Rise in illegal fishing traps found along riverbanks

River Gipping illegal fishing trap

An illegal trap pulled from the River Gipping - Credit: Environment Agency

Environment officers have reported a rise in the number of illegal fishing traps and nets being discovered along riverbanks in Suffolk.

The Environment Agency said it had seen an increase in the amount of illegal devices found alongside rivers since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.

In just eight months, from March to December 2020, 52 illegal fishing traps and nets were retrieved in East Anglia, including 14 in Suffolk and Essex, 12 in Norfolk and 26 in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.

These figures show an increase compared to 2019, when a total of 30 traps were seized across East Anglia over the course of the whole year.  

The illegal instruments trap eels, crayfish, water voles, otters and coarse fish, and pose a significant risk to wildlife and fish stocks.

The Environment Agency has urged the public to report all sightings of illegal device to an incident hotline number.

Lesley Robertson, enforcement team leader for Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, said: "Traps and nets can often be seen from the river bank, and identified by a rope tied to the bankside.

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“We are very grateful to those who report these illegal traps. Without that information, illegal traps and nets might still be there causing damage to wildlife. 

“We encourage the public to keep their eyes peeled for any suspicious fishing activities and to call us on our incident hotline with details, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

“Our officers are regularly out patrolling the river banks and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action where anglers are found to be flouting the rules.”

Ian Hirst, fisheries team leader for Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, added: "Despite Covid-19 our work to protect wildlife and the environment has remained - while observing social distancing rules.

"We would like to thank the members of the public who reported these devices to our incident hotline number.

"Also, a special thank you to the agencies and river groups who have helped us recover some of the illegal nets and traps."

Trapping or fishing for crayfish, eels, salmon, sea trout, lamprey and smelt requires an Environment Agency licence and adherence to strict rules.

Members of the public can report sightings of suspicious devices to the incident hotline number, 0800 80 70 60.

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