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Angling Trust calls for more action on fisheries crime
The Angling Trust has joined nature and environment groups in calling for more action on wildlife crimes, including theft of fish.
A report by Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) shows convictions in 2022 dropped by over 40%, despite a record number of wildlife crimes reported in the year before. Overall, there were 526 convictions in 2022 for all wildlife crime, despite their being 4,885 incidents reported in 2021.
Dominic Dyer, WCL’s Wildlife Crime Chair, said:
“To put it simply, people who hurt wildlife are getting away with it, with a lack of convictions leaving them free to cause further suffering. Despite shockingly high levels of wildlife crime in recent years we’re not seeing higher levels of convictions to give nature the justice it deserves.”
The Angling Trust support the work of this report, and in particular the issues surrounding fish theft and theft of fishing rights. Police forces openly admit that they don’t act on many wildlife crime cases as they are not deemed to be serious offences.
In 2017 there were 4,169 fisheries incidents reported in England, resulting in 2,648 convictions. But just five years later in 2022, there were only 497 convictions from the 2,972 fisheries incidents reported in England and Wales.
Even those offenders that are taken to court often receive low punishments. In 2022, 35-year-old bricklayer Emlyn Rees, from Cenarth in Carmarthenshire, headed an operation that caught 989 sea trout and 302 salmon over seven years, and reportedly found a ‘poaching diary’ found at his home containing thefts dating back 20 years. The judge at Swansea Crown Court told Rees he would probably have sentenced him to time in prison if he had the power, but instead fined him £1,600 and had his fishing equipment confiscated. The judge also made a confiscation order for £61,791.50 – the value of the fish – but as Rees claimed he had no savings , he was ordered to pay a nominal £1. Thankfully, Natural Resources Wales made a successful application under the Proceeds of Crime Act and were able to confiscate £18,524.25 from him.
The Angling Trust and WCL are calling on the Home Office to make wildlife crimes a notifiable offence to reflect the serious harm such crimes have on the environment and nature.
Nino Brancato, National Enforcement Support Manager for the Angling Trust said:
“Wildlife crime and especially those incidents related to angling are not recorded by the Police because the Home Office is reluctant to make them notifiable crimes. There’s an old adage “What gets counted – gets done”, let’s hope we can start counting soon!