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Fisheries Enforcement 2023: A Year of Action and Collaboration 

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Environment Agency

As we usher in a new year, it's an opportunity to look back at the Environment Agency's fisheries enforcement work in 2023. This year has been marked by concerted efforts from EA staff, innovative campaigns, and significant collaborations to combat illegal fishing and protect our fisheries.

Enforcement by the Numbers:

In 2023, our teams conducted a total of 33,684 valid licence checks. This substantial number reflects our commitment to ensuring anglers abide by regulations, contributing to the sustainable management of our fisheries.

Offence Reports and Actions Taken: 

Throughout the year, we produced a total of 1,638 Offence Reports (ORFs).  We successfully concluded 739 prosecutions, a testament to our rigorous and effective legal processes.

Zero Tolerance and Compliance: 

Our zero-tolerance policy towards illegal fishing activities is evident in our 100% success rate in prosecutions. This firm stance is crucial in deterring unlawful practices and preserving our fisheries for future generations.

Financial Penalties and Deterrence: 

The total penalties imposed throughout the year amounted to £67,157, with an average penalty of £346.07. These financial repercussions serve not only as a punishment but also as a deterrent, underlining the seriousness with which we treat fisheries offences.

Advisory and Corrective Measures: 

In addition to legal actions, we also provided advice and guidance on 67 occasions and issued 283 warning letters. These measures are part of our approach to educate and inform, helping to prevent future offences.

Cautions and NFA: 

Cautions were accepted on 283 occasions, providing offenders with an opportunity to rectify their mistakes without legal consequences. In some cases, we opted for No Further Action (NFA), where there was insufficient evidence or mitigating circumstances.

Key Operations and Enforcement Achievements:

Yorkshire's Proactive Enforcement: In a noteworthy initiative, the Yorkshire Fisheries Enforcement Team, established in 2023, conducted an impressive 5,877 licence checks, leading to 342 offence reports (ORFs) and 50 successful prosecutions. This proactive approach was crucial in addressing a spectrum of fishing-related crimes.

Cracking Down on Illegal Crayfish Trapping: A joint operation with local law enforcement in Yorkshire targeted a prolific illegal crayfish trapper on the River Rother near Killamarsh. This operation, conducted in July, was instrumental in safeguarding local biodiversity.

Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire's Collaborative Efforts: In August, these teams joined forces with the Cheshire Rural Crime Team, resulting in 6 individuals being reported for fishing without valid licences and the seizure of illegal fishing gear.

Utilizing Drone Technology in Wessex: In September, our Wessex team, in collaboration with the Avon and Somerset Police’s drone unit, scanned extensive river areas. This innovative approach allowed for efficient monitoring and action against illegal activities, including out-of-season fishing.

Legal Actions and Impactful Prosecutions:

Major Prosecution in South West: In a significant legal success, our team in Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly, in partnership with Cornwall IFCA, closed down an illegal electro-fishing operation in Cornish inshore waters. This operation, culminating in nearly £30k of fines and costs in October, showcased our commitment to rigorous legal action against environmental offences.

Addressing Fish Poaching and Theft: Our East Midlands and Lincolnshire teams, in a two-day operation in November, conducted 320 spot checks, leading to 30 offence reports in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. One notable case involved the arrest of an individual under the Firearms Act 1968.

Enhancing Partnerships and Community Engagement:

Strengthening Relationships with Angling Clubs: Throughout the year, our regional teams have been focused on building stronger partnerships with local angling clubs, crucial for fostering community support and awareness in conservation efforts.

Educational Initiatives and Training: Our West Midlands team's involvement in training days with local police forces, like the one at Kingsbury Water Park, emphasized the importance of educating and training law enforcement on fisheries offences and enforcement techniques.

Technology in Enforcement:

Embracing technological advancements, our teams have been utilizing tools like drones for surveillance and data collection, aiding in more effective monitoring and enforcement.

As we move into 2024, our focus remains on enhancing our regulations and working collaboratively with various sectors to improve fisheries management. We are also dedicated to integrating technological advancements to further our enforcement capabilities.

The past year has seen remarkable achievements in fisheries enforcement. As we step into 2024, we are equipped with the lessons learned, the successes achieved, and the partnerships forged. We remain committed to safeguarding our aquatic environments and look forward to continuing our work with vigilance and dedication.

We encourage everyone to stay informed and engaged with our fisheries management efforts. Whether supporting sustainable practices or participating in educational campaigns, every action contributes to the health and vitality of our waterways.

We owe a massive thanks to our partners, the Angling Trust, police forces and our voluntary bailiffs who’s support and joint patrols helped deliver this important work, protecting our fisheries, the environment and our income that anglers contribute to.

We also owe a massive thanks to all members of the public for reporting illegal activity in 2023. If you see or suspect illegal fishing activity, you can report it to our 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

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  1. Comment by Ian Campbell posted on

    Apart from a rigorous enforcement policy against non licence holders what other steps do you take to protectwater quality and enhance fish stocks etc. Having regard to the state of our rivers not a lot I would suggest

  2. Comment by D Waggott posted on

    I and many friends who have fished for many years have never been asked th show a license .When fishing in Croatia and Slovenia we were checked every day. .Talking to their bailiffs they very rarely find illegal angling . One club I belong to requires details of our license when renewing membership. Could this not be encouraged that all clubs do this as best practice? Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

  3. Comment by kevin brougham posted on

    having a licence does not let you fish anywhere. to many clubs still have all the rights to the rivers and Canals !!

  4. Comment by Steve Morris posted on

    If 320 spot checks resulted in 30 fines/prosecutions in Notts/Lincs - does that imply about 10% of anglers are fishing without the necessary licence? What are the frequencies and incidences of illegal fishing for other areas?

  5. Comment by Allan Smith posted on

    I read, with interest, your paragraph on "illegal crayfish removal". What exactly are the rules on this and does it apply to the removal of the invasive species such as 'American Signal Crayfish'?
    I have caught quite a few of these in the past few years (not fishing for them but they took my bait) and did not return them to the river. Does this count as 'illegal removal'?

    Thank you - look forward to your reply.

  6. Comment by Kevin posted on

    Good to see that checks for illegal fishing is still being carried out, too much of it happening imo.
    Sad to see Eels in decline, back in the 80's and 90,s when bream fishing on the Thames, you were almost guaranteed an Eel or two, and they were not small!!
    Lets hope the Government take notice of this decline and spend more on prosecuting the relevant water authorities, who are ultimately responsible for the decline in our waterways and fishing.

  7. Comment by Stephen Edwards posted on

    I fully support what is being done. Its something I would like to get involved in, as I am soon to retire

  8. Comment by Nigel Lanigan posted on

    I have reported on very many anglers of eastern European who have not had licences and were actively taking fish, I reported the vehicle registrations, all I got from the EA was oh probably fake plates and please report to the police !!!!! But you will actively pursue anglers on the banks of private fishing lakes who are not eastern European. Why should I bother getting a licence I ask myself!

  9. Comment by Brian Gage posted on

    739 prosecutions out of 1638 offences is hardly “ a testament to our rigorous and effective legal process”. Perhaps the low prosecution rate is why so many people flaunt the law in the first place.
    Much stronger penalties need to be in place and a higher rate of prosecution.

  10. Comment by Stephen Hill posted on

    I thought we should be encouraging people to trap Crayfish not punish them

  11. Comment by Ralph Bromley posted on

    I'd like to think that the very real problem of the Signal Crayfish could be eased by councils issuing more permits to trap these creatures. The Signal Crayfish has done untold damage to my local waters in Hampshire and, I believe, many other regions.
    I feel that with very little training, the average angler would be able to differentiate between the native species and the other invasive variety.
    I have had the misfortune to catch these pests on lures, bait and even once, on a line just hanging into the water, which was awaiting hook and bait!
    The large angling community, who are by and large honest, decent people, are a resource which could be tapped for this purpose.

    Regards, Ralph Bromley.

  12. Comment by Alan Shinton posted on

    If only as much effort was out into tackling the Utility companies who are constantly polluting the waters under your management.

  13. Comment by Andrew Palmer posted on

    I'm sure you do your best on checking rod licenses BUT, I have to say that, in more than sixty years of angling at least once each week I have only once been asked to show my licence. That was during a two hundred peg match, so a very easy target to achieve some checking static/target that day.

  14. Comment by Alexander Min posted on

    Great job! Look forward to hearing more.

  15. Comment by Colin macklin posted on

    Love to hold a BALIFFS LICENCE so I could check check FISHERIES But far too Old. Can't wait for the nice weather to come 😌 ☺️

  16. Comment by Ron Cornwell posted on

    Seems to me the best way of enforsing rod licences would be to make it illegal for clubs and owners to issue a fishing permit without first checking if an angler has a valid rod license. I cannot recall any occasion on which this was done by my local clubs and fisheries.


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