Well, here it is: 2016, a year that we have been awaiting for some time – because, at last, Phase 1 of the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) is being rolled out across England.
As previously reported, the Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS) was launched last November, staffed by highly experienced retired police officers with a vast array of experience. This is our mission: –
‘To support the Environment Agency (EA) in freshwater (coarse and trout) rod licence compliance and fisheries enforcement, by addressing prevention through education; increasing intelligence; initiating and developing multi-agency operations; promoting the positive benefits of increasing rod licence income and protecting fish and fisheries to the wider angling community’.
Following the necessary training and briefings, five of our six Regional Enforcement Managers (REM) are now recruiting volunteers pending holding mandatory induction days in their areas during February and March. Phase 1 VBS has, of course, been operational for nearly four years in SE England, in which existing region SE REM Gary Lawless is preparing to induct 22 carefully selected new Volunteer Bailiffs (VB) on February 6. By 12 March, all six regional inductions will be complete, meaning that for the first time our multi-agency Operation CLAMP DOWN, focussing on illegal fishing during the coarse close season, will be a national initiative.
As has been explained on numerous occasions over the past three years, enforcement is ‘intelligence-led’, permitting resources to be efficiently deployed to problem areas in response to incoming information. At Phase 1, VBs heavily contribute to that process, being trained to report incidents and information to a high evidential standard. We can all contribute to this underpinning process, however, by reporting incidents to the EA on 0800 80 70 60 or the police of 101 (or 999 if appropriate).
VBS is all about empowering anglers to help protect fish and fisheries – something we are all, surely, passionately committed to. Phase 1 concerns ‘eyes and ears’, in a similar way to Neighbourhood Watch in the wider world. Phase 1 is also helps us identify potential candidates for elevation to Phase 2, at which point VBs are passed to and become EA volunteers – receiving the same training, kit and powers as EA fisheries enforcement officers, who they will work with and directly in support of – particularly regarding rod licence compliance. So, whilst VBS is launched throughout England, SE REM Gary Lawless and I will be working with the EA to introduce Phase 2 into the SE, selecting those VBs who have consistently delivered over time.
More information on the VBS can be found here: –
Operation TRAVERSE – Update
Operation TRAVERSE was launched in November 2014 as a high profile strategic operation aimed at raising awareness of poaching and fish theft, and the wider criminal implications, and targeting issues in the Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire force areas. This represents a massive sea-change for the police service, which was hitherto unaware of the Theft Act offences involved. Changing things takes time and given ‘Old Bill’s’ many other priorities and commitments, we cannot and should not expect an overnight miracle. But, this is real progress. In December 2015, Nottinghamshire Police signed up to Operation TRAVERSE, following work by Midlands REM Kevin Pearson, and Eastern REM Paul Thomas has lost no time in achieving support from Norfolk and Humberside Police, and NE REM Giles Evans is in the process of recruiting Northumberland and other northern forces. Moreover, Northamptonshire Police have joined Operation LEVIATHAN, and NW REM Dave Lees and SE REM Gary Lawless are working on introducing other forces into that mix. So – progress. Ultimately we aim to cover the whole of England in this way, making it easier for anglers to report incidents and receive an appropriate response.
More information regarding Nottinghamshire Police and Operation TRAVERSE can be found here: –
As we all know, tackle theft has long been an issue and there now appears a trend in burglaries at tackle shops and fisheries. Helping the police address this is our contribution to the Rural Crime Strategy – partnership working is all about mutual support – and whilst out and about the REMs have been able to draw upon their policing experience to provide Crime Prevention Advice as and when required. This all, of course, emphasises that together we the EA and police, we are totally committed to increasing lawfulness on our waterways.
In 2014, the Angling Trust teamed up with world-leading crime-fighting company SmartWater to provide a bespoke forensic marker for fishing tackle, uniquely identifying it as a particular owner’s property. Further information on obtaining supplies of this SmartWater product can be found here: –
Recently, NW REM Dave Lees attended Get Hooked On Fishing’s Bolton site at Bradshaw Hall Fisheries with Andy Ellis from SmartWater, marking up items which have been replaced since the site was burgled last October. SmartWater very generously donated the property marking kit gratis to help the charity get back on its feet after this blow to their operation. Dave was also able to advise Bridget Dawson – Project Coordinator at Get Hooked On Fishing – about security: a perfect example of how the appointment of retired police officers for these REM posts issuch a massive benefit to the angling community.
Dave said: “Bridget was really pleased that we attended and marked up the tackle. My intention is to encourage all clubs and fisheries in the region to take appropriate crime-reduction steps in order to help counter the wave of angling related property crime we are currently being made aware of, and which has been reported in high-profile articles in the angling press in recent months. SmartWater provides an excellent deterrent and makes it very difficult for thieves to profit from the sale or re-use of stolen tackle and fishery kit like boats, outdoor motors, chainsaws, tools trophies and other related property”.
What, you may well ask, is SmartWater? In simple terms, SmartWater makes fishing equipment uniquely identifiable: the forensic liquid is simply painted on to items of value assigning them with a forensic code registered to the owner and can be traced if stolen and recovered by police. Once applied SmartWater is almost impossible to remove and can only be seen under ultraviolet (UV) light. Unlike DNA-based markers, which fade in sunlight and can require regular reapplication, SmartWater is extremely durable and is guaranteed to last for a minimum of five years, even when used outdoors. SmartWater supply high-visibility deterrent signage, warn thieves that property is protected – and criminals are afraid of SmartWater, make no mistake. Well, given its 100% successful conviction rate in court, wouldn’t you be?
Please contact SmartWater for more information on how best to use their products to protect your club or fishery using SmartWater: –
Tel: 0800 521 669
Fax: 0870 242 4561
An easy one: what fishing? After the flying start my winter got off to, the rivers rose, and rose, and rose even more. As I write, the Wye and Severn remain in the fields, where they have been for weeks. To say that this is frustrating would be an understatement – who’d be a spate river piker during climate change? For whatever reason, stillwater fishing just doesn’t interest me these days so I’ve no choice but to keep my powder dry until the river comes down. Karen and I are moving house later this month so I reckon we can pretty much guarantee that the rivers will be perfect then!! Anyway, frustrating though it is, that’s the way it is, but, who knows, a few more good pike could yet grave the net before 14 March – fingers crossed.
Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager Dilip Sarkar MBE, 12 January 2016