As was reported in my previous blog, 1 November 2015 saw the new Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS) launched as a result of the Angling Trust achieving the National Angling Services Contract to deliver a number of outcomes. This involves working in support of and in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA), so it is important to understand from the outset that this is in no way any attempt to undermine the Agency’s role as the lead on fisheries enforcement – but has everything to do with enhancing and supporting it in this difficult and challenging task. All FESS staff are highly experienced former police officers, meaning that they fully understand the wider frameworks of crime involved, how the police and Criminal Justice System works, and fully appreciate the benefits of what is called the ‘multi-agency’ approach. In this way, whilst the Agency largely, but not exclusively, deals with rod-licence compliance and fisheries offences, we can help raise awareness throughout the police service, via the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign, improving the overall level of service provided anglers and support afforded the EA. The REMs are not operational – that is the EA’s job and rightly so. From our perspective, in the ‘cops’, what we are doing is called ‘Beat Management’, which does not involve being part of the operational response, but helping coordinate a joined up approach, raise awareness, and get everyone working together towards a shared aim. This is exactly what we are doing and in which area we can support the EA and make a positive contribution. A classic case, really, of ‘together we’ll crack it’.
Our six Regional Enforcement Managers (REM) are highly motivated and passionate about helping to protect fish and fisheries, and help anglers. In fact, as individuals we are all about making a difference – with an eye very much on the bigger picture. So no surprise, then, that all of my team has already started making a difference.
In the NW, Dave Lees, amongst other things, has been talking to the EA and police, is in touch with a fishery that has been burgled, and Get Hooked on Fishing which suffered tackle theft. In NE, Giles Evans has been meeting key EA and police contacts, liaising with angling clubs, and – significantly – has already fixed up for Northumberland Police to join Operation LEVIATHAN, one of two multi-force initiatives targeting illegal fishing and fish theft. In the Midlands Kevin Pearson has been literally all over, representing us at policing forums and spreading the word, in addition to visiting the fishery at Trimpley to meet staff. In SW, Nevin Hunter has been liaising with angling clubs and raising awareness at meetings, and in SE Gary Lawless has similarly been busy talking to the EA, police, angling clubs and community leaders. In Eastern, Paul Thomas has been attending public meetings and talking to anglers, whilst pulling a blinder by getting Norfolk Police to sign up to Operation TRAVERSE, which is now in the process of being formalised.
The main focus of the REMs’ work, however, is setting up the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) throughout England. This concerns Phase 1, in which our volunteers are ‘eyes and ears’, trained by the EA, Angling Trust and police regarding how the all-important intelligence-led system works and how to report incidents and information to a high evidential standard. The plan is that all five new regions will be ‘live’ by March 2016 – meaning that our annual initiative targeting illegal fishing during the coarse close season, Operation CLAMP DOWN, will be a national focus for the first time. Previously, although the EA, of course, targets illegal close season fishing nationally, this has been confined to the SE, where VBS Phase 1 has been running since May 2012. In that region, REM Gary Lawless is currently processing applications in preparation for a mandatory induction day in February 2016. All REMs will be attending Angling Trust Regional Forums, so if you are interested in meeting them, please attend (open to all), or if any advice is required do not hesitate to contact any of the team.
Anyone wishing to apply to join VBS Phase 1 should contact their relevant REM ASAP: –
David Lees, NW: firstname.lastname@example.org
Giles Evans, NE: email@example.com
Kevin Pearson, Midlands: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Thomas, Eastern: email@example.com
Nevin Hunter, SW: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Lawless, SE: email@example.com
A short film made at the last VBS SE Phase 1 induction day last April can be found here: –
So, if you are as passionate as we at the Angling Trust and EA are about protecting fish and fisheries, and really want to help make a difference, now’s your chance to get involved.
From a personal perspective, I am preparing to work with the EA on delivering Phase 2 into the SE area, where Phase 1, as explained, is already up and running, which involves careful selection of a small number of volunteers to become, essentially, voluntary EA fisheries enforcement officers. These volunteers will receive the same training and powers as EA officers, so will work within Agency teams checking rod licences and dealing with certain byelaw offences. One point I would make crystal clear, however: no jobs are being lost as a result of this, the idea being simply to provide voluntary support to EA fisheries enforcement teams, which no-one could argue were not under-resourced considering the task in hand. Whereas VBS Phase 1 could be likened to Neighbourhood Watch, Phase 2 is similar to the Special Constabulary’s long-standing support of the regular police service. This is a big change, of course, but this country has a long and proud history of volunteers making a difference, and this is simply that: passionate people giving up their time to help the professionals.
Last weekend, I was away at the National Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference – an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of angling related crime and the multi-agency approach, meeting and talking to some very senior police officers and other partners. Foremost amongst the former, who have both been incredibly supportive of our efforts, are Chief Constable Simon Prince, National Policing Lead on Rural & Wildlife Crime, and Chief Inspector Martin Sims, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). The bad news is that the Government Spending Review threatens continued funding for the Unit after March 2016. The Unit is absolutely essential to maintaining the increased priority afforded to and understanding of Wildlife Crime, in all its forms, and must not be allowed to disappear. We can all do something to help by visiting this link: –
Further information on the all-important NWCU can be found here: –
At the Conference, I also had the opportunity to discuss a particular case with Rod Chapman of the Crown Prosecution Service, which is now much more understanding of the Theft Act offences involved with poaching and fish theft. Progress, certainly, and most welcome, but next year I’ll be talking to the Magistrates’ Association regarding the training of Justices of the Peace, and ensuring that Court Clerks have got the message (from whom magistrates take advice and so a crucial link in the chain).
Next week, Rado Papiewski, our ‘Building Bridges’ Project Manager, and Martynas Pranaitis, one of our two Project Officers, will be joining me in London for an important meeting with the Lithuanian Ambassador and Daniel Kawcyznski MP, the Prime Minister’s Envoy on Polish & Eastern European Diaspora in the UK and a member of the All Parliamentary Party Group on Angling. We already have support from Linas Janouskas, the Lithuanian Vice-Minister for Environment, with whom we appeared on Lithuanian national TV last August, and who is visiting us here next spring. We need all of these influential people to understand our issues, and help us achieve coverage from editors in the migrant press. It is interesting to note, by the way, that there are now waters dedicated solely to catch and release in Poland, and there is growing interest in a more conservation-based approach to angling in both Poland and Lithuania. If we are going to fully resolve this problem, this is the level we need to operate at. Higher if the Prime Minister will see me!
So, clearly we are doing all we can. You can do yours by reporting incidents in progress – criminal offences, such as fishing without permission (Schedule 1, Theft Act 1968), and the theft of fish (from enclosed waters) to the police, and fisheries offences to the EA on 0800 80 70 60.
From a personal point of view, I was determined to do more fishing this winter, and started off my piking well, with the first two trips to two rivers producing three twenties; clearly on a (rare!) roll, it would have been daft not to push my luck and go again, so first trip to the Wye turned up a 23.03. So, three rivers, three trips, for twenties, but then, inevitably, the rivers came up and the weather still unsettled, wet and windy. Good conditions for Severn zander, perhaps, and a few good ones have certainly been caught by friends, but for various reasons I’ve lost a lot of interest in the zander scene, hardly fishing for them last season and yet to wet a line with zeds in mind this term. So, as I write it’s blowing a hooli still outside the rivers look mucky, so I’m keeping my powder dry and can’t wait to get another bait in the right place and the right time…
Dilip Sarkar MBE, Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager