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Fish poachers only likely to land themselves a huge fine; HIGH COST FOR MUSCLING IN ON THE LEGITIMATE ANGLERS.

Byline: angling MOC MORGAN

AS THE years go by one has a tendency to look back and glorify "the good old days."

In the world of angling, there were many practices in vogue during those by-gone days that have long been forgotten as new fishery laws have been introduced to help safeguard fish stocks.

As one looks back, the bane of each generation of anglers has always been the poachers - those illegal takers of fish.

Even as a youngster I would hear talk of poachers who unfairly caught a lot of fish.

In those days it seems there was a reluctance to take action as most of the poaching was done in order to feed hungry families.

Those were the pre-deep freezer days and any fish caught would not stay edible for long which meant that many a poor household had a good helping of fish when the poachers were in luck.

I truly believe that freezers are primarily responsible for so much pressure being put on our fish stocks.

Angling in yesteryear was a casual hobby practised by villagers who would try their luck with the worm when the local river was in flood. Many would only fish half a dozen times in a season and I doubt if they all purchased licences.

Those occasional worm anglers are no longer around.

One surprising custom I recall hearing about was that of not purchasing a licence until the angler had caught his first salmon, which he would immediately sell in order to purchase a licence.

I'm not sure if the old law-makers were aware of this but such was the bailiff /poacher relationship that the wrongdoer was warned rather than prosecuted for his first offence. However, once a salmon was caught there was an immediate check on the licence.

"Delayed" payment is definitely not in vogue today - yet unfortunately there are those to whom "avoiding" purchasing a licence is very much on the cards.

These non-licence poachers are being extremely unfair to the other anglers who dutifully pay for their fishing licences. The money made from the sales of rod and net licences goes towards the upkeep and enhancement of fish stocks. So those who evade paying are not only taking something for nothing but could also be deemed guilty of theft because angling clubs spend a lot of money stocking their fisheries.

A few years ago on one of my foreign travels I saw a good system being operated.

Every club-member on payment of a permit had to pin the club-membership badge on his angling jacket.

This meant that if there was an angler fishing without a badge then he was poaching.

Why couldn't a similar system be put in place for licences here in Wales? It could work in a similar way to the disabled parking permit - if you do not display the blue badge a fine or prosecution could follow.

Many clubs now ask to see the rod licence before selling a permit for their waters - and well done them.

Many times in the past I have written about the paltry fines imposed on poachers.

Rivers are still being netted illegally and those poachers who use poison really deserve prison for their cruel action.

Poachers will travel far to our rivers, as happened on the Dovey a while back and it would behove every club-member to help the bailiffs eliminate illegal fishing. During recent years poachers have at last been subjected to realistic fines.

Recently two bailiffs I know spoke of the hard work involved in protecting fish stocks especially when there are determined poachers around.

It is a time-consuming, unpleasant and demanding job. In 2012 enforcement action by Environment Agency Wales led to 165 successful prosecutions for people fishing with an unlicensed rod.

Just think of the illegal pressure those thieves placed on Welsh fisheries in that period. It is comforting to know that their fines were in excess of PS20,000 and a further PS22,000 was awarded by the courts in costs. A few unlicensed anglers fishing in the Pontarddulais area had fines of PS500 and PS400 for not buying a licence which normally costs around PS20.

Rhys Llywelyn from Environment Agency Wales, who has worked harder than most to bring distant anglers to Welsh rivers, said: "These figures reflect our determination to protect the interests of licensed anglers in Wales and the industry as a whole.

"Heavy fines for people fishing without a licence will hopefully act as a deterrent for those considering breaking the law.

"Let us not forget that the licensed fishing rod industry is estimated to be worth PS150m to the Welsh economy."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 19, 2013
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