It with great pleasure that I write my first blog in my new role as Angling Trust REM (Regional Enforcement Manager) for the Midlands area, having enjoyed a positive response from many anglers across the region during my first few weeks.
As you might already know, the appointment of six regional enforcement managers across England was made in the Autumn of 2015 and we started in post early November. The aim was to build on the work that National Enforcement Manager Dilip Sarkar had been already been doing with partner agencies and clubs to protect our fisheries, fish and to encourage a stronger emphasis on enforcement and education alike.
We have all enjoyed some initial successes with visits to club meetings, fishing venues and attending both EA and Police meetings to emphasise the importance of partnership working to deal with the threat of poaching, theft and other crimes that are unfortunately committed on or around our lakes, rivers and canals. A result of this is more police forces and clubs supporting joint initiatives under ‘Operation Leviathan’ in the west of the region and Operation Traverse’, which runs in the East Midlands.
One of my first meetings in the new role. Giving some crime prevention advice to Mark Brooker, fishery manager at Trimpley reservoir, Worcestershire.
My area ranges from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in the north, as far south as the Gloucestershire borders with Wales and the Avon region, then across to the eastern borders of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, encompassing 10 counties in all. A vast area to cover and one that contains a large number of high profile rivers and still waters plus one of the biggest canal networks in Europe. A lot for me to deal with, but an enjoyable challenge! That is why it is so important for us to build an effective network of ‘eyes and ears’ on our waters to work together as anglers and this is being done through the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS), currently being rolled out across England.
For our first induction, which will be held at Upton Warren Outdoor Centre, Worcestershire in February, we have 38 volunteers. A great start, but others are already interested in getting involved later in the year when we will hold a second one, possibly in the Derbyshire area… watch this space!
So what will the VBs (Voluntary Bailiffs) do? Well, they will collect information from their patrols and this will be shared with the Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers, Police and Local Authorities through reports on our VBS website, where it can be used to support those organisations to carry out more targeted work. The idea is to train our VBs to make more detailed and accurate reports to the authorities than is currently the case. They will, in effect, become the experts as far as volunteers go, in knowing what our partners need to support anglers and clubs in the fight against illegal angling.
One of our higher profile events so far, took place up at South Muskham lakes at Newark-On-Trent recently, where I got together with the Environment Agency, Nottinghamshire Police, Notts. Piscatorials Angling Society and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Paddy Tipping to promote our joint involvement in ‘Operation Traverse’. This was an excellent example of partnership working, with good exposure in the media to get out some of our joint messages about enforcement and education in angling. This type of networking is essential if we are to be successful in preventing poaching and encouraging more legal participation in angling, so there will be more of this to come.
So, the future looks bright if the first few weeks are anything to go by, but improvements in the way that we work together to protect our sport will only continue if everybody does their bit to look after our waters. That doesn’t mean putting yourself in harm’s way, but by simply picking up the phone to the Police or EA and reporting poaching from rivers, theft of fish from lakes or illegal anglers without rod licences depending on the circumstances. If in doubt phone them both! You can also download the ‘Project Poacher’ app on your smartphone as an additional way of passing on information. Well worth checking out. We at Angling Trust can’t guarantee an immediate response in all cases, but as we are all working ever more closely these days, we are hopeful for a more positive reaction to anglers’ calls as call-taking staff become more aware of the joint agreements we have in place.
Let’s all keep working together and make these initiatives a success so that we can all enjoy fishing for a long time to come!
Regional Enforcement Manager (Midlands)