A NEW squad set up to counter waterside crime have been quick to react to anglers worries over illegal fishing - including netting of coarse fish on a bigger scale than before.

The sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust, has just taken on six former police officers, who are anglers and with over 150 years of policing experience between them, to be its Regional Enforcement Managers.

Part of that remit will include advising anglers on the law and raising awareness that illegal fishing tactics – such as poaching and fish theft – are criminal offences. That will cover situations such as a huge gill net found recently on the Thames.

As we reported, the 175 ft gill net at Teddington Weir, prompted some anglers have taken matters into their own hands in trying to prevent more of these nets being used.

But it is essential that if anglers do find or see anything, they report it to the Environment Agency or Police straight away.

Regional Enforcement Managers

The new REM for London and the South East is lifelong angler Gary Lawless, who has 31 years of experience working for the Metropolitan Police.

Gary advised: “My understanding of the situation from speaking to the EA is that you have to be careful how you proceed if you do find a net.

“Technically you’d be breaking the law if you pulled up a net, released the live fish and then threw the net back in, as this would be classed as setting a net!

This illegal net was strung across the Thames.

This illegal net was strung across the Thames.

“It really is a fine balance as anglers will want to release any live fish in a net, but by removing it you could be destroying evidence and technically the offense would no longer be being committed as the net is no longer laid.

“For a successful prosecution the court needs to be able to see a chain of evidence, from pulling the net out right through to handing it to the prosecution. Evidence has to be beyond all reasonable doubt.

“If we do get a prosecution then we can put that out to the media with all the details, but when people remove nets or long lines and don’t inform the EA that isn’t good as it doesn’t lead to the offenders being caught and prosecuted.

“Even just in the last couple of weeks since I took this role on it has really opened my eyes from a policing point of view, as I never realised the scale of the problem and how much businesses were affected by poaching.

“We also have to remember that poaching isn’t restricted to Eastern European anglers and we need to all work together rather than creating divisions.

“I’ll be doing more to encourage the angling community and the general public to report anything suspicious that they see, either on the EA hotline, or if an offence is in progress, such as seeing a net going in, they should call the Police.”

This is a version of the full story that appears in this Angler’s Mail printed magazine. Get the magazine every week for top tips, big news, best products, and venues that are in form.

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