How to report pollution UK hotline

How to report a pollution incident

It’s every angler’s worst nightmare to encounter a pollution incident, but what would you do next? Sadly, these events still happen, but as anglers we can help protect the places we love. Quick action could potentially save the lives of thousands of fish! Here is our quickfire guide to reporting pollution incidents, along with the wider action we’re taking to keep our waters beautiful.

The pollution of our waterways is still a sad reality each season, but there is action we can take in both the here and now, and a longer term basis. As anglers, there is always the chance we will be first on the scene, witnessing an outbreak as it happens. Whether it’s the sight of dead or dying fish in the margins, or a nasty-looking discharge leaking into a river, the time to act is right away! Your rod licence money directly funds highly trained Environment Agency staff to respond to these incidents- so do pick up the phone and please don’t leave it to someone else. The emergency number on your licence (0800 807060) operates 24/7, 365 days of the year, so there will always be someone to report to.

Environment Agency staff attend to a pollution outbreak. Your fishing licence money directly funds work to investigate and respond to incidents that threaten fish and freshwater habitats.

So, let’s imagine you’ve arrived at the waterside and seen something alarming. What happens next? Here’s a quick, easy to follow summary of what to do:


Reporting pollution: An at-a-glance checklist

The number to report an incident is simply the one printed on your fishing licence (0800 80 70 60 for England, Northern Ireland or Scotland, or 0300 065 3000 for Wales). However, before you make the call, here are some key things that you’ll need to report:

  • Your exact location. If you are near a named bridge, road or feature, this will help. Or better still, get an exact reference, because the call handler will be at a central office and is unlikely to have local knowledge. One useful tool here is the UK Grid-Free Phone app, which will quickly give you a reference point. There’s also a similar version for i-phones HERE.
  • The date and time: Take a note of the exact time you noticed the incident.
  • Describe what you have witnessed: A clear account is a huge help. Can you see any discharge? Is there a foul smell? Perhaps you can see fish struggling?
  • Can you see the source? While this won’t always be obvious, you might be able to see where the pollution is coming from. If so, be sure to include this, because it could be critical.
  • Pictures or footage: These days all of us have portable cameras with our phones. Images or a short video can be very helful in gathering evidence, whether you record discoloured water or fish and other wildlife in distress.
  • Get an incident number: Rather like reporting crime to the police, every case will be given a case number. Do ask for this and request that you want to be kept informed going forward.
Environment Agency staff use specialist equipment during an emergency response (above). Your phone call could save the lives of thousands of fish!

Other useful links and information:

The Environment Agency has its own dedicated page on reporting incidents, including those of different categories such as collapsed river banks and illegal waste dumping. READ MORE.

You will also find a report on the current state of our rivers, along with facts, figures and more details about current challenges and efforts to improve water quality HERE.

The Canal and Rivers Trust should also be informed if an incident occurs on one of their waterways, such as one of the many canals they manage. The CRT have their own guide to reporting incidents HERE

Anglers in Wales should also see the Natural Resources Wales website for further guidance on reporting pollution and other types of incident HERE.


What can we do about long term pollution and other threats to our rivers, lakes and coastline?

Besides the awful, headline-grabbing incidents of pollution that occur, there are also many less obvious ways that our waters suffer. Alarmingly in 2020, not a single river or lake in England made the grade when it came to being within legal limits for harmful pollutants. Whether it’s insecticides, sewage and other harmful substances seeping into our rivers, or indeed plastic pollution, we are determined to fight for a cleaner future. But we need your help! Here are some of the measures and campaigns that matter.

Fish Legal

Simply by becoming an Angling Trust member, you are directly supporting our dedicated team at Fish Legal. Their efforts, which are 100% funded by you, have taken hundreds of polluters to task over recent years, winning tens of thousands in compensation for angling clubs and fisheries. It’s worth remembering that without the vigilance of anglers and the expertise of Fish Legal, many of these cases would never have gone to court at all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Anglers Against Pollution

Our headline campaign is pushing hard to protect and restore aquatic habitats where you live. Whether it’s working towards tougher regulations or banging directly on the doors of decision makers, we are insisting that it’s time for change and a complete rethink of how we manage our precious freshwater and marine eco-systems! Besides being an Angling Trust member, there are several really simple and effective ways you can help us get this vital message out loud and clear, inluding our Anglers Against Pollution Campaign.

Whether you fly the flag for Anglers Against Pollution, or join volunteer efforts to combat litter, there are many ways to make a difference!
  • Sign our petition today! Add your name to demand a cleaner future for fisheries. Every signature makes our voice louder. Pledge your support HERE.
  • Show that you care in style by buying one of our stylish exclusive t-shirts and hoodies! 100% of profits will go towards fighting for change and combatting pollution. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COLLECTION
  • Strike a blow against litter! Another huge part of today’s conversation is the blight of plastic pollution and litter in general. We hate to see rubbish as much as you do! Why not pledge to support Anglers Against Litter? As well as working with the industry to cut back on waste and non-renewables, we are supporting clubs and fisheries to take direct action. Learn more and give us your backing HERE.

3 thoughts on “How to report a pollution incident

  1. I wholly heartedly endorse what is said here. But what should we do when the pollution has not reached the proportions described, where my local brook concerned is not a fishing venue? It used to be a wild brown trout stream a few years ago, but no longer. Pollution of major rivers is a big issue but it has to start somewhere and it is often in its tributaries. This particular polluted brook feeds its poisonous water into the river Wye as a grey slick visible for a hundred and more meters downstream from its conjunction. Even if the present pollution levels to not quite sufficient to kill off absolutely everything in it, until now, this should not make a difference. All pollution has to start somewhere. Where I live my local brook is suffering so much that it is almost lifeless. But nobody local cares because they are not anglers and the stream concerned is too small to support angling.Yet no matter who I try to get involved, EA, local environment groups, my MP ( a joke if it was funny) I myself cannot make the necessary impact. Nobody cares enough to make a difference.
    Just before it dies completely look up the Garren Brook, South Herefordshire. I will save you the trouble looking up the local tory MP. He is Jesse Norman. Why is he so inactive on this issue? Because there are no election votes to be gained from it.

  2. It’s a well written article and it’s a point that does need repeating to everyone who uses the waterways. I’d like to suggest a few points to add:
    a) expectation of the response;
    b) how they prioritise and categorise incidents;
    c) the powers that the regulator/organisation works under (inc details such as warrants, powers of access, evidence collection, etc…).
    d) Some people have expectations that polluters will get locked up. So what are the maximum fines and what is the more common sanction?
    Thanks.

    1. Thanks Paul. We are not the Environment Agency. We’re merely advising a prompt and logical course of action. The fines can vary immensely- but we will always press for maximum charges. We have our own team, Fish Legal, who often press charges on this- as well as campaigners pressing government on better regulation. This is a massive issue for angling and too complex for us to summarise in one blog post or response. We’ll have more on this in forthcoming posts.

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