Environment Agency announces new team to curb coarsh fish thefts on Norfolk Broads

The strenuous campaign to curb coarse fish thefts in eastern England is being stepped up by replacing part time bailiffing with a brand new team of full time fisheries enforcements officers.

The announcement by the Environment Agency this week has been warmly welcomed but 'long overdue' by Broads angling clubs and commercial fisheries bosses who have possessed serious worries for more than two decades over the unacceptable scale of plundering live carp for a thriving black market and unbridled poaching of native fish species from our natural waterways to supply a ready demand for raw materials for the frozen predator bait trade and ethnic market outlets.

Tony Gibbons, chairman of the big Norwich and District Anglers Association controlling banks on the tidal rivers Bure and Thurne, Broads at Woodbastwick and Ranworth and three multi-stocked lakes of the Wensum fishery at Costessey, said he fully approved of what he described as a great step forward for fishery protection and added: 'I am delighted to hear of this initiative because it is better than the Angling Trust proposal to recruit voluntary part time bailiffs which could never work satisfactorily.

'A full time team of professional protection officers would most certainly act as an effective deterrent against the kind of fish thefts we have suffered on our Broads, rivers, dykes and boatyards as well as from the commercial lakes.'

He concluded: 'If the general public accept their role and report any suspicious activity by or on the water to the EA's emergency number, we shall get to grips with a spate of fish thefts that have been eye-witnessed in recent years and personally I thank the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News for publicising these crimes.'

Great Yarmouth's former England international angler Dave Docwra, who was at the forefront of exposing wholesale plundering of Broads silver fish from local waters, commented: 'At last we are moving in the right direction. I just hope that the new fishery policy of appointing full time officers will be successful and they will respond to reports of suspicious activities, be it day or night.'

Bob Anderson, who manages the manmade fisheries at Cobble Acre, Hevingham in north Norfolk, said he had already been visited by the Environment Agency representative explaining how the new fishery force would operate.

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'I think it's a great step forward in fishery protection and although we have not been targeted by fish poachers here, many people have and they will be greatly relieved by this news.'

Les Robertson, the EA's crime team leader, confirmed the new enforcement officers would be working closely with the police: 'We will be able to respond to reports of potential illegal fishing activities seven days a week and any details of suspicious or unlawful activity should immediately be telephoned to our emergency number 0800 807060.'

• On the open match scene the first round of the Barford Teams of Five League resulted in a brand new squad Dynamite Deben blowing away the opposition with a stunning score of 12 penalty points, with Browning Hot Rods and Latham's Nash joint runners up on 21.

Heading the individual card was Andy Moss of Angling Direct Black with 62lb 14oz, followed by Barford Lakes record holder Warren Martin (Dynamite Deben) with 54lb 6oz and Barford's home grown Paul Ashford with 48lb 3oz.

'The bright weather and crystal clear conditions put the fish off for much of the match and Andy Moss won because he had four hefty carp totalling 50lb early on,' said league organiser Daniel Brydon.

The River Wensum midweek was won by David Roe (Angling Direct) with 29lb of bream, but come the weekend and a high tide, the water ran clear and roach made up the club catches headed by the Dukes winner Shaun James with 11lb 14oz.

The East Angling Piscatorial Society (EAPS) visited their favourite winter venue on the Rockland Staithe, where quality roach and perch provided Paul Cooper with an 18lb 9oz winner.

The Pickard family filled the top three places in the Long Stratton Club outing to Hill Farm Lake, Banham, the winner Matthew with 24lb 8oz.

Mild conditions failed to attract new year carp anglers to the big fish waters and the top specimen of the week 30lb 6oz Waveney Valley common for Suffolk rod Jordon Smith.