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Four police forces in North East join Operation Traverse clamp down on illegal fishing


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Four local police forces have joined a multi-agency operation to target illegal fishing and fish theft in the North East and Yorkshire.

Operation Traverse is co-ordinated by the Angling Trust and sees police and partners join forces to focus on illegal fishing, rod licence compliance and associated crime.

Northumbria, Durham, Cleveland and North Yorkshire Police are the latest forces to sign up to Operation Traverse – which launched in the North East on Thursday, April 14 – with partners including the Environment Agency, Northumbrian Water and the Angling Trust.

Building on recent successes in other counties, its aim is to encourage anglers and the wider angling community to report suspicious activity to the Environment Agency or police to increase information and intelligence about those fishing illegally or suspected of being involved in offences.

Co-ordinated by Giles Evans, the Angling Trust’s North East Regional Enforcement Manager, Operation Traverse comes soon after the recent launch of the region’s Voluntary Bailiff Service, a partnership between the Angling Trust and Environment Agency. The project is funded by the Environment Agency through income from rod licence sales.

These volunteers have been trained to be the eyes and ears of the angling community, reporting and recording information and evidence to a high standard. They’ve already reported incidents concerning illegal fishing, wildlife and other crimes.

Angling Trust North East Regional Enforcement Manager, Giles Evans said: “This multi-agency operation continues to target offenders fishing illegally and committing other crimes.

“It’s hoped that this operation combined with the work of the Volunteer Bailiffs will increase the information and intelligence regarding illegal fishing and the linked crimes, to further help the Environment Agency and partners with their continued success in the region.”

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Operation Traverse launch: From left: Paul Clay (Voluntary Bailiff Service Volunteer), Giles Evans (Angling Trust Regional Enforcement Manager, North East), Shirley Errington (Partnerships Officer & Rural Liaison Officer, Durham Constabulary), Pc Ken Saiger (Communities and Partnerships, Cleveland Police), Carole Sanderson (Voluntary Bailiff Service Volunteer), Neil Ashforth (Wears Rivers Trust), Insp Kevin Oates (Northumbria Police), David Shears (Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer, Environment Agency), Don Coe (Leisure Operations Manager, Northumbrian Water).

Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager, Dilip Sarkar MBE, added:
“This is a further step forward in the North East and builds on the successful fisheries enforcement work already in place in the area.

“Historically the police have wrongly considered fish poaching offences to be civil matters but they are, in fact, recordable crimes requiring a police response. Changing attitudes and getting this message home is a long and slow process but high profile operations like Traverse and Leviathan are crucial to this process, focussing minds and confirming the wider criminal implications.

“Anglers now need to play their part by reporting incidents that will enable the police and Environment Agency to take action. Should the response be inappropriate or lacking, let Giles Evans know so that this can be taken up with the force concerned.”

Don Coe, Northumbrian Water’s Leisure Operations Manager for Waterside Parks, said: “We are proud to be part of the multi-agency Operation Traverse which will help prevent rural crime throughout the region.

“Our 12-strong ranger team will be adding their eyes and ears to the operation force at our reservoirs and Waterside Parks.

“Although the emphasis is specifically on fish crime it is recognised that anyone committing those crimes are also often involved in other anti-social behaviour, theft and wildlife crimes in rural locations.

“Operation Traverse will not only help to protect our rural town, village and farm communities, it will also safeguard our own water company assets.”

The Environment Agency’s Dave Edwardson, Enforcement Team Leader in the North East, said: “Much of our work is intelligence-led, which means we carry out our enforcement patrols to known hot spots and areas where illegal fishing is reported to us.

“It’s vital we receive information from the public so we know we are targeting the right people and places. Working together with our partners means we can make a co-ordinated effort into gathering information and taking enforcement action.

“We all take illegal fishing seriously and I’d urge people to help us protect our fisheries by reporting suspicious activity.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Environment Agency’s 24-hour Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60, or the police on 101. In an emergency always dial 999.

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