The importance of close co-operation between fishery bailiffs and the police in combatting wildlife crime was highlighted at Scotland's Annual Bailiff Conference this week.
The event was convened jointly by the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) and the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) at Ayrshire's Fenwick Hotel. Eighty fishery bailiffs from across Scotland attended as well as Police Scotland wildlife crime officers and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Sergeant Andy Mavin, Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator for Police Scotland, commented: "Poaching is very much a UK wildlife crime priority and partnership working is critical to addressing this. It is a damaging illegal activity carried out not only by individuals but also by commercial criminal gangs. It can have a serious environmental and economic impact on rivers and the wider community. Police Scotland works closely with bailiffs across the country and the professional training for bailiffs being delivered by ASFB and IFM makes an important contribution to the quality of cases reported and thus the resulting convictions. As members of PAW Scotland we are committed to working together to tackle this sector of crime."
Brian Davidson, Operations Director of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and Secretary of the IFM Scottish Branch, said: "Our Annual Conference is a significant opportunity for our highly professional water bailiffs from across Scotland to share good practice and learn more about the specific enforcement pressures in different parts of Scotland. ASFB and IFM have pioneered accredited training for Bailiffs and to date 370 individuals have now passed the examination."
Jim Cleland, Head Bailiff for the River Ayr District Salmon Fishery Board (Ayr DSFB), commented: "It is perhaps fitting that Ayrshire was the venue for this year's Conference. Regrettably Ayrshire is still one of the worst blackspots in Scotland for the poaching of salmon and other fish – a serious wildlife crime. We remain absolutely determined to thwart this problem and this week we have been able to outline some of the significant pressures we face locally. Working in partnership with Police Scotland and the other DSFBs in the south-west, we have concentrated on pooling resources and ensuring that all our bailiffs, including volunteers, are trained to a professional standard. In the last year alone the Ayr DSFB achieved nine successful convictions for taking salmon illegally."
The Conference included field visits to local poaching hotspots including the Catrine Dam.
Mr Cleland added: "The Catrine Dam has been a problem area for many years. However, we are hopeful that alterations to the fish pass as part of a local hydro scheme will help fish to pass through the area safely. This area will continue to be a key focus of bailiff and police activity".
The Bailiff Conference also saw the award of the Roger Barnes Memorial Trophy to Jim Raeburn of the Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association – the candidate who had achieved the highest mark in the 2013 Bailiff Exam.