Between 15 March and 15 June 2013 the Angling Trust Voluntary Bailiff Service, in partnership with the Environment Agency, will be running 'Operation CLAMP DOWN' to target illegal angling during the coarse fishing close season. The Voluntary Bailiff Service is currently a pilot project in the Environment Agency South East Region, upon which geographic area 'Operation CLAMP DOWN' focusses.
The Voluntary Bailiff Service was launched in May 2012 and comprises 29 Volunteer Bailiffs deployed into four 'Angling Watches', each overseen by an Area Co-ordinator. Each watch has a dedicated Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officer with whom voluntary bailiffs work closely. In April 2013, a further 27 voluntary bailiffs will be inducted into the voluntary bailiff service, making a total of 56 voluntary bailiffs active in the Environment Agency South East Region.
At this stage Volunteer Bailiffs 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 the Environment Agency South East Region, anglers throughout England can contribute by reporting any offences in progress or useful information to the Environment Agency. Indeed, anglers generally in the Environment Agency's South East Region, not just Volunteer Bailiffs, are positively encouraged to contribute to this process. Anglers should call the Environment Agency on 0800 807060.
Adrian Brightley, the Environment Agency South East Region Technical Specialist (Fisheries Enforcement), said: "All anglers are asked to report those fishing illegally out of season. Information received from voluntary bailiffs 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".
The Angling Trust's Fisheries Enforcement Manager Dilip Sarkar said: "Both the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency 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 Voluntary Bailiff Service provides an opportunity for anglers to get involved by giving just four hours of their time per week to support Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers. '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".
The Angling Trust said that it is hoped the next voluntary bailiff service development stage will see selected voluntary bailiffs given further training and the power to demand and inspect rod licences. Ultimately some voluntary bailiffs could become fully warranted and work in direct support of Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers on High Impact Fisheries Enforcement operations. The pilot project in Environment Agency South East Region is crucially important, providing a model applicable to other EA areas.