Focus on Rural Crime - Illegal fishing and theft of fish

Force wide

28 Jul 2022

If you are planning on going on a fishing trip this summer bear in mind the laws that surround fishing.

The Canal and River Trust state ‘Fishing rights are legal property. The owner of the river, canal or reservoir (stillwater) bed is assumed to own the fishing rights above the bed of the fishery.

‘Fishing without the permission of the owner of the fishing rights is theft.

‘The Theft Act of 1968 states: ‘an offence is committed when a person unlawfully takes or destroys, or attempts to take or destroy, any fish in water which is private property or in which there is any private right of fishery.'

‘The ‘taking of fish’ includes temporarily holding them in a keepnet and later returning them to the water. In other words, you don’t have to physically steal the fish to commit an offence. The stealing of the fishing rights is also in itself an offence. (An analogy might be playing a round of golf without paying the requisite fee to the owner of the golf course, which is also an offence.)’

Operation Traverse is the Eastern England’s response to tacking fish theft and illegal fishing. It is a joint operation with Environment Agency, Police and Angling Trust.

Paul Thomas from the Angling Trust Regional Enforcement Manager (East of England)

“Angling is enjoyed in England by some three-four million people and is an industry worth £3.5 billion per annum to the economy.

“Until recently, it had not been widely acknowledged that fishing without permission, which is a major issue for many under-resourced and underfunded angling clubs, is a criminal offence under Schedule 1, Theft Act 1968.

“Operation Traverse was launched in 2014 and is a multi-agency initiative targeting illegal fishing and fish theft.  It now includes all of the police forces based in the East of England, from Humberside to Essex.”

PC Kevin Jones from our Rural Task Force said, “Throughout the year we take ‘days of action’ which usually involve partnership work with the Environment Agency (EA), Fisheries Enforcement officers and EA voluntary bailiffs.

“‘Rod and Line’ fish poaching is the most common offence that angling clubs and fisheries face. A Rod Licence is required to fish (freshwater) anywhere in England and Wales, not having one is an offence under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act Section 27. Offences of fishing without a rod licence are normally prosecuted by the EA with support of the Police.

“Fishing without permission and the theft of fish (from enclosed waters) are criminal offences under the Theft Act 1968 which the police prosecute.

“Fishing without permission (Theft of Fishing Rights) where a private right of fishery exists is a criminal offence under Schedule 1 of the Theft Act 1968.

“The Theft of fish from enclosed waters, lakes, tarns, ponds etc is covered by S.1 of the Theft Act because fish in enclosed waters are deemed as property and can therefore be stolen.

“Coarse fish are stolen or taken illegally for food or transfer to other waters.

“An individual who is fish poaching will often have no rod licence and will also commit offences under the Theft Act. The Police and EA will present a joint prosecution together in one package in these circumstances.

“It can be difficult to put a monetary value to the damage caused by fish poaching but to smaller angling clubs it can have a massive impact to maintaining and improving the waterway and protecting the fisheries.

“Poaching including fishing without permission and fish theft, along with the associated anti-social behaviour (ASB) involved with trespassing on private land in an attempt to take fish is a great concern to all anglers and angling clubs.

“We want to protect our wildlife and prevent crime, If you witness anyone suspected of fish poaching either within enclosed waters or an area of water where a private right of fishing exists, please contact the police on 101 or the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.”

For more information and to obtain a fishing licence go HERE

#OpTraverse #RuralTaskForce