Targeting illegal angling during the coarse close season

Between 15 March and 15 June 2013, the Angling Trust Voluntary Bailiff Service, in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA), will be running Operation CLAMP DOWN – targeting illegal angling during the coarse fishing close season.

The VBS is currently a pilot project in the EA South East Region (EASE), upon which geographic area Operation CLAMP DOWN focusses.The Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) was launched in May 2012, comprising 29 Volunteer Bailiffs (VB) deployed into four ‘Angling Watches’ (AW), each overseen by an Area Co-ordinator (AC).

Each AW has a dedicated EA Fisheries Enforcement Officer (FEO), with whom VBs work closely. In April 2013, a further 27 VBs will be inducted into the VBS, making a total of 56 VBs active in EASE.At this stage VBs are involved with gathering intelligence on illegal fishing. The quantity and quality of information reports will be carefully analysed upon conclusion of CLAMP DOWN, and any successes widely publicised.Although CLAMP DOWN specifically targets waters in EASE, anglers throughout England can contribute by reporting any offences in progress or useful information to the EA. Indeed, anglers generally in EASE, not just VBs, are positively encouraged to contribute to this process.

Anglers should call the EA on 0800 80 70 60 . “All anglers are asked to report those fishing illegally out of season. Information received fromVBs and the public will be invaluable and used to target patrols at known locations. Anglers caught fishing during the annual close season are all reported to our legal department and may face prosecution ,” said Adrian Brightley,  the EASE Technical Specialist (Fisheries Enforcement).Angling Trust (AT) Fisheries Enforcement Manager (FEM) Dilip Sarkar said “Both the AT and EA recognise that poaching and fish theft are of great concern to many anglers.

Anglers themselves are, in fact, our greatest resource, given that we are out there on the bank in all weathers and possessed of immense local knowledge. The VBS provides an opportunity for anglers to get involved by giving just four hours of their time per week to support EA FEOs. Operation CLAMP DOWN is our response to dealing with those who break the law and fish illegally during the close season. Law enforcement today is intelligence driven, and providing information and reporting incidents is an absolutely essential process to which all anglers can contribute.

By working together in this way, we can make a positive difference”.It is hoped that the next VBS development stage will see selected VBS given further training and the power to demand and inspect rod licences. Ultimately some VBs could become fully warranted and work in direct support of EA FEOs on High Impact Fisheries Enforcement operations. The pilot project in EASE is crucially important, providing a model applicable to other EA areas.