Environment Agency Wages War on Hampshire Poachers
The Environment Agency has announced a major crackdown on poaching across all of Hampshire’s rivers, streams and estuaries following a recent increase in fish theft and illegal angling.
From today (01 October 2012), specialist Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers will be carrying out increased patrols and surveillance at known poaching hotspots to target individuals involved in illegal angling activities. Over the coming weeks specialist officers will also be stepping up their day and night patrols along the coast to clamp down on illegal fishing.
Sadly, over the past few months the Environment Agency has received numerous reports of illegal fishing together with evidence showing an increase in poaching. Recent enforcement activity has included the seizing of illegal fishing equipment, including a spear gun and a ‘snatch’. A snatch is a weighted treble-hook which is used to deliberately ‘foul hook’ or impale fish.
Tim Sykes of the Environment Agency said:
“Recently we have received increasing reports from responsible anglers of unscrupulous individuals using illegal and dangerous equipment to catch fish. These methods have the potential to harm wildlife, seriously damage fish stocks and our natural heritage, and ruin the sport for future generations.
The Environment Agency is committed to eliminating illegal fishing. We urge anglers and members of the public to report any suspicious nets, traps or set-lines they come across, or if they see someone shining a light into a river at night. We take illegal fishing very seriously indeed and will look to prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.
Our fisheries officers regularly patrol rivers, streams, lakes & coastal waters to ensure that fishing is carried out in a safe and legal way. Due to the recent reported increase in cases of illegal fishing, more patrols will be carried out both during the day and night to catch anyone who flouts the law. Those caught as a result of this crackdown can expect to face a fine of up to £50,000.”
It is not just poachers who could end up paying a hefty fine as retail outlets need to be aware of the regulations too. It is illegal to sell rod-caught salmon and sea trout as the fish must be sourced from legitimate fisheries, and buyers should check that all fish have an Environment Agency tag attached. Any outlet convicted of handling fish in suspicious circumstances faces a fine of up to £5,000.
Legitimate salmon anglers on the rivers Test and Itchen are a great help in keeping a watchful eye on our rivers and by voluntarily returning all rod-caught fish to the river so that they can continue with their spawning migration. A large female salmon may carry up to 10,000 eggs, so if these fish are illegally removed it can have a major impact on future fish stocks in our local rivers.
Newly created paths or flattened vegetation along the banks can often be a sign that illegal fishing has taken place. Illegal set-lines and nets can often be tied to low hanging branches near the waterline. If anglers or members of the public do come across these illegally set instruments they should leave them in place and report the location immediately.
If anyone thinks that they have seen any illegal fishing, they should phone the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
National and Regional byelaws can be found on the Environment Agency’s website
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