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Bailiffing our Fisheries - The Battle Ahead


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Noted pike angler Dilip Sarkar has been appointed by the Angling Trust to train and lead a force of volunteer bailiffs Noted pike angler Dilip Sarkar has been appointed by the Angling Trust to train and lead a force of volunteer bailiffs

Rod Sturdy is back on FM with a look at the problems of policing our inland waters – and, potentially, the first step in finding an effective, lasting solution.









For far too long our inland waters have remained ineffectively policed and the Environment Agency is finding it more and more difficult, with their tightly stretched finances, to maintain a corps of bailiffs capable of dealing with the now commonplace problems of illegal fishing, fish theft and related aggressive behaviour on our inland waters; indeed most of us would be hard put to recall exactly when we were last checked by a bailiff. It is no exaggeration to say that anglers’ confidence in the security of their waters and the future of their sport has reached an all-time low. Although there has been a genuine desire throughout the angling community to support fishery enforcement, anglers have felt powerless in the face of mounting threats to the waters they fish.

But now enter one Dilip Sarkar, MBE. Dilip is a retired police officer and a noted historian as well as a notable pike specimen angler and, to use his own words, ‘a driven man’. He has been appointed by the Angling Trust to train and lead a force of volunteer bailiffs in a pilot scheme covering the south eastern part of England: London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire. The general principle is, initially, to set up a system akin to the Special Constabulary and Neighbourhood Watch but in an angling context, with intelligence and information being fed into the system by the individual volunteers. The whole exercise, known as the Volunteer Bailiff Scheme (VBS) is being funded by the Environment Agency.

Dilip has told me that the project is a three-year one. Although he has wisely not yet decided on a fixed format for its development he envisages that training of volunteers, for which he is personally responsible, will in the second year be fuller and include such topics as conflict resolution.  In the third year certain volunteers will be selected for full training to enable them to cope with what Dilip calls ‘high-impact situations’. This will produce a core of volunteers akin to special constables in the police force. In due course the scheme will be rolled out nationally.

It so happens that Dilip’s specialism as a historian is the Battle of Britain and the Supermarine Spitfire. The parallels between that perilous phase in our history and the situation we anglers face now will, I hope, not be lost on FishingMagic readers. Not least, the fact that it was a battle in which ‘the few’ prevailed over superior enemy numbers.

In the police force Dilip worked as a policeman on the beat, as a detective and also gained experience of community policing, all strings to his bow for the battle ahead. He also has extensive experience of working with law enforcement volunteers. He will begin working with 20 or more volunteers who have been carefully chosen for their good character and local knowledge. Dilip comments that the exercise is ‘all about knowledge’. As ever, it is a question of harnessing these human resources – all anglers themselves incidentally – to be the eyes and ears of their patch and to share information effectively.

Dilip is optimistic about the impact of this volunteer bailiff force: it will work if handled correctly. He will be working in partnership with Adrian Saunders, the EA Fisheries Enforcement Campaigns Manager, and Adrian Brightley, the EA Project Manager. Adrian Brightley and Dilip will be working together particularly closely, in fact, not least regarding the training package he will be delivering to volunteers. His police background will assist with communication and understanding between the EA, ATr and police and, hopefully, give a more joined-up approach to combating poaching. 

Once again, we have here an example of how anglers and angling are a positive force in the protection of the environment. Dilip assures me that wildlife crime, which of course includes fish theft and the like, is becoming a really important issue. We can as anglers be proud of the fact that those who have volunteered for this scheme are doing their bit on this important front and we can be grateful that the police are now taking a real interest in the issue, as those who are involved in it frequently have a hand in other criminal activities as well.

Dilip’s angling credentials are considerable: he has fished for big fish of many species over the years, and now specialises in pike and zander. He has to his credit a fair number of 25 lb plus pike and has an ambition to catch a 30-pounder. He was until recently the President of the Pike Anglers’ Club of Great Britain and has been editor of its specialist publication ‘Pikelines’. He remains a regular contributor to the angling press. His son James is going into fishery management, and is ‘obsessed with fishing’, his wife, Karen, is also a passionate angler, Angling Trust volunteer and a professional artist specialising in angling and wildlife art.

The VBS currently comprises twenty-eight Volunteer Bailiffs (VBs); a further sixteen will be inducted on 20 April.  The VBS works closely with the ATr’s ‘Building Bridges’ project and is inclusive: the VBS currently includes one female volunteer bailiff and several immigrant anglers; diverse applications are welcomed.

Let us hope that ‘the few’ who take part in the volunteer bailiff pilot scheme eventually grow into ‘the many’. Because the threats we face show no signs of receding, quite the reverse. We will need plenty of volunteers - both for this scheme and in general – including of course those who volunteer their support in the form of Angling Trust membership. Because the more who do, the better this volunteer scheme will be when it is rolled out nationally; and the whole future of our sport will be so much the brighter.

The Angling Trust relies on membership subscriptions and donations to fight for fish and fishing and develop its participation projects to get more people fishing. Fish Legal, who act as the legal arm of the Trust in England and which was formerly known as the ACA, represent member clubs and organisations whose fishing is affected by pollution and other illegal environmental acts.

With more membership income and donations these two bodies would do even more to protect OUR fishing. That would mean more volunteer bailiffs on the bank, expanding its Building Bridges project, which helps to educate Eastern European anglers on UK fishing laws and customs, to go nationwide, assisting more clubs to build up their membership levels, running more competitions and reaching out to give anglers in all regions of the country access to its political lobbying power and campaigns.

So join now at www.anglingtrust.net or by calling 0844 77 00 616  – it costs less than 50p a week!

 Over to you…


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Comments (7 posted):

Peter Jacobs on 10/04/2013 10:54:14
No angler in their right mind would argue that this is not a very good first step. That said, my personal view is that it is doomed to faliure until and unless the Police, the Magistrates and the CPS conjoin to ensure that full and proper punishments are meted out to those caught breaking the law. The typical slap-on-the-wrist fine that we see in the Courts are puny to the point of being laughable; moreover these small fines (in comparison with the maximum fine prescribed by law) are nothing like sufficient to preclude re-offending. It would be a travesty to see this laudible yet embryonic scheme fail due to the lack of 'will' on behalf of the authorities to suitably punish those caught. I truly hope I am wrong, but experience does seem to support my argument.
Bluenose on 10/04/2013 11:15:06
It's a great idea and a scheme which I hope goes from strength to strength. I think the strength maybe in it's potential as a deterrent Pete, as opposed to the punishments meted out, which as we know, whether you are a poacher or polluter are generally quite puny.
Lord Paul of Sheffield on 10/04/2013 11:23:30
if it's down to voluteers who will they take on when an angler is fishing illegally - the bloke on his own maybe but a a group of blokes - doubt it
Ray Wood 1 on 10/04/2013 15:14:13
if it's down to voluteers who will they take on when an angler is fishing illegally - the bloke on his own maybe but a a group of blokes - doubt it From information received I believe they will not be taking anyone on. Their remit will be to pass on information regarding anyone fishing illegally to the EA. It remains the jurisdiction of the EA to pursue things further. So the status quo remains we are still depending on the EA. The quote below is from the horses mouth, "Prosecutions, at this stage, are down to the EA and Crown Prosecution Service. However, once our volunteers receive warrants we will be able to take our own direct action to effect prosecutions - but that remains a little way off. At this stage the EA is very clear that it simply wants the VBS to submit intelligence - hopefully during CLAMP DOWN some of that information will lead to the detection and prosecution of offences." Unquote Kind regards Ray
zander17 on 10/04/2013 16:15:05
Law enforcement, whether fisheries or policing, is driven by intelligence. The EA decided that in Phase One Volunteer Bailiffs will work in teams, supervised by an EA Fisheries Enforcement Officer, and be 'eyes and ears' in a Neighbourhood Watch sense, submitting intelligence and reporting incidents. You are right - any angler could (and should) do this: 0800 80 70 60. The importance of intelligence gathering cannot, however, be over-emphasised. It also provides us an opportunity to identify suitable individuals to take to Phase Two: further training in angling law, conflict resolution, personal protection and process, to be partially warranted - providing the power to demand and inspect rod-licences and deal with certain bye law offences. At that stage VBs will be line-managed by EA Fishery Enforcement Team Leaders. The final stage sees some of those volunteers given full training and warrants to directly work alongside and with EA FEOs. This has not arisen out of any criticism of the EA but a desire to help - and is actually entirely funded by the EA with which I work absolutely hand in glove. Rome wasn't built in a day but this is the start of a meaningful auxiliary service to support the EA FEOs in the same way that the special constabulary supports the police service - but, we have to get this absolutely right, because law enforcement is a very serious business. Of course we are aware that whatever is done, there are those who will pick holes and moan and whinge - without actually getting off their backsides and doing something constructive to help. This cannot be said of these volunteers - who will, in time, change the face of fishery enforcement in England. Signed: The Horses Mouth! ---------- Post added at 09:15 ---------- Previous post was at 09:07 ---------- And, whilst I'm on here, you are right regarding the police, CPS and courts needing to be brought aboard - that is happening. The police now takes poaching and fish theft seriously, due in no small part to the Poaching Priority Group, hosted by BACS and in which board I sit, together with various other organisations including the National Police Wildlife Crime Unit. The Met has led the way with Project Ghillie - where the Met leads other forces follow. We are, in fact, working closely now with the police and there is an infinitely better understanding of our problems already. Likewise efforts are ongoing to educate the CPS and courts - but these things take time. What needs to be understood, however, is that a massive amount of effort is being put in to changing things by a number of individuals and organisations. Whilst we get on with this, what might help is anglers actually reporting incidents to the EA on 0800 80 70 60 - instead of complaining amongst ourselves. And if the service forthcoming doesn't meet expectations - complain! It's the only way to get things done. Simple.
Ray Wood 1 on 10/04/2013 16:37:40
Thanks for that, I for one am not picking holes in "Operation Clamp Down" and yes things take time. Hopefully you will get it right and the number of incidents involving fish theft, poaching and license dodging will be reduce and hopefully eradicated. In the meantime I will continue to do what I have always done and that is to report any of the above I see to the EA and to the Police. You state in you first post that if we are not happy with the way the EA deal with incidents of the above nature we should complain. Can you tell us just who we should complain to regarding the EA not acting on information passed to them that relates to poaching, fish theft and license dodging? Kind regards Ray
zander17 on 10/04/2013 16:52:27
What I would do is write to my local EA HQ. That said, we must remember that the EA is not an emergency service, and therefore works in a different way to the police - which can and does respond swiftly to priority incidents. This is why reporting intelligence is vital - this builds up a picture of problems in specific areas, leading to the deployment of resources to resolve. Like the police, the manpower largely just isn't there for general patrolling - patrols are targeted. If we don't tell the EA where problems exist, then we can't complain should we not see a presence. That, though, is where we hope the VBS will help. After 20 April we'll have 40 Volunteer Bailiffs in the South East, divided into four Angling Watches and working closely with EA FEOs. We've already enough applications to extend that figure to the 48 required. The next job is to hold meetings with other EA regions and persuade them to take on the VBS - which is funded by the EA at national and each regional level. These meetings are forthcoming. We may not get into every other region immediately, but I am confident that most will co-operate. My database is bulging with expressions of interest ready for when we recruit outside EA SE, so all I need is the green light. This extra manpower will, we firmly believe, make a big difference and provide much-needed extra patrols. There is, of course, a strict selection and intensive training process - mavericks, vigilantes and 'have a go heroes' need not apply. This is a very serious effort to create an equally serious auxiliary service. In Holland, fishery enforcement is delivered by a similar volunteer force - and I'm out there next month to learn more of this with a view to applying their experience here.

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angling trust, Environment Agency, Rod Sturdy, Dilip Sarkar, Volunteer Bailiff Scheme