Angling: widening the net to catch fish thieves in England and Wales –

Angling: widening the net to catch fish thieves in England and Wales Published:  29 June, 2006

A THREE-PRONGED approach to tackling fish theft in England and Wales has been proposed by the Environment Agency at an angling summit. Environment Agency fisheries policy manager Adrian Taylor outlined the approach, which included:

-Investigating the size and scope of coarse fish theft and illegal netting,

-Stepping up education about fisheries law throughout the community,

-Considering whether fish theft can and should be added to the Environment Agency Enforcement and Prosecution policy.

Mr Taylor said the Environment Agency’s Fish Movements Enforcement Team had already started investigations into fish theft, including the creation of a database to track any trends in prosecution evidence.

“At the moment there is mainly anecdotal evidence about the scope and scale of fish theft. The first thing we need to do is determine whether any trends exist, so we know where to target our resources,” Mr Taylor said.

“Secondly, we need to step up education across the board, with the aim of reducing ignorance about fisheries law and accepted angling practices.”

The third prong in tackling fish theft is establishing whether the Environment Agency should prosecute under the Theft Act where normally the primary responsibility is that of the police.

“If legal advice suggests we can prosecute fish thieves, we would consider revising our policy to include Theft Act offences where these occur in conjunction with offences under our fisheries legislation, such as fishing without a licence,” Mr Taylor said.

“Historically the removal of fish from rivers was common practice, but now there is a general understanding among anglers that any fish caught should be returned to the water. However, anyone fishing legally with a valid rod licence can keep the fish they catch as long as they have the fishery owner’s permission.

“The Environment Agency continues to monitor the impact that taking coarse fish has on fish stocks, but there is currently no sign that stocks as a whole are suffering.”

Terry Fell, speaking on behalf of the Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust, said the umbrella organisation for coarse fisherman had enjoyed good discussion at yesterday’s angling summit and supported the Environment Agency’s proposals on tackling fish theft.

“Holding this summit at the House of Commons emphasises the support being shown to anglers who are rallying against fish theft,” Mr Fell said.

“But equally its important for anglers to support the enforcement teams and give timely reports of possible fish theft cases they encounter.”

Mr Taylor said stealing fish to stock other waterways posed a far bigger danger to the future of angling – due to the threat of spreading disease and pest species – than removal of fish for the dinner-plate.

“A new fisheries bill would go some way to solving this problem, by regulating the fish supply industry and those that visibly carry species throughout the country. At moment all the legislation says is that these people need written approval to stock fish. The Environment Agency believes this needs to be tightened up.”

If you see people breaking fisheries laws, call 0800 80 70 60. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.