News article

Operation Leviathan – tackling illegal fishing

Op Leviathan Joint Patrol 20180522_164859 CROP.jpg

Devon and Cornwall Police work with the Angling Trust and Environment Agency

Operation Leviathan is a multi-agency approach to fisheries crime in particular illegal fishing, fish theft and rod-licence compliance.

Devon & Cornwall Police is now a formal Leviathan partner and is working with the Environment Agency and Angling Trust to increase incoming intelligence on this often under-appreciated and misunderstood aspect of rural and wildlife crime and to increase confidence in reporting it throughout the angling community.

Fishing illegally without permission and the theft of fish is frequently linked to those who fail to purchase an Environment Agency rod-licence which is required by all anglers aged 12 and over to fish for coarse fish, eels and trout in freshwater. Fish are often high-value, especially large carp, and essential assets to small businesses and angling clubs which are unable to sustain such losses.

Intelligence gathered  by Operation Leviathan (and Operation Traverse) in areas of the country where it has already been running indicates that these thefts and other related offences can be linked to organised crime gangs and wider offending. This includes modern slavery, drugs, prostitution, money laundering through fisheries, illegal imports of large carp from France and even the discovery by Angling Trust volunteers of firearms hidden by the riverbank.

Wildlife Crime Officer Police Constable Martin Beck said:

“This issue requires a multi-agency approach as the responsibility to prosecute for illegal fishing sits with different agencies.

“We will work with the other agencies to be visible, share intelligence and to provide some effective joint patrols where they are necessary. Some of the work which will take place is about education and at other times about integration when involving fishermen from other countries.

“Friction sometimes occurs with anglers from other countries, the majority of whom are law abiding, because their laws and traditions of fishing are different to those in the UK. So they may not be used to catching and releasing, and they may take species of fish which are not permitted in the UK. The Angling Trust has a programme of integration called Building Bridges which has been successful in other parts of the country at addressing these culture clashes.

 “We encourage any genuine anglers or members of the public to contact the Environment Agency national hotline on 0800 807060 if they suspect that illegal fishing is taking place. If you know that anyone is fishing illegally on waters which are owned privately or by a local authority, then contact the police by emailing if it is not an emergency but if a crime is taking place please phone for immediate assistance.”

As always, any Information about any crime can also be passed anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Nationally illegal and irresponsible fishing has led to the formation of the Voluntary Bailiff Service in England. Managed by the Angling Trust, the Voluntary Bailiff Service provides more ‘eyes and ears’ out on our waterways.

If you would like further information about the Voluntary Bailiff Service in your area or the Building Bridges Project please contact Nevin Hunter, South West Regional Enforcement Manager for the Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Support Service,  on 07495 433622 or email

Operation Leviathan was launched in 2015, led by West Mercia Police, covering the western half of the country. Operation Traverse covers the eastern half.


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