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Fisheries Enforcement Support Service submits nearly 130 reports in 5 months


Angling Trust Volunteer Bailiffs join the Environment Agency patrol at Winthorpe, Newark x550px

Nearly 130 reports of suspected fisheries crime, illegal fishing or other incidents have been submitted to the Environment Agency by the Angling Trust’s Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS) in the past five months.

It follows the setting up in June of a legitimate and formal system to record and share incoming information with partners.

Modern policing and enforcement relies upon incoming intelligence – processed and useful information from various sources – to enable the efficient and effective deployment of resources.

Intelligence, and incoming incident and information reports, also capture the extent of a problem and provides evidence for any argument for a greater priority and allocation of more resources.

The FESS is funded by the Environment Agency from fishing licence income and includes the Voluntary Bailiff Service which was formed to support the Agency and police in the hard job of enforcing fishing licence compliance and protecting fish and fisheries. With nearly 500 trained Volunteer Bailiffs across England reporting incidents and information to a high evidential standard, it was necessary to establish a legitimate and formal system to record and share incoming information with partners.

Former West Mercia Police Detective Inspector Gary Thomas was appointed as the FESS’s first Intelligence Manager earlier this year and has since set up those systems and arranged an Information Sharing Agreement with the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) which went ‘live’ on June 1st.

To date:

  • The FESS has submitted 129 information reports since the start of June. All but eight have been suitable for submission to the Environment Agency Intelligence Unit as either an information report or an intelligence log.
  • Of the 129 reports, 81 (63%) have been converted into ‘5x5x5’ intelligence reports [used by police to evaluate the information] and also forwarded to NWCU, and appropriate police forces.
  • Of the 129 reports, 67 (52%) have come from the VBS; the other 48% are from members of the public, members of angling clubs and Angling Trust staff.
  • During the same period, the VBS has also reported around 200 incidents to the Environment Agency and police.
Intelligence Manager Gary Thomas said: “That over half of these reports have come from the VBS is testament to our volunteers’ commitment and will doubtless encourage others to submit reports. Also, the fact that the reports are being forwarded to the right people in the Environment Agency should encourage confidence that it is worthwhile submitting the information and that it’s not being ignored.”

Dilip Sarkar MBE, the FESS National Enforcement Manager, said:
“This is the end product of the VBS, bides well for the future and totally justifies the initiative, so a big ‘well done’ to all our volunteers and staff from me personally.

“This really is the vision in action. For the first time we are able to start properly to quantify the extent of this issue and ensure that our empowered partners are fed the life-blood of intelligence. That is our role and it is now up to our partners to translate this intelligence into positive action, the results of which we very much look forward to seeing.

“It is vitally important that we not only maintain but increase the momentum achieved to which end I would urge all anglers and the general public to report any incidents to the Environment Agency hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or police. This is the only way we will win this battle.”

Adrian Saunders, Environment Agency Senior Advisor, Incidents and Compliance, said: “Information from a network of trained ‘eyes and ears’ at the waterside is essential to direct our enforcement officers to where they are needed most. These volunteers are helping us to protect their fisheries and the Environment Agency welcomes the support from the angling community in tackling illegal fishing.”

Chief Inspector Martin Sims of Sussex Police, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “The intelligence submissions now being provided by the VBS speaks for itself and does the whole project proud. With challenges faced by rural policing, the extra eyes and ears provided by trained volunteers offer further coverage in rural localities to support policing and the Environment Agency.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the collaboration and what it provides, and wish the VBS throughout England continued success. It is vital that we all work together and this proves the value of such an approach.”

  • Anyone witnessing an illegal fishing incident in progress can report it directly to the Environment Agency hotline, 0800 80 70 60. Information on illegal fishing and environmental crime can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
  • Everyone over the age of 12 needs a fishing licence to fish for salmon, trout and freshwater fish in England and Wales and face fines of up to £2,500 for failing to have one. Licences are free for 12-16 year-olds but you still need to register. Click here to buy a licence or for more information

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