POACHERS are being targeted by a Hampshire Constabulary partnership after a seasonal rise of fish poaching, including in the Test and Itchen.

Both rivers are hotspots for crime due to the chalk rivers serving as a rich source of salmon and trout.

Fish poaching in freshwater rivers is the act of fishing without permission where a private right of fishery exists - a criminal offence under Schedule 1 of the Theft Act 1968.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Operation Traverse training day

Mottisfont, on the Test, is also widely believed by many to be the birthplace of fly fishing, leading to poachers using the river.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said that warmer periods in spring and summer often correlate with increased reports of poaching.

Operation Traverse which has been running for a number of years, sees police work with partners including the Environment Agency and The Angling Trust to reduce poaching in the rivers.

On Friday, May 3, the Country Watch team attended training input hosted by The Angling Trust in Eastleigh, focusing on identifying illegal traps and nets, rods and other fishing equipment.

Following the training, patrols and visits were conducted on rivers across the county, engaging with people fishing to check for licences and ensure no illegal fishing was taking place.

In Romsey, a man was found fishing without a valid rod licence. He was asked to remove his rods from the water and was reported to the Environment Agency for theft of fishing rights.

During patrols in Lower Brook, the Compton Estate and Pittleworth, seven people were caught fishing without a rod licence, all of whom were reported to the Environment Agency.

The following week, a large amount of fishing kit was located in Ringwood next to a lake where fishing is forbidden. This was seized by police. 

PC Nick Atkins said: “The financial impact of fish poaching on landowners is significant and something that we as a police team and as a partnership work hard to tackle and reduce.

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“It is a seasonal issue that we focus on every summer under Operation Traverse. We have refreshed the team’s training this year and will continue to actively patrol river networks, and work with riverkeepers and other partners to intercept fish poachers.

“We want people to keep reporting suspicious activity on the river network or concerns around illegal fishing to police. The more we know, the more action we can take alongside our key partners.

“We are already seeing annual increases of landowners making reports to us which helps with our intelligence gathering and ultimately any patrol activity and enforcement action.”

They added that anyone with information about fish poaching should call police on 101, or report it online at hampshire.police.uk