Picture: Working together: an Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officer patrolling with West Mercia Police and a Volunteer Bailiff

The fight against illegal fishing has received a massive boost with the recruitment of an additional 150 anglers to the Angling Trust’s Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS).

Following induction days held in six regions throughout the past three months, there are now 474 volunteer bailiffs operating in England who act as the “eyes and ears” on riverbanks and lakes, reporting suspicious incidents and providing crucial information to the Environment Agency and police.

The VBS is funded from rod licence money and began as a pilot project in the South East in 2012 following a formal partnership between the Environment Agency and the Angling Trust. It was rolled out across the country 12 months ago and now has 115 volunteers in the South East, 58 in South West, 51 in North West, 80 in North East, 90 in the Midlands and 80 in the Eastern region.

The volunteers receive training from Environment Agency enforcement officers and the Trust’s Fisheries Enforcement Support Service – a team of eight retired police officers, six of whom also manage the VBS network in their regions.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to attend joint patrols with the Environment Agency and police, understand the law and are trained in reporting what they see and hear to a high evidential standard.

Dilip Sarkar MBE, the Trust’s National Enforcement Manager, said: “We have come a very long way since the pilot project was launched and now have a sound foundation to take this further, increase engagement and provide more practical training. With nearly 500 volunteer bailiffs, their presence on riverbanks and lakesides will make a difference, both in reporting suspicious activity and deterring people from committing an offence.”

Graeme Storey, the Environment Agency’s national fisheries manager, said: “The vast majority of anglers do the right thing and buy a fishing licence; however, there are some people that try to evade buying a licence. Last year, enforcement officers checked more than 53,000 licences and prosecuted over 2,300 anglers. Our VBS carry out vital work and now having 474 VBS officers on the ground will create even greater deterrence.”