Cambridgeshire illegal fishing 'poses population threat'

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Media captionAn angler displays his catch: This picture was found on a camera discarded on a river bank

Illegal fishing is causing "significant damage" in Cambridgeshire rivers and could wipe out stocks within two years, an angling group has claimed.

The Peterborough and District Angling Association said people were regularly taking fish home "for the table" rather than putting them back in the river.

Secretary Andy Jackson said: "We have a section of the population who have a scant regard for the law.

"If nothing is done there will be no fish in the water."

Mr Jackson said he had first noticed the problem on the River Nene near Peterborough about 18 months ago.

'Serious problem'

He said there were "tens of people" regularly taking fish away from the river, which is an offence.

Bream, tench, chub and carp were among the species under threat, he said.

Mr Jackson claimed many of the offenders were from Eastern Europe.

"We need more engagement from the community and they need to be convergent with the British laws," he said.

He added that signs in different languages would help enforce the laws. Many of the foreign anglers, he said, did not have a licence to fish on the river, which costs £5 a day.

Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, has arranged a meeting with the angling group, police, Environment Agency and Peterborough City Council to discuss the issue.

"This is a serious problem and one that has been going on for quite a while," Mr Vara said.

"It is time to deal with it firmly."

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said all rivers in Cambridgeshire were being patrolled and called on people to report suspected illegal fishing.

"Last weekend the River Nene was part of a blitz that saw all anglers using the river checked for their licences," the spokesperson said.

"We work with police and other agencies to deal with illegal fishing and will not hesitate to prosecute those caught breaking the law."

Steve Calder, who runs a fishing shop in Mildenhall, has started to produce posters in different languages, which advise of the "catch and release" law.

"Throughout Europe it's perfectly normal to take fish for the pot - so as a newcomer they think it's bizarre that we would put the fish back unharmed," he said.

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