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The Environment Agency has announced a major crackdown on poaching across all of Hampshire's rivers, streams and estuaries following a recent increase in fish theft and illegal angling.
Specialist Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers will be carrying out increased patrols and surveillance at known poaching hotspots. They will also be stepping up their day and night patrols along the coast to clamp down on illegal fishing.
Over the past few months the Environment Agency has received numerous reports of illegal fishing together with evidence showing an increase in poaching.
Recent enforcement activity has included the seizing of illegal fishing equipment, including a spear gun.
Tim Sykes of the Environment Agency said:
"Recently we have received increasing reports from responsible anglers of unscrupulous individuals using illegal and dangerous equipment to catch fish. These methods have the potential to harm wildlife, seriously damage fish stocks and our natural heritage, and ruin the sport for future generations. The Environment Agency is committed to eliminating illegal fishing.
We urge anglers and members of the public to report any suspicious nets, traps or set-lines they come across, or if they see someone shining a light into a river at night. We take illegal fishing very seriously indeed and will look to prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. Our fisheries officers regularly patrol rivers, streams, lakes & coastal waters to ensure that fishing is carried out in a safe and legal way. Due to the recent reported increase in cases of illegal fishing, more patrols will be carried out both during the day and night to catch anyone who flouts the law. Those caught as a result of this crackdown can expect to face a fine of up to £50,000."
If anyone thinks that they have seen any illegal fishing, they should phone the Environment Agency's 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 with information on environmental crime.