnshire Police teamed up with SC Smith and Nottinghamshire Police to patrol the Trent, as Lincolnshire Police’s PC Nick Willey reports: –
Great operation last night on the river Trent at a number of locations, finishing off at Collingham and Girton. Thirty people checked with one fisheries and one drugs offence. Very, very positive response from all the anglers we spoke to – a couple from Nottingham were members of the Trent River Watch.
Special Constable Haddon Smith did the organising, two of my Specials, three Notts PCSOs and three Notts PCs, including Sgt Matt Scott, and myself represented the police contribution, joining three EA Fisheries Enforcement Officers who worked till 0300.
It was a really good operation. Whilst we can’t promise to do this every weekend, it has really forged some great links with Notts and Lincs Police officers and the E/A chaps.
I hope this gets some positive impact across social media my twitter site is @lpwildlifecrime I put out some tweets last night as were doing the Operation with some pictures and got the most re- tweets I have ever had.
Nick’s final comment says it all: ‘I am aware that we can never please everybody all of the time, but working together like this means we can have some positive effect on these issues’. Spot on: working together.
Offenders are certainly feeling the heat and getting the message in the TRAVERSE area, where a major poster campaign is underway – raising awareness and education. The Polish community in Spalding has responded positively, as this article in the local paper confirms: –
‘Building Bridges’ remains a very important component of our work and strategy, in fact. Last month, Rado Papiewski visited Lithuania, duplicating our research trip of last year to Poland. We worked with the Lithuanian authorities and met with the Vice-Minister for the Environment. Our work in Poland and Lithuania was reported upon here: –
Earlier this year we met with Daniel Kawcynski MP, the Prime Minister’s Envoy on Polish & Eastern European Diaspora in the UK; please see: –
On 30 November, Rado and I will be back at Westminster, with Daniel and George Hollingbery MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling, to meet the Polish and Lithuanian Ambassadors. Basically, we need their help to raise awareness of this issue throughout their communities in England. We need the migrant press editors aboard – and this will help do that. More news as it comes…
We are also currently advertising for a Lithuanian speaker to join our ‘Building Bridges’ team, which is now part of the FESS.
For more information on Operation TRAVERSE, please see: –
For the ‘Lincolnshire Against Poaching’ Facebook page, please see: –
We launched the West Mercia-led Operation LEVIATHAN last June as a similar partnership to TRAVERSE last June. Initially, this involved eight forces and National Resources Wales (NRW), and has already grown to number 14: West Mercia, Warwickshire, Cheshire, West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Avon & Somerset, Wiltshire, North Wales, Dyfed-Powys, Gwent and South Wales. The idea is that LEVIATHAN will continue growing up the western half of England, TRAVERSE along the eastern side. For more information on LEVIATHAN, please see:-
All forces have been actively raising awareness and delivering tactical operations targeting illegal fishing and fish theft. Most recently, Cheshire Police were out and about with the EA, as Fisheries Enforcement Officer Ian Wood reports here: –
So, the idea is that TRAVERSE will continue growing on the eastern side of England, LEVIATHAN on the west – then, when the REMs are in post, we will initiate a third and final initiative for London and the SE. The ultimate aim, of course, is to recruit every police force in England (we already have all Welsh forces). The benefit of these operations is that the police receive training and information regarding an issue previously off their radar, and better understand the criminal offences involved. Moreover, instead of losing the will to live explaining that fishing without permission and the theft of fish ARE criminal offences and therefore police matters, all the caller has to do is cite the operational name and hey presto – the call-taker should know exactly what to do.
Guidance on reporting incidents to the police can be found here: –
Operation CLAMP DOWN 3
Annually, VBS SE runs ‘OCD’ in partnership with the EA and various police forces. This was ground-breaking in 2013, providing the first large-scale opportunity for anglers, the EA and police to work in partnership. During the 2015 coarse close season, 31 Volunteer Bailiffs undertook 256 patrols, reporting 17 incidents to the Environment Agency (feedback regarding which is currently awaited). VBS South Downs Area Coordinator Colin Sterling said: ‘On one occasion we patrolled with PC Keith Buckley, a Sussex Police Wildlife Crime Officer, and Environment Agency officers. At one venue visited the owner reported suspected drug dealing – emphasising why it is important for the police to be involved’.
Similar joint patrols took place in all four VBS areas covering SE England.
The plan is to have VBS Phase 1 ‘live’ throughout England by March 2016 – meaning that ‘OCD4’ will cover the entire country.
Anyone requiring further information regarding VBS please see: –
And so, we conclude this update where we started….. with VBS.
More positive news and progress coming soon!
Dilip Sarkar MBE, Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager, 11 September 2015