Guide to reporting Fishery Crime & Pollution

Welcome to the Fishery Watch guide to reporting Fishery Crime & Pollution.  The idea of this page is to give you an in sight into how to record intelligence, who to report what you see to in order to make sure that you are contacting the correct authority in order to obtain the best possible response.

1. Keep Yourself Safe.

The first thing you need to remember is, your safety should be paramount at all times, no matter how upsetting you find what is going on in front of you.  It is far better to observe and gather as much intelligence as possible without putting yourself at risk. Please do not be tempted to be a hero.  It could get very dangerous as poachers & fish thieves are often carry weapons, believe me.  I have seen it all from small pocket knives to large machetes being pulled out, it is never worth the risk.

You also stand the chance of making the case more complicated for the authorities, the simpler you keep the situation the better, do not give poachers the opportunity to make up allegations against you, it only complicates things and could see the case turn into a total loss.

The most important thing for your safety is not to make it obvious to the offenders what you are doing, like for example do not be looking at the people and writing things down in front of them, simply get yourself out of sight and write things down as accurately as you can remember and prepare yourself to call the authorities.

2. Intelligence to collect

The more information you can accurately give to the authorities, the better the chance of getting the response of a call out. Try to gather as much of the information listed below and accurately record it for when you make that call.

  1. Time - accurately record this from the time you first saw the offence being committed.
  2. Location - please record the exact location as accurately as possible, we would suggest you use the App What 3 Words that is available for both Android & Apple phones.  It will give you your exact location within 3 meters to your location. Most police forces across the country are now using it. If you do not have the App then explain as accurately as you can the location and if you are in a multi lake complex then explain what lake you are at and is location within the fishery.
  3. What are they doing -you need to be clear about this when you ring as to what they are actually doing, it does not help if you call the authorities and say I think they maybe doing this or they maybe doing that, they need to know exactly what offence you are reporting.

  4.  How Many - how many suspects, remember to get the number of suspects involved in the offence.

  5.  What do they look like - Please get as good a description of the individuals involved like height, build, ages, moustaches or beards are always a good thing to spot. Colour of clothing, distinguishing hats or caps, it is also handy to note there footwear, you may find that one or two maybe wearing wellingtons or waders, also listen for an accent as this could be helpful, all of these things help the authorities with identification.

  6.  Equipment - What equipment or items do they have with them to assist them with the crime you are reporting, like do they have any nets or anything else associated with the crime. In the unlikely event that you see any weaponry, please make the authorities aware of this when call the crime in.

  7.  Vehicles - If it is apparent that there are any vehicles within the vicinity of or near the crime seen, please note the registrations, make, model and any distinguishing marks or damage any of the vehicle\'s they may have.  It will aid with identification of the offenders.

3. Who to Call

This section will give you a guide as to which authority you should be ringing for what offences, it is important to get it right in order to get a quick response. It is advisable to always obtain a reference from the call handler of the hotline, please keep this reference safe in case you wish to follow up on the incident.

England: Environment Agency: 0800 80 70 60 (24/7)

Wales: Natural Resources Wales: 0300 065 3000 (24/7)

Rod license offences.

Water pollution.

Fish disease.

Interference with flood defences.

Possible pollution hazards.

Discoloured river/canal/sprin/stream or lake water.

Dead Fish sighted.

Anglers not fishing within the rules of there licence.

Breaches of the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act.

Illegal fish breed stocking.

Fish possibly being moved illegally.

Illegal fishing methods being used.

Fishing during the closed season.


Please remember to have as accurate information on as much of the listed above in order to give the Police as much insight into what they are coming to.  I cannot emphasise enough how much the use of What 3 Words would be to them in order for them to get to the incident as quickly and accurately as possible.

Please remember to call 101 for non serious matters and to pass on intelligence, it is perfectly correct for you to dial 999 if what you are reporting is a crime in progress. It is also advised that you get a crime number of the call handler, please note this down for future reference.

Please also state what signage is in place to warn offenders, clubs and fisheries should consider good signage as an absolute must.

Acts of Fish Theft.

Acts of Violence.

Threatening words & behaviour


Theft equipment from fisheries.

  1. Criminal Damage.

  2. Wildlife Crime.

  3. Fishing without permission is a Schedule 1 Theft Act 1968 offence.

  4. Point out that the Home Office Code for this offence is 116/11

Fishing without permission & fish theft are criminal offences, which the police are duty-bound to deal with. You may find that because police officers rarely deal with or perhaps have never dealt with offences of this kind, they are generally inexperienced in this part of the Theft Act 1968.  So we find that we generally have to provide them with additional information to overcome this area of uncertainty, when we report incidents to the police.

Fishing without permission - taking and destroying fish, schedule 1, Theft Act 1968.

Taking in this context (Wells v Hardy, 1964) does not mean carrying fish away from the water it has lived in, but instead it means "to put your hands on, hold, or to seize or capture". This does not involve the stealing of fish, but the right to fish. The offence would still be committed, in fact if the offender had live fish in his keep net, or had not even caught any fish yet. The importance of clear signage cannot be stressed enough, this should state private fishing, or that the offender had failed to produce a valid fishing permit when asked, and or refused to stop fishing, and/or the offender had been challenged on a previous occasion.

These are all offences that the police are duty-bound to record and investigate, these offences have a unique Home Office Code or reference.  The code that refers to this offence is 116/1. Please do not expect a call handler to understand the code 116/11, as there are thousands of codes for crimes listed by the Home Office.  There is no way that we can expect them to know them all, simply ask them to list the code in the incident report and the investigating officer should look it up and see that it is indeed a police matter.

The important points to remember when reporting such incidents are that the police are duty bound to record the offence and to deal with it.  The police are able to refer to both the Police National Legal Database, officers are always able to refer to the National Wildlife Crime Unit for advice.  If the call handler tells you that it is a matter for the Environment Agency (EA), please be polite but assertive, it is not a matter for the Environment Agency they deal largely with rod licence and the enforcement of local bye-laws. They do not deal with fishing without permission as this is most definitely a matter for the police, as stated in 1 & 8 above.

Fish Theft

The Law states that, wild animals free to roam cannot be reduced into property.  So therefore cannot be stolen, this covers fish in rivers. There are other offences that may apply, such as removing fish that a contrary to size limits, but that is a matter for the Environment Agency (EA) not the police.  Therefore the actual offence of Theft of Fish only applies to fish in enclosed waters.  Fish that are in enclosed waters are therefore considered property, so they can be stolen.  This is simply theft, contrary to schedule 1 of the Theft Act 1968., which you will find that all police officers will understand and be familiar with.

Please remember the following when you report an act of the theft of fish from an enclosed water.

  1. State that it is an act of theft, contrary to Sections 1-7, Theft Act 1968

  2. Make it very clear that the fish are in an enclosed water, and are therefore property in they eyes of the law.

  3. Please report that the crime is in progress.

  4. Please state that the fish are financially quantifiable.

  5. Politely state that it is definitely a police matter and it is not an Environment Agency (EA) matter.

  6. State that the offender does not have written consent from the riparian owner or the controller of the fishing rights to remove fish.

The evidence that the police will need is as much information as possible. How old, who, what, where & when, please pay attention to the details of vehicles and perhaps tank nets are present at the scene.  If the offence is a crime in progress or you have been verbally abused or even threatened with violence, then report the crime via the 999 service.  You must make those points clear in order to justify the call to the emergency number.  If you are providing the police with intelligence of an incident that happened before or on a previous day, then simply report it on the 101 service number.

Crime Stoppers

If you do not want to get involved but know of some intelligence that may help to solve a crime related to Angling or Pollution or just about anything else, you can always report it to Crime Stoppers.  This is a 100% anonimous service. Please do not ignore it, please report it for the sake of angling & the environment.

Fishery Watch

If you wish to go through none of the above processes of reporting an incident, you can always contact Fishery Watch England 0333 011 5888 until 11pm or 07934 805049 (24/7) and pass the information on. We will then pass it onto the relevant authority for you, but it would be far better coming from you directly, but we will help rather than it go unreported.

Stay Safe Everyone, we will update this information as things change.