Thanks to the Voluntary Bailiff Service and the reinvestment of your rod licence funds, anglers are not only protecting fisheries and wildlife, but having a huge wider impact nationally. This week, we hear from National Enforcement Manager, Dilip Sarkar, who pays tribute to our amazing volunteers and urges anglers from every region to look out for this autumn’s Fisheries Enforcement Workshops right across England.
When last I contributed to ‘Lines on the Water’, it was reporting on our well-received contribution to the 30th UK Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference in December 2018 – an important platform at which to raise awareness of issues around protecting fish and fisheries. Importantly, this was also an opportunity to promote the great example that the Voluntary Bailiff Service is to us all, in addition to emphasising the wider benefits it provides the entire community.
Why, and why is this important to angling as a whole?
Professionally trained and keyed into the fight against Rural Crime – which includes Fisheries Crime – our volunteers are out there, reporting what they see and hear in the right way and to the right people. Our volunteers, of course, do not simply report matters connected with fisheries enforcement, far from it. Over the years we’ve had the discovery of automatic weapons, a stolen safe, illegal drugs, to name but a few things reported over and above the norm, in addition to incidents of waste and pollution, and even saving the life of a suicidal individual.
This also confirms the links between waterways, fisheries and the rural area with wider, serious, crime and criminals – and serious, organised, crime is something of interest to every single police officer and magistrate in the country, even if watching a float isn’t. This, then, is of immeasurable help to us when making partners understand the importance of protecting fish and fisheries and achieving their support.
The positive impact of togetherness!
Moreover, this positive contribution by the VBS to society as a whole, way beyond fisheries enforcement, cannot be overlooked. This makes people who know little or nothing about angling sit up and take notice – which may be the first time they have even considered crime around angling and the environment.
Crucially, it also showcases what anglers can achieve if we all pull together. Make no mistake, numerous other organisations would dearly love a VBS equivalent, but that is unlikely to happen. Again – why? Because freshwater anglers contribute financially (to the Environment Agency) through rod licences, in a way that, say, walkers – another huge pastime – do not. That money, then, goes a long way to maintaining and improving fisheries, and funds essential services. So, never underestimate the importance of rod licence income – which gives freshwater anglers a fighting fund and say in how this money is spent by the EA.
Fisheries Enforcement Workshops this autumn:
FREE for all to attend!
Moving on, as autumn approaches we are running into our annual regional Fisheries Enforcement Workshops – again funded by rod licence income and hence why they are FREE to attend!
We only have the budget to hold one per year in each of our six regions, which are huge, so locations will not suit everyone all of the time. For that reason, we do try to move the venues around, to give as many anglers as possible a fair shout. If you are involved with a club or fishery in any way, these are really important – and were it up to me, I wouldn’t sell anyone a rod licence or permit without prior attendance at one. Yet again, why? Simple: unless we all understand the law and process involved, how can we both protect our precious fish and fisheries, and make the system work for us? This is not something, either, we can leave to someone else – ALL anglers can contribute.
What would YOU do, for example, if you witnessed a crime or fisheries offence on the bank? Would you know who to contact and what to say?
As an angling club bailiff are you aware of Conflict Resolution?
Does your Club have a competent and legally compliant Health & Safety Policy and Risk Assessment process?
Who are your EA and policing contacts?
How can issues involving migrant anglers be addressed and translated into a positive?
All of these questions and many more are answered, through input by fisheries enforcement and policing professionals.
On this page, you can find a short video of yours truly explaining why FEWs are so important, and details of the forthcoming workshops throughout England. Although owing to funding from English rod licences we cannot hold these in Wales, Welsh anglers are more than welcome, should they wish, to attend any of the workshops in England.
Whether or not you can attend a Workshop, we all need to be aware that our three guides on fisheries law and enforcement, bailiffing and how to report things to the police have been updated and are available to all as free downloads on the above page.
A brighter, safer future for fishing, with your support…
In summary, we can only truly fight back effectively and build a sound foundation for the future if we are all on the same page, working together. Although we still have far to go, I am pleased to say that we are, increasingly so.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to and thank all of our volunteers, whose dedication and commitment to put something back into fishing is inspirational. It is also a privilege to lead the FESS team of policing professionals and other specialists – we are there to help, so never hesitate to get in touch for advice.
On the fishing front, owing to other priorities outside of the Angling Trust, and the work involved with setting up and running the FESS, I have not enjoyed the luxury of any serious fishing for several years now. Is it a coincidence, though, that my son James catching yet another Severn zander over fifteen pounds last week has rekindled my enthusiasm?! One thing is for sure, I certainly hope to have a few sessions prowling the Wye Valley after pike and watching the world go by on the Severn every now and again this winter …
Tight lines all – and don’t forget: we are stronger together!
Dilip Sarkar MBE
National Enforcement Manager
Fisheries Enforcement Support Service