For the past three years I’ve worked on establishing the Voluntary Bailiff Service in SE England, and equally importantly delivering what is now the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign: more appropriately locating fisheries related offences within the accepted policing frameworks of Rural, Wildlife, Business, Hate and Organised Crime. This is all about raising awareness: educating anglers regarding the law and how the system works; raising awareness throughout the police service that these offences are, in fact, recordable crimes, often connected to a wider pattern of offending; increasing confidence and the all-important intelligence under-pinning the entire process, sharing that intelligence with other stakeholders and improving partnership working. The first demonstrable success of this work came with the launches of Operations TRAVERSE and LEVIATHAN, unprecedented multi-agency initiatives targeting illegal fishing and fish theft for the first time – coupled with an increasing number of prosecutions, often with more realistic fines due to our work with the courts and Crown Prosecution Service. This has sign-posted the way – but no-one, no matter how dedicated to the cause, can work 24/7 on a national basis indefinitely.
As is widely known, the Angling Trust successfully tendered for an Environment Agency contract delivering various outcomes – including the Fisheries Enforcement Support Service and rolling out the Voluntary Bailiff Service throughout England. Having personally proved the benefits involved, it was agreed that we needed six Regional Enforcement Managers, preferably with a policing background providing even more experience of working with enforcement volunteers, crime investigation, intelligence and partnership work – the idea being that these managers will provide anglers and fisheries with professional advice, and use their numerous contacts within and knowledge of police forces in England for the benefit of and in support of the Environment Agency’s delivery of fisheries enforcement. Policing – for that is what we are talking about – is always best delivered in my view on a more local level, so having six officers working in this way is an unprecedented step for the benefit of fish and fishing.
So, the six Regional Enforcement Managers started on 2 November, with a two-day induction course supported by the Angling Trust, Environment Agency, West Mercia Police, and the crime-fighting global leader SmartWater. The press release concerning these incredibly important appointments details each of the six Regional Enforcement Managers’ regions and backgrounds: –
So, we now have: –
David Lees, NW REM: firstname.lastname@example.org. 07495 433618
Giles Evans, NE REM: email@example.com. 07495 433619
Kevin Pearson, Midlands REM: firstname.lastname@example.org. 07495 433620
Paul Thomas, Eastern REM: email@example.com. 07495 433621
Gary Lawless, London & SE: firstname.lastname@example.org. 07495 433623
Nevin Hunter, SW REM Nevin.email@example.com 07495 433622
I am absolutely delighted with my new team; between the seven of us we must have close on 200 years policing experience, and all are passionate anglers and equally so regarding protecting all wildlife and the environment. Please feel free to contact your relevant REM to discuss issues or seek advice, BUT please ensure that incidents and offences in progress are always reported to either the police on 101 or the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60, as appropriate.
Following further training, the REMs will be working closely with the Environment Agency to roll-out VBS across England. More news on this coming soon.
The Fisheries Enforcement Support Service now includes the Building Bridges Project, as part of our prevention and education thread. Effective enforcement comprises many facets:-
PIER is the way forward, so this is not about concentrating on any one aspect but a cohesive whole.
Building Bridges Project was the vision of my colleague Rado Papiewski, aimed at educating and integrating, not alienating, migrant anglers. This massive task Rado has also been delivering solo, nationally, for five years. Now his team has increased by two Project Workers: Polish-speaker Patrycja Bury and Lithuanian-speaker Martynas Pranaitis (who has been a South Downs Volunteer Bailiff for three years). All of this will be subject to a forthcoming press release and further blog.
So, progress at last!
The good news is that I’ve even done a bit of fishing at last! Having lost all interest in fishing for anything other than river pike, and occasionally these days, zander, I didn’t fish at all between 15 March – 30 September. This was not only due to work but also because I personally choose not to fish for predators any more in periods of low oxygen and high water temperatures on comparatively shallow rivers. So by 1 October, even though un-seasonally warm, I was raring to go. First few trips produced a few low doubles, but first trip to a new river and – BOOM – a lovely 22.08. Six days later my son, James, and I were fishing the Severn, locally, but a stretch I’d not fished for five years; BOOM again: a brace, at 20.00 and 21.07! There is much more to all this, though.
We are working with the Environment Agency on the Severn Basin Predator Study, sampling and surveying all pike and zander caught from the Severn, Wye and Warwickshire Avon. This is important work and a first for predator anglers in this area to get involved with serious scientific survey work – helping provide a platform of data regarding growth, diet and movement for serious study, helping us better understand and appreciate these magnificent but surprisingly delicate creatures. Anyone can get involved – just email Brecht Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The interesting thing is that the first fish I caught last Saturday I immediately recognised due to a scar – I last caught, some distance away but in the same study zone, in early March 2014, at 20.02. Back then it had a winter body shape, with spawn; now it is typically hollow, but had obviously grown a couple of pounds. With spawn, next back-end this fish could well make 23 or even 24, if we have a good feeding winter.
Encouragingly, the wound had healed well, as the photographs confirm. The reason this fish is significant is that hitherto, we have had repeat captures over the course of one winter, but have not seen those fish again the following season. We all know that, like barbel, some river pike stay put whilst others roam, but this is all about scientific evidence. One fish, though, proves nothing, so it will be interesting to see patterns identified as more data is collated and analysed by Brecht over time. So, my personal fishing these days is not just self-indulgent but contributing to a greater good and bigger picture – giving me more reason to leave my warm bed at stupid o’clock.
More information can be found here on the Severn Basin Predator Study: –
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As I write, I’m looking forward to fishing with my wife Karen tomorrow, and with my very old friend Des Taylor next week – been a long time since Des and I wet a line together, so I’m looking forward to the inevitable banter!
More news on the Fisheries Enforcement Support Service, including the Voluntary Bailiff Service and Building Bridges, coming soon. Until then, tight lines all
.Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager, Dilip Sarkar MBE, 5 November 2015