Immigrants cause illegal fishing fears

AN OFFICIAL has spoken of his frustration after he discovered a group of Eastern Europeans fishing illegally and attempting to take their catch home “for the pot”.

James Hore

AN OFFICIAL has spoken of his frustration after he discovered a group of Eastern Europeans fishing illegally and attempting to take their catch home “for the pot”.

The group was discovered in bushes along a stretch of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation between Little Baddow and Hatfield Peverel.

Kim Naish , the water bailiff who was alerted to the men by a concerned angler, said they had a barbeque and he believed they were going to cook the five bream which had already been killed.

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There has been an increasing tension across the country in recent years because of the number of people, often from overseas, who take fish for the pot, rather than the traditional catch and return favoured by most coarse fishermen.

Yesterday the Environment Agency said people were actually entitled to take two fish per day on public waterways in the eastern region but said the rule of the Maldon Angling Society overruled that by-law.

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Mr Naish, who is also a Colchester borough councillor, said: “The police found four of them and I then found another one hidden in the bushes with rods.

“They were saying they had not been fishing and were just there for a day out, but that was clearly not the case.”

Mr Naish said the police decided against arresting those responsible but took their fishing gear away.

“At the end of the day there probably would not have been a successful prosecution, but the police confiscated the fishing equipment and escorted them off the river,” he said.

Mr Naish said he stayed down by the river on Sunday for a few more hours and caught another person from Eastern Europe who was fishing without a club license or national rod license.

“The message has to be that you must have a license to fish and you must not take fish from rivers without the necessary permission,” he said. “We will now be stepping up the patrols along the river - I think the fish are being taken, not just for people to feed themselves, but for them to be sold on.”

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “The by-law on most water courses that are not privately owned is that you can take two fish for the pot per person per day.

“If you think someone is fishing illegally call us straight away, on 0800 807060. Don't approach people yourself, but call the hotline number and we will conduct an investigation.”

However an Essex Police spokesman said: “We spoke to a man who owned the land near the venue and he stated he had found some fishing equipment and four dead fish in the bushes near to the group of men who had been camping in a tent.

“It was outside the bailiff's jurisdiction and the man stated that the men, who had left prior to police arrival, claimed to have no knowledge of the equipment or the dead fish.”

He said as a result officers took no further action.

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