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 Angling Trust Tells MPs to Get Tough on Poachers

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David Harvey

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PostSubject: Angling Trust Tells MPs to Get Tough on Poachers   Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:10 pm

Once again the Angling Trust took anglers' concerns to the heart of parliament when the Environmental Audit Select Committee invited Mark Lloyd and Martin Salter, along with the RSPCA, RSPB and the National Gamekeepers' Association, to give evidence in the House of Commons on Wednesday (March 7) to its inquiry into Wildlife Crime.

The Angling Trust duo described to the committee of MPs the problems associated with poaching, illegal commercial fishing and invasive non-native species on rivers, lakes and around the coast. They told MPs that the current system of fines and penalties simply didn't act as a strong enough deterrent and that it was time to get tough on poachers and fish thieves.

Martin Salter explained how frustrating it is for anglers to see 'pathetically weak fines' handed out for fish thefts or for deliberate commercial over-fishing.

Martin told the committee:
"Last month's prosecution in Scotland of 17 skippers found guilty of illegal catches worth over £62 million puts the Brinks Mat robbery into the shade yet those convicted got off with pathetically weak fines of no more than £80,000 each - representing just a fraction of the illegal profits made from robbing a public resource and damaging an important fishery. The same goes for those caught with illegal set lines and nets on freshwater fisheries who really do need to feel the full force of the law if we are to curb what is in some areas a growing menace. Currently it is fair to say that all too often wildlife crime pays in Britain."

Mark and Martin highlighted a lack of resources and co-ordination of enforcement activity between agencies and reported that in many regions the Environment Agency (EA) specialist bailiffs were being replaced with generalist enforcement officers without the detailed local knowledge of their predecessors or an active presence at the water's edge. They also drew attention to the ground-breaking Building Bridges project aimed at increasing awareness amongst migrant anglers of the rules and customs governing fishing in the UK. This project is a partnership between the Trust and the EA.

Mark Lloyd also gave evidence on the impact of invasive species on native wildlife and noted that these alien invaders cost the UK economy about £1.7 billion every year. These species also impact severely on angling, which has 3.5 million participants, generates more than £3 billion for the economy and employs more than 37,000 people. American signal crayfish have caused untold damage to wild fisheries by eating fish eggs and invertebrates on which fish feed and have made angling impossible in some areas. He suggested that there was some evidence to indicate that they were being spread deliberately for commercial gain.

In response to cross-questioning from the Committee, the Angling Trust pair proposed a range of practical solutions including:
Increasing fines and introducing prison sentences for organised criminal poaching, fish theft, illegal commercial fishing and the wilful introduction of invasive species

Extending pilot volunteer bailiff schemes run by the Angling Trust to complement paid staff
Retaining and recruiting specialist fisheries bailiffs, paid for by rod licence income
Investing in a national biosecurity strategy and developing contingency plans
Raising awareness with border agencies and ports about the risks
Banning the sale of invasive non native plants in garden centres and the import of invasive fish such as topmouth gudgeon for the aquarium trade
Taking a lead on developing a European Directive on Non Native Species


Mark Lloyd said:
"We welcome this opportunity to let MPs know about the importance of wildlife crime as an issue to the nation's anglers and to the large angling industry which is an important employer, particularly in rural and coastal areas. The Committee never received evidence from anglers in the past before the unification of angling into the Angling Trust. We receive reports of damage from poaching and invasive species every week from our members and we are determined to do all we can to encourage Government and the judiciary to understand the scale of these problems and to introduce tougher fines for people who deliberately flout the law."
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PostSubject: ATr gives evdience to MPs on wildlife crime   Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:10 am

This transcript has been published by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee, covering the session they held last week on wildlife crime.

The Angling Trust gave evidence in the second half of the hearing, below.

HOUSE OF COMMONS
ORAL EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE THE
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE

WILDLIFE CRIME
WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2012
ANDY SHIPP, STACEY FRIER, DAVID HOCCOM AND BOB ELLIOTT
MARK LLOYD, MARTIN SALTER AND CHARLES NODDER


Oral Evidence
Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee
on Wednesday 7 March 2012

Members present:
Joan Walley (Chair)
Peter Aldous
Neil Carmichael
Martin Caton
Katy Clark
Zac Goldsmith
Mark Lazarowicz
Caroline Lucas
Mr Mark Spencer
Paul Uppal
Dr Alan Whitehead
Simon Wright

EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES
Witnesses: Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive, Angling Trust, Martin Salter, National Campaigns Co-ordinator, Angling Trust, andCharles Nodder, Political Adviser, National Gamekeepers Organisation, gave evidence.

Q43 Chair: Welcome to our second lot of witnesses this afternoon. I ask you to introduce yourselves first. In your introductions, perhaps you could mention the issues that you think have been emerging over the time since the last Environmental Audit Committee report, which was produced in 2003. I would like to invite Martin Salter-who has had a fierce reputation for many years in this place on the angling agenda-to introduce yourself first and set out issues that you think the Select Committee should be looking at, please.

Martin Salter: Thank you, Chair. Is it formal or is it first names here?

Chair: I leave that entirely to you. We are a Select Committee of the House of Commons but-

Martin Salter: Okay. Thank you very much, Joan. It is nice to be back, even if on the wrong side of the questioning process. I now work for the Angling Trust as their National Campaigns Co-ordinator. My Chief Executive is Mark Lloyd. The Angling Trust is the representative body for up to 3 million anglers in Britain and it is probably more appropriate, given that I am an employee, that my boss does the introduction. If you are happy, Joan, I would rather hand over to Mark to set the scene and then I will deal with some specific questions.

Chair: We will go straight on to Mark Lloyd then, please.

Mark Lloyd: As you can imagine, it is a good joke that anyone could be Martin's boss. Martin has introduced me-I am the Chief Executive of the Angling Trust. For those who are not aware of who we are, the Angling Trust was formed about three years ago by a merger of six different angling organisations. We got rid of the division-what Martin used to refer to as the Judaean People's Front and the People's Front of Judaea in angling-into a single representative body for the whole of the angling industry. We also have a legal arm called Fish Legal, which is pretty unique around the world in that it takes civil legal action against polluters on behalf of anglers and fights about 60 legal cases around the country, throughout the whole of the UK. Angling Trust is the English body.

We weren't involved in the previous inquiry because we did not exist, and I don't think any of our predecessor organisations were involved, either. It struck me that a lot of this discussion has been very much above the surface of the water, and what we are keen to do is try to introduce a new strand that might focus people's minds on-

Q44 Chair: No. For the purposes of this session, we would just be very grateful to know the issues that you think should be addressed, and put high on the agenda, from the experience in your organisation.

Mark Lloyd: Yes. The two key areas that we want to talk about are poaching and invasive species. Martin is going to lead on poaching and I am going to lead on invasive species.

Chair: Okay. I am sure we will come to that in the course of the detailed questions. Finally, Mr Nodder.

Charles Nodder: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I am Charles Nodder. I am an adviser to the National Gamekeepers Organisation, which is a voluntary body but most of the gamekeepers in England and Wales belong. We have about 6,000 gamekeeper members and 10,000 other members. We have been in existence since 1997, and we did comment to the previous inquiry in 2004. The things that have changed since then, which we would like to comment on particularly, are the advent of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the improvement in the statistics that are kept on wildlife crime, which I think gives a lot more information for us all to work on, and also poaching. Poaching is one of the six wildlife crime priorities set by the Government and, interestingly, it hasn't been mentioned this afternoon although, in fact, it accounts for 27.6% of wildlife crime overall. We would very much like in our evidence to focus on that.

Chair: We hope we will have an opportunity to do that in the course of questions from my colleagues, starting with Simon Wright.

Q45 Simon Wright: I have a few questions about the legal framework, and I would be very grateful for your comments on whether you feel it is currently sufficient for tackling wildlife crime. Perhaps in your response you could also refer to your hopes of the Law Commission's current review into wildlife management legislation.

Chair: Perhaps I should add that we have quite a few questions to get through, so we would appreciate perhaps quicker movement than we had in the previous session.

Charles Nodder: Yes. The framework within which gamekeeping and wildlife crime operates is legally incredibly complex. Some of the statutes go back to the mid-19th century. Old is not necessarily bad and there are, believe it or not, in things like the Night Poaching Act some quite useful powers for police officers to stop and search that you would not find on the streets of London. But it is incredibly complicated and it does need sorting out. We very much welcomed the inquiry of the Law Commission, looking at the whole raft of wildlife legislation with the aim of trying to come up with something simpler. We think if they can do that-and it may be a big "if"-obviously understanding on the part of people who are supposed to be sticking to the law will be easier and greater, and the enforcement against offences will be simpler.

We were all invited to a stakeholder group by the Law Commission on Monday where they gave their first impressions of how that review is going, and I was encouraged. They are thinking outside the box. I think they will come back in 2014 with the suggestion of a single Bill combining all sorts of different statutes. It is nonsense that we have a separate Bill for deer, a separate Bill for badgers, a separate Bill for seals, but everything else is lumped in the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Hopefully, that is something they will sort out.

Martin Salter: Simon, from the Angling Trust point of view, we too welcomed the Law Commission's initiative. We think it is excellent and are participating in it. Our two big issues are: enforcement and punishment or deterrence. If you take wildlife crime in its broadest sense, it includes fishing beyond quota in our seas. There was a recent case in Scotland where 17 Scottish fishermen were guilty of industrial fraud; £63 million worth of fish were taken from northern Scotland outside of quota, removed from the public resource, removed from other fishermen to fish for them legally, damaging the biodiversity of that section of the ocean. The fines totalled £720,000 for a crime that took £63 million. This is a crime bigger than Brink's Mat, and the fines themselves are in no way a deterrent. Basically, until you guys get to grips with this, and the Law Commission gets to grips with this, wildlife crime pays, because the fines are derisory.

As Mark said earlier, one of the reasons that Fish Legal was set up is that we achieve more in civil damages on behalf of our members' clubs against polluters-I know this is going slightly off the subject- than the derisory fines the Magistrate will give somebody who poisons the headwaters of a river. We can achieve more through civil action than through the criminal process. That is clearly wrong. It is clearly out of kilter.

The second point, Joan, is enforcement. I am a mad-keen fisherman. I fish a lot. Lots of people I know fish a lot-

Chair: We will come on to enforcement.

Martin Salter: Just in terms of the framework, we do not have the bailiffs, we do not have the bodies on the bank side, or in the ocean, to ensure that our inadequate legal framework is in any way enforced.

Q46 Simon Wright: You will have heard in the previous session that the RSPB are proposing an offence of vicarious liability in relation to raptor persecution, so that the landowner would be subject to criminal liability where their employee, agent or contractor committed an offence. I wonder what your thoughts are on such a proposal?

Charles Nodder: The National Gamekeepers Organisation doesn't have a strong view on it either way. We are interested to see what transpires in Scotland, where of course this was introduced very recently. Along with a number of bodies, we share a certain unease at the introduction of a vicarious offence, really. To me it sits there with things like reverse burdens of proof as being not the proudest bit of British justice. Having said that, we will look at it, we will see whether it has a practical effect and a beneficial effect. We have suggested to the Law Commission that they shouldn't be in a hurry to introduce that in England and Wales before they have seen the effect of it up in Scotland.

Q47 Simon Wright: We have had some comments about the current available penalties. I wonder whether there are any further thoughts that you might like to offer as to whether they serve as an effective deterrent to wildlife crime?

Martin Salter: Oh, absolutely not. For example, we have been waiting for the new live fish regulations, which have now been delayed twice, out of Defra. Of course, angling has changed out of all recognition in the last 50 years in this country. There are a lot more carp fisheries. An individual carp can be worth £5,000 or £6,000 to the owner of the fishery, because people want to fish for record-breaking fish. These fish are now quite regularly imported from France and Holland without adequate health checks. We don't have the legislative framework to enable our enforcement agencies to do the proper job-that is Cefas, the Environment Agency, and of course Customs & Excise themselves-so legislation has just completely failed to keep up with the pressure on the resource.

Charles Nodder: On the game poaching side-deer, hares and so on-a lot is recreationally inspired. People are not going for the value of the carcass; they are going for what they perceive as the fun of being out in the countryside, tearing around with their dogs and creating mayhem. Against that sort of poacher, some of the current penalties are high enough, but they are not always enforced by Magistrates' Courts, and one of the things that we have found very, very effective is the confiscation of equipment, particularly where the Magistrates extend that to the confiscation of the vehicle and the confiscation of dogs. Poachers do not like their vehicles and their dogs being taken. A £200 fine is neither here nor there, so anything that can be done to encourage Magistrates to use the full powers that are available to them would be helpful. But I agree that on these big very organised and very valuable wildlife crimes in the fish sector, clearly the current penalties aren't anything like high enough.

Mark Lloyd: It is very important to make a distinction between that sort of low-level crime and the organised crime. There are people doing really organised operations here, and I think that is a very important distinction to make. Someone who goes fishing and forgets to buy a rod licence: it is important that there is a law there and it is enforced, but that that is not the main show in town; people are committing crimes as part of gang activity.

Q48 Zac Goldsmith: Just quickly on that point. What is the process in relation to the example you have just given now? Assuming the laws exist to prevent smuggling unlicensed fish over the border, so the laws are there, but the problem-I am asking as a question, not a statement-is that the punishment of the court is not big enough; is that your view of the current situation?

Martin Salter: The laws exist. The fines are not an adequate deterrent, and the benefits from smuggling, particularly carp or other species, can be quite considerable. So the punishment is not fitting the crime. It is not high enough to act as a deterrent.

Q49 Zac Goldsmith: What is the standard punishment for that kind of thing?

Martin Salter: It can range from a few hundred pounds to a slap on the wrist or a few thousand pounds. As Mark said, if you assume that some of these gangs are organised, criminally minded and in criminal networks, let us just assume that they might be caught one in 50 times. The amount they are likely to be fined is in no way commensurate with the amount of profit they will have made illegally. Far worse than that-never mind bringing fish in and out of the country-is the disease that they can bring in. You can wipe out whole fisheries, whole regions of the country, by importing live creatures without the adequate health checks. The legislation is there for a purpose.

Q50 Zac Goldsmith: Is that the principal purpose, the prevention of disease?

Martin Salter: Absolutely. It is primarily, Mark, isn't it? The principal purpose is the prevention of disease.

Mark Lloyd: Yes.

Martin Salter: It pre-dates the value of individual fish, but it is good legislation.

Mark Lloyd: If I may, just a very quick point on that. The new live fish regulations would increase the detection rate. They have been delayed twice. They are due in October. It would be great if they did actually come in in October. I know there is a bit of a legislation backlog, but it would be great if they weren't delayed a third time.

Chair: That is very helpful.

Q51 Neil Carmichael: I am thinking about the controls that Defra-the old Ministry of Agriculture-would have, in terms of farm animals and so forth, and whether there should be a more holistic approach. Of course, agriculture is protected by certain measures for animal welfare. Would that apply to the fish industry?

Mark Lloyd: Yes. There is legislation in place, as we have said. There is just some tightening up on regulation needed. There is pretty good legislation there, and I think with these new regulations, that would provide an adequate framework.

Q52 Neil Carmichael: I was really thinking about the enforcement angle as well.

Mark Lloyd: I think that could all be tied up, and certainly the key is co-operation here. The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime was mentioned earlier, and if you look at its annual report-which I did last night in preparation for this-there is very little evidence of any action on fish at all. There is one mention of pearl mussels and another about the international caviar trade, so it is not really focusing on the import of live fish or fish theft either.

Martin Salter: Chair, if I can come back on the point that Mr Carmichael has raised. In many regions we have seen the Environment Agency bailiffs, who used to patrol the banks, being turned into generalist roles. They are looking at fly-tipping and everything else, all very valuable work, but it means fewer people on the river bank, and certainly in terms of wildlife crime that affects freshwater. If the river bank is a place where you don't see civil society, where you don't get your rod licence checked, you don't see a bailiff or whatever, it is basically sending a signal that a free-for-all could be organised here, and in some cases those free-for-alls can be exceptionally profitable.

Q53 Peter Aldous: Picking up that last point, Martin. Some people might say that as far as the Environment Agency is concerned, like a lot of public organisations, they are severely stretched and trying to make resources go a long way; some people might say there could be more of a role for the anglers themselves to be involved.

Martin Salter: A great question. Can I come straight back on that one? Thank you so much for that question. First, recreational anglers provide £26 million in revenue and we are quite happy to pay a rod licence. When one of your predecessors suggested getting rid of it, we ran a campaign to say, "No. We happen to believe in pay means say". But we want to see something back for our money, and we do like to see people on the bank.

Secondly, you are absolutely right that there should be far greater co-operation. The Angling Trust-under Mark-has been piloting a programme for signing up volunteer bailiffs. We have 23 signed up in the southeast region at the moment. It is a three-phase process. We don't necessarily want every have-a-go hero out there to end up being a fully warranted bailiff, but there is a process by which people can become fully warranted bailiffs over a period of time and we would like to see that rolled out. Joan, we would be delighted to provide the Committee with more information in case you want to put it in your report.

Chair: We would be very happy to have that.

Q54 Neil Carmichael: To develop the point that I kicked off and Peter has endorsed, it seems to me that in the countryside, it is going to be very difficult to have policemen patrolling around and checking what is going on. It is quite nice to see policemen in towns, but in the countryside it is less easy. It seems to me-and that is why I asked the question about agriculture-that you want to buy in and tie in as many people who are part of the countryside as you possibly can, to protect our fishing and so forth. I was going to extend that to fishing clubs and people who own rivers, or at least manage rivers and so on. What kind of code of practice do you think might help to protect species further?

Mark Lloyd: We have about 1,500 angling clubs who are members of ours, so there is a big network out there that we have access to. A lot of them have volunteer bailiffs who are obviously policing those angling clubs. It is a question of building that partnership between them and the paid staff of the Environment Agency, who we think shouldn't be going around checking everyone's licence all the time but should focus on these criminal activities and the sort of harder end of this, supported by an army of volunteers because there are plenty out there who are willing to do this.

Q55 Neil Carmichael: Yes. It seems to me that somebody equipped with a fishing rod is likely to have the appropriate permission and permits, because it is bound to be expensive. The ones I look at seem expensive, and I am not an angler or anything like that.

Martin Salter: They are expensive.

Neil Carmichael: Yes. It is the person who is acting in a once-removed way that one would want to look at, so the Environment Agency should, if it is worrying about permits, be focusing on transgressions rather than permit checking.

Martin Salter: Let us be clear. The Environment Agency bailiffs in North London in the River Lea catchment were issued with stab vests, because it can be a rough place on some of our canals. We have also seen a complete change in patterns of migration. Some of your colleagues have been involved in real problems with Eastern European communities who come from a totally different culture and they don't have the catch-and-release culture that we have in English culture, and of course they don't see anything wrong with laying out set lines and nets. We are working really hard on an education programme with Eastern European communities. We just had a Building Bridges project part-funded by the Environment Agency. We had a match on the Fens with Lithuanian and Polish anglers to bring the two communities together, so that people can start to understand that the tradition of freshwater fishing in this country, certainly of coarse fishing, is that we want to return as many of our fish as possible unharmed and protect the resource. It isn't just about fishing for the pot. As a voluntary organisation, we are working really hard to bridge those comparable differences. But those patterns of migration have altered the profile of people on the river bank, and some of the behaviour that we took for granted is not necessarily the case when people come from different cultures, and so there is a job of work to be done there as well.

Charles Nodder: You are so right about the absence of police in rural Britain, which is not surprising with budgets being as they are. In my part of Dorset, professional gamekeepers outnumber the police 10 to one. It is the gamekeepers who are out there day and night. Somebody mentioned in the previous session badger-baiters in a wood and the likelihood of the police seeing them. The likelihood of the police seeing them is virtually zero. The likelihood of the gamekeeper seeing them and reporting them, or even taking them on himself, is quite high.

Neil Carmichael: We are going to come on to Police Commissioners, according to this paper, so I don't want to get bogged down in a submission about police.

Chair: We are just going to have to very briefly get bogged down and then move back to the Police Commissioners.

Q56 Neil Carmichael: Yes. My point was that 12%, 13% of Britain is covered in houses and towns; the rest is countryside, so that is a big area. Even if you had a lot of policemen in the countryside you still wouldn't get the coverage necessary because there are parts of Northumberland, where I hail from, or Gloucestershire, which I represent, where you just simply couldn't expect that. You have to encourage people to behave in a responsible way through voluntary structures and so forth, because otherwise at the end of the day, if you are relying on law enforcement to the nth degree, that is going to be very, very difficult.

Charles Nodder: The extent to which police forces-not all of them, but the best of them-are now working with the gamekeepers and understanding that the gamekeepers are out there as a resource is very encouraging. For example, Thames Valley has gamekeepers on its Rural Crime Policing Panel. In Hertfordshire gamekeepers are actually being used as special constables, so they are doing their two jobs in parallel at the same time.

Q57 Peter Aldous: Both organisations are partners in PAW with the RSPB and the RSPCA. At times do you perhaps feel that you are in the second-class carriage and they are in the first-class carriage when it comes to their being more proactively involved in enforcement than yourselves, or not?

Charles Nodder: It would be easy to think that. Of course, they are large and very established organisations and certainly RSPB has more than 1,000 staff. The NGO has three. Having said that, at the annual PAW conference last week, one of our representatives was invited by the people from Defra and the ACPO Lead for Rural Crime, who ran the conference, to give a presentation on our police training course. We offer a free course to police forces all over the country telling them about what gamekeepers do, how gamekeepers can help the police, how the police can help gamekeepers, and actually going through some of this very complex law that Mr Wright was asking about earlier, and trying to make it easier for the police to understand what offences they might be able to work on. We were given a slot within PAW to talk about that, although numerically we are one of the smallest organisations on it.

Martin Salter: We don't feel second class. Perhaps we don't have the resources of the RSPB and the RSPCA, but we have been going, in the guise of Fish Legal, for 63 or 64 years. We have lost only four cases and we have recovered millions of pounds, on behalf of our member clubs, against people who are effectively committing wildlife crimes. So no, we play our role and we also represent a small army of people who are more than capable of engaging in vigorous citizen's arrests.

Q58 Peter Aldous: Finally, just moving forward-galloping on over the horizon-do the National Crime Agency and elected Police Commissioners represent an opportunity or a threat?

Mark Lloyd: It is an opportunity for perhaps the very large numbers of anglers in the constituency to be reflected in the activities of the police, and we would like to see a greater understanding of the issues affecting fisheries in the police. Quite often people report crimes on river banks and find themselves being shunted from the police back to the Environment Agency, who say, "No, it is the police", and they go between the two. I think anything that improves co-ordination and reflects the value of fishing to the economy is good. Fishing means £3.5 billion to the economy and has 3.5 million participants-it is one of the most popular pastimes in the country-so if the police can do something to reflect that popularity and importance to the economy, that would be great.

Charles Nodder: Police Commissioners we don't have a view on; we will see what happens. The National Crime Agency-as I understand it, that new body is going to be looking particularly at serious crime. As you have already heard this afternoon, some of what we are talking about, under the wildlife crime umbrella, is very serious indeed and where it falls naturally within their ambit I think that would be a very good thing.

Q59 Martin Caton: Charles, you were here when I asked the RSPB about what had happened to our hen harrier numbers in this country. You heard what they said in reply. What is your position on why harrier numbers are so low?

Charles Nodder: First, we need to define our terms. There are many hundreds of pairs of hen harriers in the UK but most of them are in Scotland. The re-colonisation in England, following the previous decline, has been slower-slower than anybody would like it to be, and we are concerned about that. But I do take issue with the assertion that, because there appears to be a physical coincidence between the absence of hen harriers and the presence of grouse moors, therefore the case is proven that all the gamekeepers are killing them. A lot of upland gamekeepers are very offended by that assertion, and it certainly doesn't help the good relations that would help to solve the problem long-term. Madam Chairman, you pointed out that there hasn't been a prosecution; there hasn't been a conviction for the persecution of a hen harrier in this country since 2006. Natural England's 2009 Hen Harrier Recovery Project Report found that illegal persecution played no role in the failures of the nests that they were monitoring; that the circumstances were habitat, predation and so forth, but in no case was it deliberate persecution.

Q60 Martin Caton: You heard the RSPB quote another report in which persecution was described as being at least a contributory factor.

Charles Nodder: This is the circumstantial report that I was alluding to, where because you don't have harriers but you do have gamekeepers, there must be an association. The hen harrier is called the hen harrier because it used to be very prevalent throughout Britain and it was a harrier of hens in farmyards. It wasn't an upland bird; it was a lowland bird as well. We still have the lowlands; we don't have hen harriers in the lowlands, but nobody says it is because the lowland is killing them.

Q61 Martin Caton: Is there is a viable shared way forward for keeping grouse and hen harriers on the moors and, in particular, do you think the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project offers a way forward?

Charles Nodder: It may help inform the situation. We are already paying partners, fully involved with something called the hen harrier dispute resolution process, which is being run by the Environment Council. We attend all their meetings, and I think that is making some quite useful progress, understanding what the issues are and looking for ways forward. It is still some years off a conclusion and it will have to be informed by the results of the research at Langholm, but it would be marvellous to think that we could have grouse and hen harriers in numbers throughout upland Britain.

Q62 Martin Caton: Do you work collaboratively at all with the RSPB and RSPCA or any other bodies to tackle wildlife crime?

Charles Nodder: We do, yes. The hen harrier resolution process is an example of where we sit with them in that process and we are both members of PAW, as has been alluded to earlier.

Q63 Neil Carmichael: I don't know a huge amount about the hen harrier, to be honest, but you said something about hens on farms, but of course one could say that there are fewer hens on farms so that would alter the behaviour of the hen harrier.

Charles Nodder: Precisely. That is my point. It is not automatic that because there aren't hen harriers on farms, they are being killed by farmers. It may be that something else has changed and maybe there aren't any hens.

Q64 Neil Carmichael: Yes. I find it difficult to believe that wildlife crime is responsible for such drastic figures on the hen harrier when, according to the evidence we have here, other birds of prey are doing pretty well.

Charles Nodder: Yes. I agree with you. Most birds of prey are at or near record levels. There have been massive recoveries. Some of them are now so numerous-the buzzard in particular-that they are becoming a serious problem. Natural England is having to look at licence controls as a route to saving wildlife.

Q65 Zac Goldsmith: Just before I deal with poaching-and I will be very quick-I want to go back to the point about the illegal trade in fish. The legal trade in plants in this country has led to appalling problems. By definition, it is not a wildlife crime. For example, the oak processionary moth came in legally; no law was broken. Is it the case that the laws surrounding the trade in fish-I am not talking about the illegal trade but the legal trade-are adequately regulated, or do those regulations need to be refined and perhaps made a little tougher?

Mark Lloyd: Absolutely. As far as I understand it, the problem lies with world trade rules. We can't ban the import of various plants, which are being freely sold in garden centres. As soon as someone gets fed up with them, cleans their pond out and dumps them into a river without knowing what they are doing, it spreads through the entire river system and causes millions-if not billions-of pounds' worth of damage. The same with fish-there are top mouth gudgeon being sold quite freely. If someone doesn't want one and flushes it down the toilet-they can even survive that-or releases them into a lake or anything else, they can cost millions to remove. It is a complicated area to deal with, with world trade regulations, but it would be worth it. It would save us a huge amount of money and reduce risk and a whole load of regulation.

Q66 Zac Goldsmith: Thanks for that. Just one other point that I don't want us to lose. Martin, you talked briefly about the body among registered anglers that is effectively taking responsibility for some of the policing that we have been talking about. I am interested in how widespread that is. Is that a pilot or is it nationally?

Martin Salter: It is a pilot scheme at the moment, but we would like to roll it out nationally, and we will provide the Committee with more information on that.

Q67 Zac Goldsmith: But it is funded privately?

Martin Salter: It is a joint initiative between Government agents and ourselves at the moment. We want to skill up people to have that presence on the waterside, we really do. David Bellamy had the quote that we use all the time when we are justifying angling: we are the "eyes and ears of the waterside", and far too much of the public view is concentrated on what is above the water rather than what is below it. We are the guys that care about it, and we are very keen to have more people in an official capacity caring about it.

Zac Goldsmith: Totally. I love the idea of that; I hope you can do it.

Mark Lloyd: Just a quick point on that, we are trying to look for ways of applying that offshore as well and we are going to start up an illegal net-watch campaign to try to get anglers-

Q68 Zac Goldsmith: Sea anglers?

Mark Lloyd: Yes-sea anglers because they are often out in boats, and also enforcing marine conservation zones as well; so spotting when commercial fishermen are straying into MCZs.

Q69 Zac Goldsmith: Do you think sea anglers need to be registered in the same way as freshwater anglers, because that doesn't exist; there is no body?

Mark Lloyd: I don't think that is necessary for them to perform that enforcement role.

Q70 Zac Goldsmith: But they would have much more of a say, presumably, if you could say there were 2 million registered sea anglers.

Mark Lloyd: That is a big question.

Martin Salter: Yes. Of course they would, but at the moment we respect the views of sea anglers.

Q71 Zac Goldsmith: They don't want to be registered?

Martin Salter: There is a debate in angling about whether there should be sea licences in some jurisdictions. At the moment, we are just trying to get the environment right. I will be perfectly honest with you, Zac, the issue is this. The average sea angler would take the view that, while his freshwater cousin has seen the rivers improve and a lot of legislation put in place, and opportunities to fish-and there is a lot of problems as well-because of commercial over-fishing, the marine resource has got worse and worse and worse. The average experience of a recreational sea angler has got worse and worse and worse. To ask him or her now to be paying a licence for an experience that is nothing like what it was 10 or, 20 years ago-

Q72 Zac Goldsmith: It doesn't have to be paid, though; it could be just an organisation.

Martin Salter: There is an issue. If they started by joining the Angling Trust, we could then move the debate on.

Q73 Chair: Going back to this point you were making about skilling up people to look at this wider issue, I would assume, given what was just said a short while ago about localism and the need for people to look at it in their own communities-either with or without support from, for example, the Environment Agency-that there will be a problem whereby you have some angling clubs and societies that have the finances, the resources and the wherewithal to do that, but other areas-I am thinking of, for example, Stoke-on-Trent- might not find it so easy to have the resources. How would you deal with the cost of doing that?

Martin Salter: Can I make one point on Stoke-on-Trent? Some years ago, with a different hat, I took the then Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, up to Stoke-on-Trent and you had that superb scheme, which I hope is still running-

Chair: SAFE.

Martin Salter: SAFE-Stoke Angling for Everyone. It was a model, Joan, because the Environment Agency will run all these taster courses and say, "Yes, okay, we have introduced someone to angling because they have caught a roach". That doesn't make you an angler; it just means you caught a roach. Stoke Angling for Everyone had this pathway that took people from the taster sessions into the clubs, into the junior sectors, mentoring them through and it really was a model. Mark has done a lot of work involving our national angling participation programme, because we are conscious that we want to generate anglers of the future, and you need the structures to do it.

Chair: Sure. I am in danger of being told off by the Committee for straying into constituency issues. The issue is about how you fund organisations like that, where the finances aren't readily available-but, Zac, back to poaching.

Q74 Zac Goldsmith: I am with you. All the best river organisations and campaigns that I know were triggered by anglers, without exception, and so I totally agree with that. We have more or less covered the issues. Just one question: it would be useful to know if you could break down the crimes in your respective areas; how much of the total crime that you experience is the consequence of organised crime as opposed to individuals? In other words, how big an issue is organised crime?

Charles Nodder: For the game situation, poaching exists on at least two levels. You still get casual poaching, local poaching, but increasingly, and for several decades now, there has been more organised poaching, with people travelling considerable distances, people rather like-I was listening to the discussion earlier on-those involved in badger-baiting, who make contact with each other via the internet, via mobile phones and then meet up. It is very important to understand the motivations for game poaching, because most of it is about recreation, as I said earlier.

One of the interesting things that the police have found is that the people whose recreation is the crime of poaching very often have a profession that is a crime as well, and some of them are pretty serious. Police forces in Kent, Essex and Cambridge and around London are picking up money launderers, drug barons, people involved in serious gangland killings and so forth out in the countryside poaching at weekends because that is their pleasure. It is a hell of a lot easier to find them out in rural Cambridgeshire than in the East End of London. When that dawned on the police some years ago we suddenly saw a huge increase in police interest in tackling poachers, which obviously we very much welcome. One of our concerns at the moment is that with cutbacks in the police, some forces are beginning to reduce their rural coverage and there are forces around London where that is the case. Others have had sufficient success with catching poachers and then finding that they are involved in other things that they wanted them for-and are keeping that going.

Q75 Zac Goldsmith: How do you distinguish that type of poacher; you said there were two types. What is the other end of the spectrum?

Charles Nodder: The bottom end of the spectrum is the local ne'er-do-well who just comes out and-

Q76 Zac Goldsmith: Are you saying that you can very easily distinguish between the two, because it is not really about numbers, is it?

Charles Nodder: It is not about numbers. No. You distinguish between them when they are in court afterwards. It is not always easy in the dead of night when the gamekeeper is pursuing five pretty ugly blokes, probably armed, across his grounds.

Q77 Zac Goldsmith: The lower end of the scale, though, it sounds like that is not a major concern; that is not something that particularly worries you and your members, it is the organised end.

Charles Nodder: They both worry us, and poaching is overwhelmingly the biggest wildlife crime; 27.6% of all wildlife crime is poaching, 2,600 recorded incidents last year. Compared to some of the things we have been talking about this afternoon that are numerically tiny, it is huge and it is associated with some very serious criminals.

Q78 Zac Goldsmith: But on the lower end, what I am trying to get at-and you have already given the numbers, and I accept that-in terms of the importance of the crime; I am just trying to understand if there is a clear distinction between the organised stuff, which has a real implication, and the low-level stuff. There may be lots of it, but I certainly wouldn't compare it. I wouldn't put it on the level with some of the badger stuff we were hearing about earlier, for example.

Charles Nodder: Yes. It is important because what they are doing is the same crime, and poaching has an effect on a number of levels. Obviously it has an effect on the wildlife. It has a disturbance effect. It has quite important welfare consequences, and the gamekeepers frequently have to turn out to deal with wounded deer that have been left with their hindquarters ripped by poachers' dogs. The motivation and the origin of the man whose dog it is, is of no concern to the deer. The problem is the same. Also, when it is the more serious version, you very often get the physical abuse as well and a lot of gamekeepers end up in hospital.

Q79 Zac Goldsmith: I am going to make just one question out of it, and throw the same question at you in relation to rivers.

Mark Lloyd: I agree with all of that. There are a lot of parallels. In terms of the impact, certainly on the marine environment, obviously the key thing there is the major industrial haulage of millions of tonnes of fish. On the freshwater environment, I think the low level stuff, because numerically there can be quite a lot of people in it, can have an impact. But there is much more concern in the community about the organised stuff, people going down with a night line with 30 hooks on it, netting rivers. That is the kind of thing that has an impact on fish stocks.

Martin Salter: And, of course, restaurants buying it knowing; there is a whole issue around the tagging of carcasses that people started talking about as a control mechanism.

Mark Lloyd: Probably angling is slightly different, I would say, in that that is probably of greater concern to the community and to the industry.

Chair: Which I think brings us nicely to the point Mark Lazarowicz wants to raise.

Q80 Mark Lazarowicz: I want to take up that point, and also a point that Martin Salter made earlier about the effects of migration from Eastern Europe-I think his comments were directed at migration from Central and Eastern Europe as well. It is a strong assertion that there is a major problem being caused by migrants in this kind of activity in angling. I am sure it happens in some places sometimes and I am sure it is a big problem, but is there not a danger sometimes of making assertions in which things are blamed upon migrants, just generally, because it is a simpler thing to do? What is the basis for your assertions?

Martin Salter: Well, facts.

Mark Lazarowicz: I know facts, but how many cases have been prosecuted? Is there something in different parts of the country? Surely, there is a danger of going for the wrong target, bluntly, rather than addressing some of the real issues.

Martin Salter: Mark, I have spent years working to bridge communities, and the Angling Trust is working very hard to bridge those communities. We are actively encouraging migrant anglers into membership, and we have dedicated officers in our building bridges project, precisely because the headlines were full-for probably the last 10 years now-of new migrants from the accession states coming to England, not understanding the rules and regulations and finding themselves falling foul of the law. We are engaged in an education process to ensure that people understand the rules and regulations regarding the taking and capture of fish in Britain. There is evidence that those programmes have been successful and we are very proud of our work. But denying that there was a problem is certainly not the way forward. There was a problem and the prosecutions in the Magistrates' Court will show that to be the case.

Q81 Mark Lazarowicz: I was asking for some evidence to back up the extent of the assertion, that was all.

Q82 Martin Salter: The court records at King's Lynn or anywhere in the Fens would give you all the evidence you need, and we would be very happy to provide them.

Mark Lazarowicz: That is one particular part of the country, that is all.

Q83 Peter Aldous: On a similar theme, a question directed to the Angling Trust: you referred to the problems with the CFP and inequities of the quota system, but most of the English fleet is now under-10s, and I have had some complaints from those registered as under-10 fishermen that people are fishing for the pot and then selling direct to pubs and restaurants. Is there any evidence of that on a significant scale?

Martin Salter: Yes. There is. The recent prosecution in Southend involved a substantial number of under-10-metre boats. Certainly the case that was highlighted in Leigh involved fishermen selling fish caught off quota on behalf of 34 other fishermen in the Southend area, so quite serious. The broader issue that the commercial sector raises, and not unreasonably, is that some recreational sea anglers sell their catch, and that is where we come into the debate around carcass tagging and fin clipping and the rest of it. We don't call those people anglers. We call them shamateurs, because they are not really amateur anglers. They are not fishing for the sport or for themselves; they are fishing for profit. If you sell your catch, you are not an angler, all right; you have moved to become a commercial fisherman, and if you are a commercial fisherman, you should be licensed and have the same regulations applied to you. We are quite clear about that.

Mark Lloyd: Could I just add very briefly that fishing for the pot, even if you were to fill your freezer and eat fish every day, it is going to be nothing compared to the amount of fish that are thrown dead back into the sea by the commercial sector.

Martin Salter: That has got to be £63 million-worth.

Q84 Dr Whitehead: Invasive species. We know about mink and what they do and where they are, we have heard about the American signal crayfish. That is not the same as Dikerogammarus villosus; that is, the killer shrimp that arrived in the UK just recently. What sort of impacts can you tell us about that invasive non-native species actually have, particularly on the river bank and the river environment?

Mark Lloyd: If I could talk about signal crayfish, there are very few waters now left that have our native crayfish left in them. These crayfish came over in the 1970s or 1980s and have spread nearly everywhere and wherever they come into contact with our native crayfish, they out-compete them and they also carry a virus against which our native crayfish don't have any defence. Furthermore, in terms of the impact on the rest of the ecology, they burrow into the banks, cause massive bank erosion and they eat fish eggs and even small fish. So they are really damaging and, from an angling point of view, it is impossible to fish in lots of areas, because you put your bait in and as soon as it has hit the bottom, signal crayfish come and snap it up. Lots of people say, "There's no point in going fishing there; it's full of signals". They really consume a lot of the other creatures in the river, so they are a menace.

The killer shrimp is not a threat to us personally-it is only this big-but if it were to escape, English Nature and Natural England have said that it could lead to the extinction of native species. It is really voracious; it breeds rapidly. It would destroy a load of other invertebrates. Those invertebrates are really important for the rest of the food chain, for bird life and for fish. They emerge at different times of the year, so they provide a stream of meals throughout the year for different wildlife. If you only have one shrimp left that has killed all the other invertebrates, then migratory birds that time their arrival in the country to eat particular species of insects that are coming out of lakes and rivers don't get their feed if those species aren't there. Although apparently a light-hearted issue, it is actually really, really serious and, if they were to escape from the two places where they are now and spread throughout the country, it would have a dramatic effect on our aquatic ecology.

Martin Salter: Just to add the figures, it is worth reading them into the record. The study that came out recently on the economic cost of invasive and non-native species to Great Britain showed that the direct cost to the UK economy could be as high as £1.7 billion. That includes species like Japanese knotweed, floating pennywort, mink, signal crayfish, giant hogweed and the rest of it, and in terms of impact on native species, the white-clawed crayfish-the indigenous crayfish that is a really great indicator of good water quality-is all but wiped out because of the presence of signals.

Q85 Dr Whitehead: Is this because the signal crayfish are particularly clever or is this-

Martin Salter: They are about that big, Alan. Our little Brit one is much smaller.

Mark Lloyd: They carry this virus to which our natives don't have immunity.

Martin Salter: They can drag children out of prams.

Dr Whitehead: So obviously you don't take your child's pushchair through a ford.

Martin Salter: They are big. They are about eight or nine inches big.

Q86 Dr Whitehead: Yes. But presumably they were introduced to the UK by somebody.

Martin Salter: Under licence by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, against the advice of experts and scientists, into still water. The great experts at MAFF decided that, although these things can walk across land, it was okay to put them in a pond and they have now spread in many, many river systems. They have also been introduced illegally, I would suggest, by people who trap them for commercial gain.

Q87 Dr Whitehead: That was going to be my question. Are there active crimes taking place in maintaining these species and spreading them?

Martin Salter: We only have anecdotal evidence but we have strong reason to suspect that they are being deliberately seeded by people who profit from the harvesting of them and it is very serious.

Q88 Dr Whitehead: Presumably this is also a wider effect, in terms of introduction of a number of other non-native species, fish and so on, to our waterways. Do you have a system in the Angling Trust to monitor this or to report if people catch a non-native species and they know what it is and they report it?

Mark Lloyd: Yes. We are on the GB non-native species secretariat, and we recently put a load of information on our website for our members with an identification guide for 17 or 18 commonly found very invasive non-native species, and are encouraging them to report things. We also work closely with the Rivers Trust, a network of organisations across the country looking after particular catchments, and they are developing biosecurity plans for each of the rivers trusts. Our members will play a key role in those plans, in terms of reporting and also removal; things like Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed can be reduced by volunteers.

Martin Salter: Alan, can I just add one very quick point? Going to countries like New Zealand, Canada or Australia, where they are really strong on biosecurity, you try going through Customs with mud on your boots there. They are as much interested in the bugs that you might bring into the country as anything else that you might have in your suitcase. Walk into Heathrow and nobody looks.

Q89 Dr Whitehead: That was going to be my final question. Presumably there are known potentially invasive species, which don't happen to be here in the UK but could quite easily be. As we have seen over quite a long time, people stock plants in their gardens or chuck plants in rivers, introduce pet animals, then do not like them very much and flush them away and so on-so over a long period of time, that sort of accidental introduction of invasive species, although not exactly a crime, effectively has a criminal effect on the environment. What sort of practical measures might now be taken in terms of closing the door on future non-native species that could be invasive? Are there things to be done?

Mark Lloyd: There are three key things that really need to be done. There is talk of an EU directive on non-native invasives. Given the flow of people and goods and services in Europe, it would make sense to tackle it on a European scale. There are a huge number of invasive species just across the Channel and they could very easily come in. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on education and we have the Olympics coming up. We have a huge number of boats and bits of equipment coming over, which could be wet and could be carrying invasive species. A bit of a publicity drive around that would be very good, and raising awareness generally with border agencies and ports. As Martin said, it is not something that is really on their agenda. Probably the key thing is banning the sale of invasive non-native species, which is done quite legally. These are brought in under licence. They are sold openly, but there are so many possibilities for them to escape into the water environment, so that would be a really key move. But as we have established there are problems with world trade regs.

Charles Nodder: Very briefly on this, I think it is important to get our terms right, because there are a huge number of species that are used in agriculture, in forestry, in wildlife management, and certain deer species; Muntjac, Sika are all alien-they are all non-native-but they are not particularly invasive. The thing we have to really keep our eye on is the ones that are the problem. They are invasive in as much as they spread when they get here and they do harm, rather than being invasive just because they are from across the Channel.

Q90 Mark Lazarowicz: One question on this directive. Is it a draft directive or is it actually now law? What is the position on it? Is it making a difference now?

Mark Lloyd: I am afraid I don't know but I can let you know what the status is.

Chair: On that point, particular thanks to all three of you. I am sure we could have talked at great length on this, especially with your workforce here, Mr Lloyd. May I say thank you very much to you and to Martin and to Mr Nodder as well, and to our previous witnesses? I remind everybody who has given evidence this afternoon that if you wish to provide further information to us, we will be very happy to receive that, from whatever has arisen during the course of taking evidence. Thank you very much indeed.

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James Mitchell

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PostSubject: Re: Angling Trust Tells MPs to Get Tough on Poachers   Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:36 am

Nice quote from Zac Goldsmith:

"All the best river organisations and campaigns that I know were triggered by anglers, without exception."

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PostSubject: Re: Angling Trust Tells MPs to Get Tough on Poachers   Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:01 pm

Hadn't noticed this thread, so posted the full transcript of this session here:
http://t-a-c.actionboard.net/t1906-atr-gives-evdience-to-mps-on-wildlife-crime

Mods please feel free to merge / delete as appropriate
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Ed Randall

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PostSubject: Re: Angling Trust Tells MPs to Get Tough on Poachers   Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:37 pm

Nice one James, thanks. Topics merged.

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