Officers were alerted to the incident on the Old Nene near March after a member of the public called the Environment Agency’s incident hotline and reported seeing a number of fish tangled and in distress in a fishing net.
Two Environment Agency officers attended, alongside three police officers from Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) who joined the search for the suspected poachers.
Due to the quick actions of the member of public, all the fish were released alive from what turned out to be an illegal net, which included 15 bream, 5 rudd, 5 perch, and a tench.
The area was thoroughly searched into the evening on foot and by air using a police drone.
While no offenders were detained the risk to the environment was removed and the illegal activity was disrupted.
The net was seized by the Environment Agency who have now increased patrols in the area.
Kye Jerrom, the fisheries officer who seized the net said:
“Large scale fish removal by poachers using nets is the worst scenario for fisheries as the impacts can be huge.
“Netting is indiscriminate, damages fish, is capable of killing huge numbers and of course is illegal.
“On this occasion the help of a passing member of the public prevented what could have been a major fish theft and environmental incident.
“We ask that anyone that believes they are witnessing illegal fishing activity should report it to our emergency incident number 0800 807060. This gives us the best chance to catch offenders in the act.”
Craig Flavell, Rural Crime Action Team sergeant for East Cambridgeshire Police, said:
“Our Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) have a commitment to tackling wildlife crime and we were pleased to work alongside the Environment Agency to disrupt poaching in Cambridgeshire.”
Those caught using illegal fishing nets could face a £2,500 fine and be prosecuted. Please be vigilant to illegal fishing activity and report it to our emergency hotline number on 0800 80 70 60. Stealing fish is an Offence under schedule 1 of the Theft Act 1968.
Fishing licence money allows us to carry out these operations and other essential work to protect and enhance fisheries for people and the environment.
Remember to purchase your fishing licence which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licences