The Angling Trust, angling’s representative body, has launched a Seven Point Plan to tackle poaching and fish theft in English waters. There have been widespread reports of poaching and large numbers of fish being taken illegally by individuals and criminal gangs throughout the country.

1. Building Bridges
The Trust has appointed two members of staff to work with member clubs and fisheries to address illegal fishing in parts of the South West and the East of England. These pilot projects have sent messages to foreign national anglers in their own language to explain the rules of fishing in this country. Farmers employing foreign temporary workers are also being made aware of the problem and being asked to help combat it. Many of these anglers simply don’t understand the rules. Once educated, they are prepared to catch and release their fish and can become active and committed members of clubs and good customers of commercial fisheries. More details on the building Bridges project along with anti-poaching posters can be found on our website HERE.
2. Crimestoppers
The Angling Trust has helped to fund and promote the Crimestoppers initiative (along with CEFAS, the Environment Agency and others) which provides a confidential freephone number 0800 555 111 for anglers, clubs and fisheries to report illegal fishing activity, thefts and illegal fish movements. Free posters are available for clubs and fisheries to help raise awareness of this number.
3. Legal Advice to Members
The Angling Trust’s legal arm (Fish Legal) has provided a fact sheet for member clubs, fisheries and riparian owners about their legal position in the event of poaching or theft and what they should do if poaching occurs on their waters. Fish Legal members should call 01568 620447 to request a copy.
4. Advice to Police
Fish Legal has collaborated with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, a special police task force, to raise awareness of the offence of poaching within regional police forces. This move is in response to members raising concerns that responses by local police to reported instances of poaching have been unsatisfactory and as a result it is unclear who people should contact when poaching occurred.
5. Volunteer Bailiffs
The Angling Trust is working with the Environment Agency to develop a pilot scheme to recruit volunteers from angling clubs who can work alongside warranted officers from the EA to provide intelligence and check anglers’ rod licences, so that the EA can focus its expert resources on tackling serious poachers and criminal activity.
6. Poacher Watch Website
The Trust is developing a website for anglers to report poaching, in a similar way to its Cormorant Watch site ( Funding is being sought for this project from the angling trade.
7. Political Pressure
The Trust has raised the issue of enforcement of fisheries laws and byelaws at the highest levels of the Environment Agency and Marine Management Organisation. There are widespread concerns among anglers that the investigation and prosecution of poachers is decreasing, when the problem is increasing.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “Poaching is damaging to wild fisheries, to rural and urban businesses, to the rural economy and to the enjoyment of the millions of people who fish legally and pay their rod licence each year. Many poachers are involved with organised crime. We will be raising this issue with the Environment Minister Richard Benyon when we meet with him in October and at the England and Wales Fisheries Group.”
Will Rundle, Solicitor for the Angling Trust’s legal arm (Fish Legal) said:
“The new information sheet, which we drafted in consultation with the NWCU for the Police, was sent out across the NWCU network of officers in England and Wales. It should mean less confusion for the police following evidence of poaching. Ultimately, we hope this initiative will lead to more prosecutions by local police forces responding more positively to reported incidents. We also hope that this will build confidence with anglers to report suspected offences in the knowledge that more will be done than perhaps was the case before.”
The Angling Trust offers the following advice to any angler or member of the public who witnesses illegal fishing, poaching or fish theft:
1. Do not approach the offender(s) yourself.
2. If you can do so without being seen, take a picture or video of the activity.
3. If you can do so without being seen, make a note of the number-plate of any vehicles involved. Most modern mobile phones have a camera or memo pad where you could record this if you don’t have a pen and paper.
4. Poaching is an offence under the 1968Theft Act. Always report ALL poaching incidents to the Police and keep a record of what you report.
5. If you suspect poaching you should also contact the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60 and write down their incident number. Other offences such as fishing without a rod licence, illegal fishing methods, breach of local byelaws or damage to spawning grounds should also be reported to them.
6. If you have information about fish theft or illegal fish transfers, you can also contact Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555 111.
7. If the incident is on a private fishery, please also contact the owners or fishing club to inform them and phone the Police.