The Angling Trust has won support from the Association of Chief Police Officers to ensure that all chief officers in England and Wales will receive training about poaching and fish theft, and pass this on to their operational staff.
The National Policing Lead for Wildlife & Rural Crime, Simon Prince, the chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, one of the most senior police officers in the country, has given his backing to the initiative which will ensure that the police respond properly to reports of poaching and fish theft.
To date, anglers have been frustrated when reporting criminal offences connected with poaching and fish theft to the police due to confusion amongst call-handlers and operational police officers who have not been aware of their duties and responsibilities in this area.
Retired police officer and Angling Trust national enforcement manager Dilip Sarkar has been working to address this issue with the National Wildlife Crime Unit and individual forces over the past two years.
Constable Simon Prince said: "As fish poaching can happen at any time and anywhere, I agree that there needs to be a greater awareness within the police service of the legislation that can be used to combat the problem. I have therefore caused a briefing note to be created and distributed to all chief officers in England and Wales, to be cascaded down to call-taking staff and operational police officers. That, together with the work the Angling Trust has been carrying out with our network of Wildlife Crime Officers, will hopefully achieve the outcome that we all desire."
Mr Sarkar said: "This is a massive step forward, which will bring an end to what, for anglers, has been an unacceptable situation. We understand that the problem was caused by an omission in training and it is great that this will finally be addressed. We are, however, entirely supportive of the problems faced by the police today, and share ACPO's desire to work in partnership.
"We are extremely grateful to Mr Prince in particular, and to the National Wildlife Crime Unit, for essential and ongoing understanding and support - which ultimately means poachers will increasingly find themselves with criminal records and being prosecuted."
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust said: "Many fishery owners and angling clubs have, quite rightly, been pressing us to take this issue to the highest level. I am very grateful to ACPO and to Chief Constable Prince for their support in bringing poachers to book for the damage that they do to fish stocks, to rural businesses and to the enjoyment of millions of anglers. We hope that more prosecutions will send a clear message to the poachers and fish rustlers that they cannot get away with criminal activity any longer."
Sir John Roberts from the Shropshire Anglers Federation said: "I would say the police actually do not really need any extra training, as all they have to do is follow the Fishing Act.
"On saying that we have had police come to reports of theft and have not know what to do, and al they need to know is the law under the Fishing Act."
Anglers can find all they need to know about reporting offences to the police at www.anglingtrust.net.