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New thermal kit aims to net illegal fishing activity trialled in Fenland at Twenty Foot Drain

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Thermal imaging cameras will be used to help tackle illegal fishing in the hours of darkness.

The Environment Agency has purchased a thermal imaging camera for fisheries enforcement activity in East Anglia in the early morning and late at night.

The kit will be used during patrols in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

It has already been deployed in Fenland at illegal fishing hotspots including the Twenty Foot Drain.

An image from the thermal camera. (52290355)
An image from the thermal camera. (52290355)

The thermal camera detects heat signature which will help staff during patrols when visibility is limited due to the lack of light. Illegal fishing activity often takes place early in the morning or late in the evening conditions that make detecting it more difficult.

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 patrol along the Well Creek, Middle Level Main Drain and Twenty Foot Drain. These areas were patrolled as a response to anglers reporting poaching to the incident hotline number.

An image from the thermal camera. (52290361)
An image from the thermal camera. (52290361)

Intelligence led enforcement helps the Environment Agency know where to target and be more effective with resource.

Although on these occasions no suspects or illegal activities were discovered, late night and early morning patrols will continue. Hopefully this action will disrupt and deter people from committing any further illegal activity.

Chris Middleton, fisheries enforcement officer for the Great Ouse and Fenland catchment, said: "With the winter months approaching it is great to have these cameras to help us catch offenders in the dark.

"The kit can detect the heat signature so a person trying to set an illegal trap, or acting suspiciously will be easily noticeable using these cameras.

Anyone who witnesses or suspects illegal fishing or finds a trap or net is told to call the incident hotline number 0800 807060.

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