A multi-agency meeting is to be held to discuss allegations foreign nationals are removing fish from the River Nene for personal consumption.
The alarm has been sounded by the Peterborough and District Angling Association (PDAA), which claims that some anglers are removing fish from the river to be eaten at home.
The PDAA says illegal angling is putting fish stocks at risk and members are angry that despite raising the issue two years ago little action has been taken.
Now the PDAA has raised its concerns with Shailesh Vara, North West Cambridgeshire MP, who has called a crisis meeting with anglers, police, the Environment Agency and Peterborough City Council to resolve the matter.
PDAA secretary Andy Jackson (45) said European Union migrants had been “fishing for the table” in the Peterborough area for many years.
He said: “No one is willing to tackle the problem head on. We are really desperate to get something done because we want to protect our waters.
“If it carries on the way it is there will be no fish left in the river.”
Mr Jackson said the association’s bailiffs had suffered intimidation after approaching anglers suspected of fishing illegally.
He said: “Ideally what we would really like is proper enforcement and a proper message sent out.”
Two years ago, the PDAA claimed there had been a ‘sudden decline’ of bream, carp, pike, tench, chub and eels in the Nene. Following his complaint, notices were put up in different languages at river sites across the city.
Then Mr Jackson said: “The fish stocks have declined markedly in the past six years. There is a definite correlation between this and the influx of migrants to the city. Many view the countryside as a free source of food.”
Mr Vara said: “The aim of the meeting is to ensure a co-ordinated approach by all the agencies so this problem can be firmly dealt with and stopped.
“That means finding the culprits and we need to ensure that the full force of the law takes its course. Taking fish from the rivers amounts to theft, which is a criminal activity and intimidating bailiffs constitutes threatening behaviour which is also a criminal activity.”
He acknowledged the challenges in bringing offenders to justice, however, with resources being finite.
Agency targets riverbanks
Figures from the Environment Agency raise a question mark over the extent of the problem.
A spokesman said: “The River Nene was one of a number targeted by us last weekend. We checked 287 anglers and 10 were issued with offence report forms for not having a licence. In the last 12 months, EA has received 62 reports of illegal fishing in the Peterborough area. Of these, 21 were reported to be Eastern European anglers.
In the same period, the EA has prosecuted 13 people for fishing illegally in the Peterborough area - 12 for fishing without a licence and one for leaving a rod unattended.
Story originally published online 20 November 2012.
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