The Environment Agency has purchased thermal imaging cameras for use in fishing enforcement patrols across Devon, Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire with more planned in due course.
The thermal imaging cameras detect variations in heat which will help staff during patrols when visibility is limited due to the lack of light. Illegal fishing activity often takes place during the hours of darkness when conditions make detecting it more difficult. However, with this new kit there will be no place to hide.
Using the same surveillance powers as the police, the team also have the ability to record and retain video footage to use as evidence.
So far the camera has been used for late night boat patrols in the Tamar Estuary, various locations along the south coast of Cornwall as well as foot patrols alongside river banks. In East Anglia it has been used for late night patrol along the Well Creek, Middle Level Main Drain and Twenty Foot Drain.
Some of these patrols were as a result of reports of suspected illegal fishing from members of the public. Intelligence led enforcement helps the Environment Agency know where to target and be more effective with resource.
In its first outing the camera was used to record suspected illegal activity which was passed to a partner organisation as part of an onoing investigation. Hopefully this equipment will help disrupt and deter people from committing illegal activity.
Chris Lawson, Area Enforcement Team Leader said:
If you witness illegal fishing or find a trap/net please call the 24 hour incident hotline number 0800 807060.