Crimestoppers: Angling under threat
View the full 14-minute illegal import video here
Illegal imports of live fish generate more comment than any other facet of angling.
Most anglers believe illegal imports damage angling and should be stopped. Others feel that foreign fish should be allowed onto secure enclosed, licensed sites. A few in the angling fraternity feel that movements of live fish should be de-regulated, and that fishery owners should be allowed to introduce whatever species they like, irrespective of origin. Some angling media display a mixed stance: one minute fighting against illegal imports and the next publishing articles that are slyly supportive.
The long-term ecological and environmental impact of foreign fish is unknown.
We know that Spring Viraemia of Carp (SVC), Koi Herpesvirus (KHV) and exotic varieties of parasites have been found on previous illegal imports and movements, and many of our fish may have died as a result. Even healthy looking fish can carry viruses. One infected fish can wipe out all healthy stock – years’ worth of good management lost by one cheap fish.
Diseases can only be destroyed by complete drain-downs, the slaughter of stock and disinfection. Even then, there is often no guarantee of complete eradication.
For this reason, laws exist to stop the spread of disease. All imports of live fish into Great Britain must be accompanied by a movement document declaring the fish are free of disease. These documents are only issued by the veterinary authorities in the country of origin. Also, prior notice of the import must be provided to Cefas. Any import that fails to meet these criteria is illegal.
A sensible solution is for the angling fraternity to work together with regulators – such as the Fish Health Inspectorate, based at Cefas and the Environment Agency – before irreversible damage is caused.
Illegal importation and movements – why smuggle fish?
Put simply: to make huge amounts of money. Latest police intelligence suggests organised crime groups now view illegally importing fish, and particularly carp, as a lucrative business opportunity with low risks.
An illegal 50lb carp from Europe is worth up to £20,000 in the UK. And carp can be bought cheaply from non-approved sites on the Continent.
Smuggling has spread to England and Wales. People are now moving fish illegally without applying for permission from the Environment Agency. This has the potential to destroy wild waters through the spread of disease and also non-native or invasive species.
Fish and tackle theft
Thieves remove specimen fish from waters, depriving anglers of their sport. These fish often take years to grow and are invaluable to our fisheries. Even migratory salmonid stocks are under pressure. In many rivers they are being taken out of season, sometimes through illegal methods. A new initiative has been created to publicise the growing increase in poaching – called Project Ghillie.
Tackle theft is also increasing at an alarming rate, as reports in the angling press and comments on internet angling forums attests. In spite of that, many anglers don’t give security a second thought.
Some anglers store thousands of pounds worth of fishing tackle in flimsy garden sheds – only secured by a cheap padlock. In addition, people have been known to be followed home from matches only to find their gear has been stolen after the fact. Thieves can easily break into poorly secured sheds and garages. Thieves and organised criminals with knowledge of angling dispose of stolen tackle through the internet and car boot sales, selling it at a fraction of its true value.
So security on the riverbank, just as at home, is important. Keep your gear close by and be vigilant at all times. If you see any suspicious activities, report it to your venue staff. If you witness a crime, call the police.
Who can stop this?
Fortunately, there are only a small number of individuals and groups involved in such known criminal activity. These criminals ensure that other people are implicated in these crimes, through hiring a driver, and often a vehicle, to take all the risk.
You can help to combat these crimes by taking more responsibility for your sport and providing information on illegal activity. With your help we can then target the right people: the ring leaders, the organisers, the individuals who stand to make the biggest profits – those with no care or interest in your sport or the welfare of the animals.
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