Voluntary Bailiff Service
The ‘VBS’ is an increasingly important partnership between the Angling Trust and Environment Agency, empowering anglers to support the police and Agency in fighting back against fisheries crime and protecting fish and fisheries. The VBS initiative continues to be enormously successful, driving forward positive change.
Effective enforcement today is ‘intelligence-led’, relying upon incoming calls and information. This country has a long and proud history of volunteering, the police, for example, have received essential support from the Special Constabulary for many years and now have 500,000 Police Support Volunteers nationally.
Indeed, in Eastern Europe, government fisheries officers are supported by a huge army of volunteers – 5,000 in Poland alone – and in Holland, Royal Sportfisserij Nederland effectively manages and administers fisheries enforcement volunteers.
The ‘VBS’, therefore, is a unique opportunity for freshwater anglers in England to positively contribute towards supporting the Environment Agency and police in protecting fish and fisheries.
VBS is inclusive, embracing volunteers from all age groups, sexes and ethnicities. The Angling Trust is a member of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
There are two phases to VBS:
The value of this phase was confirmed through the pilot project in South East England between 2012 and 2015. Phase 1 revolves entirely around training Volunteer Bailiffs to report incidents and information to the appropriate agency and to a high evidential standard – thus increasing the chances of successful prosecutions. Phase 1 volunteers, due to health and safety considerations, are not expected to approach anglers on the bank – but report what they see and hear. It emphasises how vitally important reporting is and calls should be made to the 24-hour Environment Agency incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.
Phase 1 training is provided by Angling Trust staff, who are both retired police officers and anglers; the Environment Agency; UK National Wildlife Crime Unit or local police, and the Fish Health Inspectorate.
Volunteers receive a pocketbook, identity card, and Angling Trust clothing. Most importantly, access is provided to the secure VBS website for reporting purposes and information-sharing. All volunteers must be over 18 years of age and individual members of the Angling Trust for insurance purposes – which is an inflexible requirement of the Environment Agency.
VBS Phase 1 is now ‘live’ throughout England, administered by six regions, each run by an Angling Trust Regional Enforcement Manager, who works very closely with the Environment Agency. Each region is sub-divided into areas, each with an Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officer acting as a Single Point of Contact, liaising with a volunteer serving as an Area Co-ordinator.
Annually, the VBS participates in Operation CLAMP-DOWN with the Environment Agency and police, cracking down on illegal fishing during the coarse close season. This is a perfect opportunity to promote and increase partnership working, intelligence gathering and sharing – and for Volunteer Bailiffs to work directly with the professionals on joint patrols. During the 2017 close season, Operation CLAMP-DOWN ran for the fifth consecutive year. Phase 1 Volunteer Bailiffs throughout England demonstrated their massive commitment to protecting fish and fisheries and cracking down on licence cheats by logging 2,149 patrols and reporting 111 incidents to the Environment Agency and police during ‘OCD5’. All anglers can help this process, in fact – at any time of year – by reporting information and offences in progress to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60, or the police on 101/999 as appropriate.
Phase 1 also enables identification of volunteers with the commitment and aptitude for elevation to Phase 2 – working with and directly in support of Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers.
Potential Phase 2 volunteers are invited by the Environment Agency to apply and sit a competency-based interview similar to professional staff. Successful applicants will then receive the same training, equipment as Agency staff, and work within their teams.
Phase 2 volunteers will be empowered to check rod licences and deal with certain fisheries offences. The concept is for Phase 2 volunteers to deal with low-level fisheries enforcement work, thus permitting Agency staff to progress more complicated enquiries.
Rod licence funding is essential to maintaining and improving fisheries – and reducing evasion and increasing compliance is very much what VBS is all about long-term. Phase 2 is currently a pilot project with ten warranted volunteers in SE region, and if successful, like Phase 1, this will also be extended throughout England.
“The Voluntary Bailiff Service has taken a step into the future and utilised the biggest asset that the angling world has, the anglers themselves.”
“I honestly believe the VBS is a fantastic step for fishery enforcement and protection. The concept is extremely simple, however the information that can be received from it could be crucial in tackling many issues that the angling world faces.”
– Becky, East of England
“Becoming a Voluntary Bailiff has enhanced my job as a police wildlife officer and opened the doors to many new contacts in the angling and fishery businesses to assist with joint Patrols.”
– Nick, South West
“Great Training, information and advice. Flexible times and locations to suit you. A very enjoyable cause. Come and join us.”
– Terry, South West
“For me, Joining the Voluntary Bailiff Service is a way I can give something back to the community, making good use of my retirement. It is not about catching people doing wrong, for me the reward comes from educating and helping people do things right, both in terms of legalities but also in looking after our waters and wildlife.”
– Clifford, Midlands
“I guess I got to an age when I felt the need to give something back to the sport of angling. I was already a club bailiff and the Voluntary Bailiff Service seemed to be a natural extension of what the clubs were doing individually already.”
“I firmly believe that the work I have done in my area has had a huge impact. I strongly urge all anglers who have some spare time to get involved.”
– Michael, North West
“The Voluntary Bailiff Service is a very important and vital organisation for us as anglers. As a Voluntary Bailiff I can help to protect our beautiful sport.”
– Maciej, South East
“The updating of the electronic database is quick and easy and can be used by anyone without IT knowledge.”
– Ben, VB and PCSO
“Got to say I had a great time meeting and patrolling with you all. Great place and great people. Days like that are what life is about. Plenty of people asked me what the Angling Trust was about, it was great to get such a positive reaction.”
– Graeme, North East