Environment Agency enforcement teams continued their clampdown on illegal fishing, issuing 90 offence notices for close season offences across England from the start of close season (15 March) to the end of May. Patrols focused on a range of illegal fishing – including close season offences and fishing without a valid rod licence.
‘Close season’ – which runs from 15 March to 15 June inclusive – is when coarse angling is suspended on rivers, streams and specified canals and stillwaters to protect spawning fish.
Officers notched up more than 570 patrols up and down the country looking for close season offences – 90 anglers were reported for this offence alone.
The Environment Agency also carried out two rod licence ‘blitzes’ over the May bank holiday weekends – a particularly popular time for anglers. Over the two May bank holiday weekends, Environment Agency teams made more than 940 visits to waters, served more than 580 offence report forms for illegal fishing and checked more than 7,800 licences. The maximum fine for fishing without a licence is £2,500 – and an annual licence costs just £27.
Sarah Chare, Environment Agency head of fisheries, said:
Our enforcement teams have been in out in force – particularly over the last couple of bank holidays – and will continue to be over the coming months. The number of anglers caught red-handed is testament to how seriously we take illegal fishing but worryingly it shows a blatant disregard for the law and the health of fisheries.
People who don’t buy a licence are not only cheating other anglers and the future of the sport but running the risk of criminal conviction and a fine. There is no excuse – it costs just £27 for a whole year and you can buy it from the Post Office website.
The Environment Agency’s work is intelligence-led, meaning that work is targeted on areas where there are reports of evasion or are known illegal hotspots.
Last year, Environment Agency officers checked more than 70,000 licences and prosecuted more than 2,100 licence cheats. Between them, they were ordered to pay fines and costs in excess of £500,000. To help crack down on unlicensed fishing the Environment Agency urges anyone to report illegal activity by calling 0800 80 70 60.
Money raised from rod licence sales is invested in England’s fisheries, including a wide range of projects to improve facilities for anglers, manage predation, protect stocks from illegal fishing, plus fish restocking, invasive species eradication, habitat improvements, and working with partners to encourage people to take-up fishing for the first time.
Annual rod licences for trout and coarse fishing remain at £5 for 12 to 16 year olds, £18 for senior and disabled concessions and £27 for non-concessions. Children under 12 can fish for free. Buying a licence online from the Post Office website saves time and administration costs, which means more of the income can be spent on improving fish stocks and fishing.
Anglers can also buy a rod licence by calling the Post Office on 0344 800 5386 or by visiting any Post Office branch.
Alternatively, you can buy your licence through the Angling Trust’s mobile-configured website – Fishing Info Whether at home or on the move, anglers can use this new website to get details of thousands of fisheries, tackle shops, clubs and coaches, plus all the latest angling weather and river levels.