Operation Leviathan – An important part of improving fishery protection.

There has been a somewhat mixed reaction on social media to our story about sponsored carp angler Myles Gibson receiving a prosecution for fishing where he shouldn’t. He was accused of illegally catching the 52lb Common Carp known as ‘Jim’s Carp’ at Tatton Mere on 5 August 2014. Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court handed out the conviction to Mr. Gibson on June 11th and found him guilty of a Schedule 1 Theft Act offence for fishing without permission at Tatton Park. He received a £240 fine and £620 costs.


It was reported by the BBC that Mr. Gibson climbed over farmer’s fences in the early hours of the morning, negotiated a 12ft hedge and ignored “no access” signs to reach the mere on private land owned by the National Trust where he fished from a reserved area which is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

Many anglers have welcomed the fact that at long last the police are taking wildlife crime, fish theft and poaching a lot more seriously thanks to the Rural Crime Strategy which has enabled the Angling Trust to engage with the Association of Chief Police Officers and UK National Wildlife Crime Unit to raise awareness of poaching and fish theft, and work with an ever-increasing number of police forces to initiate high profile and ongoing initiatives such as Operations LEVIATHAN, TRAVERSE, and CLAMP DOWN

The recent conviction has led some anglers to question whether the decision was proportionate in light of other threats facing fisheries. Let us be absolutely clear that Operation Leviathan, which was launched earlier this month, is the largest multi-force and multi-agency operation to target illegal fishing. It came in response to anglers concerns over poaching, fish theft, illegal fish movements and stockings and the unauthorised taking of fish for the pot. For years anglers have quite rightly been complaining that the Environment agency and the police simply weren’t taking issues like poaching and fish theft seriously. As a result of Operation Leviathan we now have the relevant people working together to apply the law and bring offenders to court. And yes this may well mean that alongside those getting nicked for stealing or smuggling fish could be one or two more well-known specimen anglers who get caught ‘guesting’ on someone else’s water.

The illegal movement of fish remains a threat and needs strong enforcement
The illegal movement of fish remains a threat and needs strong enforcement

What we can’t do is pick and choose where, when and who the police decide to prosecute as the law has to be applied without fear or favour. However, it would be a great shame if anglers were to think that the only priority for enforcement action will be targeted on those fishing for pleasure where they shouldn’t. We want to deter the illegal movement of fish which is massively irresponsible and can spread lethal diseases and infections. We also want to clamp down on fish thefts including taking fish home for the pot, whether it be by migrant anglers or those who are born and bred in the UK.

You can find more information on operation Leviathan here: http://anglingtrust.net/news.asp?itemid=2605&itemTitle=Operation+LEVIATHAN+Launched+at+West+Mercia+Police+Headquarters&section=29&sectionTitle=Angling+Trust+News

Nasty Ranters

There’s something about the ‘Facebook Commentariat’ that brings out the worst in people and it doesn’t take much for a debate about fisheries enforcement to degenerate into some pretty unpleasant comments about people of different races and backgrounds. Reading through some of the nastier online rants one would think that Myles Gibson had been forced to climb those fences around Tatton’s Mere at gunpoint by a gang of angry Poles!

I’ve been a coarse fisherman for nigh on 50 years and yes, there have been times when I’ve strayed into places I shouldn’t have been. However, we all know the rules and have to accept the consequences of our actions.

And of course it is fair enough for anglers to ask what actions the Angling Trust are taking in respect of complaints about migrant anglers taking fish without consent or in contravention of the fishery bylaws and what else are we doing to improve stillwater fisheries or for carp anglers in general.

The vast majority of anglers in the UK, from whatever background, abide by the rules and fish within the law and there can be no selective application when it comes to enforcement. People who knowingly and deliberately break the rules can have no cause for complaint when they are found out. This applies as much to poaching as it does to fish smuggling or theft of valuable fish.

The Angling Trust's 'Building Bridges' project has done valuable work in getting out the catch and release message to migrant anglers.
The Angling Trust’s ‘Building Bridges’ project has done valuable work in getting out the catch and release message to migrant anglers.

Building Bridges

The Angling Trust’s Building Bridges Project, has made great progress in educating migrant anglers about fishery rules and bye-laws and has encouraged these anglers to fish legally and in accordance with UK traditions.

Building Bridges Manager Radoslaw Papiewski said:
“Migrant anglers are also fed up with the minority of migrant poachers who do not care about any laws and regulations regarding fishing. In our eyes these people are criminals and we strongly support enforcement actions taken against them when they are caught. Migrant anglers are also signing up as bailiffs in their own clubs and for the Angling Trust’s Voluntary Bailiff Scheme which is proving to be a successful way of overcoming some of these issues.”

The Angling Trust has produced a free “Guide for Anglers Reporting Offences to the Police” which includes guidance on how to ensure call-takers understand how serious angling offences are. http://www.anglingtrust.net/policeguide

And here’s a list of yet more fisheries enforcement and improvement work that the Angling Trust is delivering on behalf of all anglers.

Ten Things the Angling Trust is Doing About Fisheries Enforcement and Improvement

The Angling Trust has raised awareness of tackle theft by educating police officers at forces throughout the country about the value of fishing tackle and how anglers, who often fish in solitary in isolated places, have been the target of theft and violence. The Angling Trust has also worked in partnership with crime fighting company SmartWater – a world leader in forensic technology – to address tackle theft. A bespoke forensic taggant, unique to each individual customer, has been developed for anglers and made available to Angling Trust members at a very generously discounted price. http://www.anglingtrust.net/smartwater

The Angling Trust fought a long drawn out campaign to negotiate on behalf of anglers tor new measures to tackle predation of fish by cormorants and goosanders. Fish eating birds not only take small fish, they can damage large specimens too, leaving them exposed to disease. This campaign has been successful in securing funding to employ 3 Fishery Management Advisors who help clubs and fisheries with the issues around fish eating birds and advise those encountering other predation problems. http://www.anglingtrust.net/fma

The Angling Trust has set up a Voluntary Bailiff Service in the South East of England and has so far trained over 90 Volunteer Bailiffs to support the Environment Agencies Fishery Enforcement team in this area. The VBS has already successfully contributed evidence and has found illegal angling equipment, drugs, guns and money stashed along the waterways. Nationally there are over 500 more anglers waiting to become Volunteer Bailiffs if we can secure more EA funding to roll out this campaign nationwide. http://www.anglingtrust.net/vbs

The Angling Trust publishes a list of Environment Agency prosecutions each month at http://www.anglingtrust.net/prosecutions. Every angler, regardless of the offence they commit or their nationality, appears on this list and this has raised awareness of the issues around fishing out of season, taking fish for the table, fishing without permission, fishing without a licence and so on

There have been some high profile cases involving migrant workers which we have been involved in such as https://www.gov.uk/government/news/northampton-pair-ordered-to-pay-over-700-for-illegally-poaching-fish and these have been covered in our press releases and in angling media and in national media and we have contributed quotes for these on behalf of angling. However, the list of Environment Agency prosecutions (see point above) demonstrates that migrant anglers are a small minority of those prosecuted with just 12 out of the 121 cases listed on our website possibly being offences by migrant workers.
The Angling Trust has set up its Building Bridges Project which educates migrant anglers about angling’s rules and bye-laws and encourages these anglers to fish legally as part of angling clubs and at commercial fisheries. The Angling Trust has employed Radoslaw Papiewski, a respected Polish angler to run this project. Migrant workers, who come from cultures where coarse fish are regularly taken to eat, have taken quantities of fish, both legally and illegally, in recent years but the Building Bridges Project has made real progress integrating these anglers into UK clubs and getting them fishing according to UK customs. As part of the project we have produced multi language signs and posters that are available free at http://www.anglingtrust.net/buildingbridges

The Angling Trust has also taken the migrant angler issue to Westminster, requesting a Parliamentary Debate to identify further sources of help. This work is supported by Daniel Kawczynski MP, the Prime Minister’s Envoy on the Polish & Eastern European Diaspora in the UK, whose office is currently arranging meetings with the Polish and Lithuanian Ambassadors in London to help get the message out.

The Angling Trust works with Cefas to crack down on illegal fish movement, fish theft and the spread of disease that this can cause. No responsible angler wants to see illegal fish turning up in our waters and we are key supporters of Cefas in their conversations with the angling community on these issues that enables those with information about illegal fish movements and imports, fish theft, tackle theft and other angling related crime to anonymously report these practices. For example, a KHV outbreak can kill all the specimen carp in a fishery very quickly. KHV is often spread by illegal fish movements.

The Angling Trust has begun discussions with the Environment Agency on the controversial issue of the coarse angling licence for the use of multiple rods, which has been a long-standing complaint of many carp and specimen anglers who feel aggrieved at having to buy two separate rod licences. Should Carp and Specimen Anglers Have to Buy Two Full Rod Licences to Fish With Only 3 Rods? Well, the Angling Trust believes that the current arrangements need to change as they don’t seem fair to carp and other specimen anglers using three rods, but being charged for four. The moves by the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency have been welcomed by leading figures in the carp world. We hope to report back on progress in September and any changes might come into place in 2016. http://www.anglingtrust.net/hottopics

The Angling Trust has set out an action plan to address the problem of otter predation. We have called for an increase in the funding made available from the Environment Agency for fencing of still waters, and for it to be made available to club and syndicate waters, investment in research into methods for deterring otters from still water fisheries, recognition by government agencies that reintroductions of otters were misguided and mismanaged, and that lessons must be learned for any future release programmes for other species, an end to the release of rehabilitated otters which have been injured fighting with other otters, or on the roads, for Defra and the Environment Agency to accept that there is a serious problem from otter predation on many still-waters and Defra and to stop referring to otter numbers as evidence of successful restoration of water systems. http://www..anglingtrust.net/otters

The Angling Trust’s new Fishery Improvement Fund is helping to ‘protect fish stocks from predation’ and ‘get kids into fishing’. This fund re-invests part of the proceeds of Environment Agency rod licence sales in England into projects directly benefiting anglers. Applications are welcome under two themes: ‘protecting fish stocks from predation’ or ‘getting kids into fishing’. With its award from the Angling Trust’s Fishery Improvement Fund, Deeping St James Angling Club erected otter-proof fencing and gates after losses from otter predation had reached a point where fishing was becoming unsustainable. Clubs and Fisheries do not have to be Angling Trust members and can apply at: http://www.anglingtrust.net/improvementfund

Funding for Otter proof fencing is available through the new Fisheries Improvement Fund
Funding for Otter proof fencing is available through the new Fisheries Improvement Fund

Join the Angling Trust

So there you have it – we can sound off on social media as the mood takes us or we can do something positive to help fish and fishing by joining the Angling Trust for as little as £2.50 a month or £25 a year.

The Angling Trust is here to represent you and protect angling. The more anglers who join, the louder our voice becomes. By becoming a member, you fund our work to promote angling and its future, to fight for better fish stocks in both the marine and freshwater environment and to campaign against threats to angling.

Join or Renew Online – click HERE – pay as little as £2.50 a month

Join or Renew by Phone – call 0844 7700616

To join the Angling Trust over the telephone by Direct Debit or using your credit/debit card, please call 0844 7700616 (Option 1) – calls cost no more than 5p per minute. Please pay by Direct Debit, it’s quicker and helps keep our administrative costs to a minimum. Just call with your account number and sort code – it’s that easy!

One thought on “Operation Leviathan – An important part of improving fishery protection.

  1. Well said Martin. Whoever he is (and I’ve never heard of him!), he was caught poaching, i.e. fishing illegally, and deserves all he gets. I don’t see how any true angler can argue against that!

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