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The Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS) and the Environment Agency marked the start of Operation Clampdown 9 – the annual crackdown on illegal fishing during the coarse fish close season on rivers – with a regional launch patrol on the River Tees in the North East of England.
FESS National Enforcement Support Manager, Nino Brancato and recently appointed North East Regional Enforcement Support Manager, Kevin Woodcock, were joined on the banks of the river in Stockton-on-Tees by members of the Environment Agency North East and Yorkshire Fisheries teams and PC Neil Harrison from Cleveland Police Community Engagement Team with the force’s rural crime volunteers.
Also present were Angling Trust Building Bridges Project Manager, Janusz Kansik, and local members of the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS). The patrol was also supported on the water by the Canal & River Trust, who manage the Tees Barrage and 22km of the river upstream of the barrage, onboard their service craft.
Following this activity, two anglers were reported by Environment Agency Enforcement Officers for fishing in contravention of close season regulations.
Now in its ninth year, Operation Clampdown is a national multi-agency initiative targeting illegal fishing during the coarse fishing close season on rivers, streams, drains and specified canals as well as stillwaters that are sites of special scientific interest (SSSI).
The close season runs from 15th March until 15th June inclusive. Anyone convicted of illegally fishing during the close season faces a significant fine and possible confiscation of equipment.
Kevin Woodcock (Angling Trust North East Regional Enforcement Support Manager) and Janusz Kansik (Angling Trust Building Bridges Project Manager) hand over multi-lingual close season signs to Ian Telford (Canal & River Trust).
Throughout the close season, Angling Trust volunteer bailiffs will be keeping watch over the nation’s waterways in their capacity as trained eyes and ears out on the bank as part of Operation Clampdown. They will be contributing intelligence to the Environment Agency and police and taking part in targeted joint patrols with Environment Agency fisheries officers around areas identified as hotspots for illegal fishing and related crime.
The group also met a representative from Angling Trust member club, North Ormesby Institute Angling Section, on the club’s stretch of the River Leven, a tributary of the Tees, to deliver multi-lingual signage and offer enforcement advice following an increase in reports of poaching, illegal fishing and anti-social behaviour from club members and local residents.
Kevin Summerson, Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Technical Specialist in the North East, said: “Thanks to the efforts of the Environment Agency and its partners, parts of the River Tees have developed into some of the best coarse fishing areas in the region, but sadly that also creates an increased risk of illegal fishing.
“We are now moving into the breeding season for coarse fish, so it’s vital that rivers are closed to coarse fishing for three months to protect spawning fish and give populations a chance to recover.
“People who flout the law are endangering the future of angling. By working closely with our partners on Operation Clampdown we can share information to ensure we target our patrols to where they are needed most. Together we can protect fish stocks and the environment.”
Kevin Woodcock, Angling Trust Regional Enforcement Support Manager for the North East, said: “Since taking up my post I have been working closely with Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers, police forces, angling clubs and organisations from across the region to build lasting links and promote the benefits of the Angling Trust’s multi-agency approach to protect fish and fishing.
“Operation Clampdown is the first major activity I have been involved in coordinating to support our enforcement partners’ efforts to reduce illegal fishing and related crime around the diverse waterways of the North East and Yorkshire during the coarse fish close season. I hope the launch of this activity on the River Tees reassures the area’s anglers that the net is closing in on offenders, who risk a large fine and a criminal conviction.
“I look forward to joining our volunteer bailiffs on further joint patrols and engaging with the local angling community to provide enforcement advice, raise awareness of their issues and emphasise the importance of reporting incidents to the appropriate agency every time.”
Stephen Bell (left) from North Ormesby Institute Angling Section receives enforcement advice and multi-lingual close season signs to deter poachers on the clubs stretch of the River Leven at Ingleby Barwick from PC Neil Harrison (Cleveland Police Community Engagement Officer), Janusz Kansik (Angling Trust Building Bridges Project Manager) and Kevin Woodcock (Angling Trust North East Regional Enforcement Support Manager).
Karen Hinson, Angling Trust National Volunteers Manager, said: “Every year our volunteer bailiffs enthusiastically step up to support this important initiative, further evidence of their intrinsic value to the communities they support.
“In addition, the known benefits towards the physical and mental wellbeing of the individuals who take part by getting outdoors to patrol, particularly during these times of relative isolation, cannot be understated.”
Nino Brancato, Angling Trust National Enforcement Support Manager, said: “Today’s launch on the River Tees highlights both our regional and national commitment to supporting the Environment Agency, alongside the police and other key organisations to ensure anglers observe the close season rules.
“This partnership also extends not just to our excellent volunteer bailiffs, but also to law-abiding anglers, who we encourage to play their part in protecting fish stocks by reporting illegal fishing, fish theft and suspicious activity to the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or the police as appropriate.”
Inspector Fay Cole, from Cleveland Police, said: “We will continue to work in partnership with our colleagues from the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency to carry out important operations such as this to tackle illegal fishing and other offences. We hope to carry out further joint operations throughout the year.”
Incidents of illegal fishing should be reported to the Environment Agency incident number 0800 80 70 60 or the Police on 101 to report a crime that does not require an emergency response or 999 to report a crime in progress.
If you interested in receiving multi-lingual close season signage for your club or fishery please contact Building Bridges Project Manager Janusz Kansik: [email protected] – PDF versions of multi-lingual signs are also available to download and print: HERE
There are still plenty of opportunities for anglers to get out on the banks to fish for coarse fish while rivers, streams, drains and other sites the close season applies to are off-limits. The vast majority of stillwaters and canals in England remain open for fishing. Anglers should ensure they have the necessary permission to fish and a valid Environment Agency fishing licence.
Main Picture: The Angling Trust and Environment Agency with Key Partners launch Operation Clampdown 9 on the River Tees. From Left: Carole Sanderson (VBS), Paul Richmond (VBS), David Sanderson (VBS), David Munt (Angling Trust North East Fishery Development Officer), Shaun McGinty (Environment Agency Fisheries Technical Officer in the North East and Yorkshire), Kevin Summerson (Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Technical Specialist in the North East), PC Neil Harrison (Cleveland Police Community Engagement Officer), John Crowl (Environment Agency Team Leader in the North East), Kevin Woodcock (Angling Trust North East Regional Enforcement Support Manager), Karel Simpson (Cleveland Police Volunteer Rural Crime Coordinator), Ian Johnnson (VBS), Lee Headings (VBS), Janusz Kansik (Angling Trust Building Bridges Project Manager), Nino Brancato (Angling Trust National Enforcement Support Manager), Mark Snowdon (Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officer in the North East), Ian Telford and volunteer John Owens (Canal & River Trust) aboard the ‘Innovation’.