Recently, I had a very useful meeting with Chelmsford members of the Angling Trust and local anglers at the lake in Central Park. They raised with me the problems they are facing as a result of people illegally fishing, both on the lake in Central Park and the rivers in and around Chelmsford.
Fishing illegally and poaching is an offence under the 1968 Theft Act and seems to be a growing problem in the area.
The Angling Trust and the Environment Agency have been working for some time to tackle the problems and I have been in correspondence with them to try and seek greater co-operation to tackle the problem with organisations like Essex Police and the Fisheries Enforcement Service.
The Fisheries Enforcement Service is a government funded partnership which has been set up between the Angling Trust and Environment Agency and in conjunction with UK National Wildlife Crime Unit is working to raise awareness of this issue, educate and empower anglers. Crucial to this partnership working is providing the Police with briefings to help them tackle the issue. It is absolutely vital for anglers to report incidents as it is these statistics which provides the evidence to increase resources in trying to tackle this problem.
Under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act (1975), the Environment Agency’s fisheries inspectors are authorised to act with the powers of a constable when responding to reports of illegal fishing and poaching and this provides an extra defence in trying to prevent incidents.
Whilst responsibility may ultimately lie with anglers, there is a duty on us all to report any suspicious activity; activity which is illegal. The more information that can be provided allows the agencies trying to combat the problem to identify ‘hotspots’ where they can focus their efforts.
Illegal fishing activities can be reported to the Environment Agency Incident Helpline by calling 0800 807060. The Helpline is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Across the Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk area last year 226 successful prosecutions were concluded and as a result 22 cautions were issued and 40 warning letters were sent for fisheries offences.
Fishing/angling has long been an extremely popular hobby and I very much hope that those who enjoy doing so locally will be able to continue for many years to come without having to encounter these sorts of problems.