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Voluntary Bailiff Service Information Sheet For more information on the VBS, please download our information sheet

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Voluntary Bailiff Service

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Working together: an Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officer patrolling
with West Mercia Police and a Volunteer Bailiff during Operation CLAMP-DOWN 4


The ‘VBS’ is an increasingly important partnership between the Angling Trust and Environment Agency, empowering anglers to support the police and Agency in fighting back against fisheries crime and protecting fish and fisheries. The VBS initiative continues to be enormously successful, driving forward positive change.


Effective enforcement today is ‘intelligence-led’, relying upon incoming calls and information. This country has a long and proud history of volunteering, the police, for example, have received essential support from the Special Constabulary for many years and now have 500,000 Police Support Volunteers nationally.

Indeed, in Eastern Europe, government fisheries officers are supported by a huge army of volunteers - 5,000 in Poland alone – and in Holland, Royal Sportfisserij Nederland effectively manages and administers fisheries enforcement volunteers.

The ‘VBS’, therefore, is a unique opportunity for freshwater anglers in England to positively contribute towards supporting the Environment Agency and police in protecting fish and fisheries.

VBS is inclusive, embracing volunteers from all age groups, sexes and ethnicities. The Angling Trust is a member of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

There are two phases to VBS:

Phase 1

The value of this phase was confirmed through the pilot project in South East England between 2012 and 2015. Phase 1 revolves entirely around training Volunteer Bailiffs to report incidents and information to the appropriate agency and to a high evidential standard – thus increasing the chances of successful prosecutions. Phase 1 volunteers, due to health and safety considerations, are not expected to approach anglers on the bank – but report what they see and hear. It emphasises how vitally important reporting is and calls should be made to the 24-hour Environment Agency incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.

Phase 1 training is provided by Angling Trust staff, who are both retired police officers and anglers; the Environment Agency; UK National Wildlife Crime Unit or local police, and the Fish Health Inspectorate.

Here's a short film from a South East VBS mandatory initial training day:



Volunteers receive a pocketbook, identity card, and Angling Trust clothing. Most importantly, access is provided to the secure VBS website for reporting purposes and information-sharing. All volunteers must be over 18 years of age and individual members of the Angling Trust for insurance purposes – which is an inflexible requirement of the Environment Agency.

VBS Phase 1 is now ‘live’ throughout England, administered by six regions, each run by an Angling Trust Regional Enforcement Manager, who works very closely with the Environment Agency. Each region is sub-divided into areas, each with an Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officer acting as a Single Point of Contact, liaising with a volunteer serving as an Area Co-ordinator.

Annually, the VBS participates in Operation CLAMP-DOWN with the Environment Agency and police, cracking down on illegal fishing during the coarse close season. This is a perfect opportunity to promote and increase partnership working, intelligence gathering and sharing – and for Volunteer Bailiffs to work directly with the professionals on joint patrols. During the 2017 close season, Operation CLAMP-DOWN ran for the fifth consecutive year. Phase 1 Volunteer Bailiffs throughout England demonstrated their massive commitment to protecting fish and fisheries and cracking down on licence cheats by logging 2,149 patrols and reporting 111 incidents to the Environment Agency and police during 'OCD5'. All anglers can help this process, in fact – at any time of year – by reporting information and offences in progress to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60, or the police on 101/999 as appropriate.

Phase 2

Phase 1 also enables identification of volunteers with the commitment and aptitude for elevation to Phase 2 – working with and directly in support of Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers.

Potential Phase 2 volunteers are invited by the Environment Agency to apply and sit a competency-based interview similar to professional staff. Successful applicants will then receive the same training, equipment as Agency staff, and work within their teams.

Phase 2 volunteers will be empowered to check rod licences and deal with certain fisheries offences. The concept is for Phase 2 volunteers to deal with low-level fisheries enforcement work, thus permitting Agency staff to progress more complicated enquiries.

Rod licence funding is essential to maintaining and improving fisheries – and reducing evasion and increasing compliance is very much what VBS is all about long-term. Phase 2 is currently a pilot project with ten warranted volunteers in SE region, and if successful, like Phase 1, this will also be extended throughout England.

For more information on the VBS, and how to apply, please download our Information Sheet

Op Traverse, Gunthorpe 13.8.16 x550px

Volunteer Bailiffs working with the Environment Agency and police. Volunteers are
trained by policing professionals to report incidents ad information to a high evidential
standard and are an essential part of today’s fisheries enforcement landscape

Contact: Angling Trust Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ
Tel: 0343 5077006 (For Membership enquiries select Option 1) |
Calls to our 0343 number are charged at the same rate as normal landline numbers.
Office hours are Mon - Thu 9.00-5.00 and Fri 4.30. Please leave a message if you call outside these hours or email us.
Email: admin@anglingtrust.net
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