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'Please keep a lookout for illegal fishing traps and nets'

The Environment Agency has asked the public to keep reporting suspected illegal fishing devices.

It follows a surge in the number of them found along river banks in East Anglia.

In just eight months from March to December last year, 52 illegal fishing traps and nets were retrieved.

Norfolk had the fewest with 12, while 26 were found in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, and 14 in Suffolk and Essex.

An example of some of the illegal nets and traps recovered by EA officers (44076311)
An example of some of the illegal nets and traps recovered by EA officers (44076311)

These figures show an increase compared to 2019 where a total of 30 traps were seized across East Anglia over the course of the whole year.

The illegal instruments trap eels, crayfish, water voles, otters and coarse fish. They are a significant risk to wildlife and fish stocks.

Ian Hirst, fisheries team leader for Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, thanked the members of the public who reported these devices to the Environment Agency's incident hotline number 0800 80 70 60.

Lesley Robertson, enforcement team leader for Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk said: "Traps and nets can often be seen from the river bank, and identified by a rope tied to the bankside.

“We are very grateful to those who report these illegal traps.Without that information, illegal traps and nets might still be there causing damage to wildlife.

“We encourage the public to keep their eyes peeled for any suspicious fishing activities and to call us on our incident hotline with details, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

“Our officers are regularly out patrolling the river banks and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action where anglers are found to be flouting the rules.”

There are strict rules when it comes to trapping or fishing for crayfish, eels, salmon, sea trout, lamprey and smelt.

An Environment Agency licence is required. For details see www.gov.uk/guidance/permission-to-trap-crayfish-eels-elvers-salmon-and-sea-trout

All sightings of illegal nets or traps can be reported to 0800 807060 so that EA officers can investigate.

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