The battle to tackle poachers has been stepped up this Christmas as deer and salmon become the number one targets for criminal gangs operating with no regard for animal welfare or the law.
The “Poacher’s Moon” initiative will help improve people’s understanding of modern poaching and improve the police response with a leaflet and poster drop to every force across England and Wales. It will detail the dangers of poaching, how it should be tackled and what people should expect when they report an incident. The initiative brings together the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Environment Agency (EA), the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Deer Initiative (DI).
Poaching and the sale of black market game, venison and fish causes suffering for the animals, damages the rural economy and poses a potential health risk for consumers as meat is often crudely butchered in poor conditions.
Tom Blades, BASC head of game and gamekeeping said: “It is essential that we all work together to bring a co-ordinated approach to the growing problem of poaching. It is a serious wildlife crime and I call on everyone to be vigilant and report all incidents of poaching to the police. These are well organised, often violent gangs, who will take protected wildlife by force if necessary. We welcome efforts to improve the police response to the problem.”
Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “I am delighted to support this project to help tackle poaching. This type of crime can be extremely damaging to our rural communities and the natural environment. We take this issue seriously, as demonstrated by our commitment, along with Defra, to fund the Wildlife Crime Unit by £300,000 a year up until 2011 and we support the recent appointment of the first dedicated poaching priority officer for England and Wales.”
Detective Inspector Brian Stuart of the NWCU said: “Poacher’s Moon is an innovative step forward between land managers, police and other statutory agencies which highlights graphically the issues of poaching within our rural communities.”
Heidi Stone, EA Fisheries Policy manager, said: “The Environment Agency is pleased to be a partner in this project. From our experience, the gangs which poach fish are likely to be involved in other criminal activities and will switch seasonally to the most vulnerable target; whether salmon or deer. Effective action against rural crime needs an intelligence-led approach between us and our partners. This is an excellent start.”
Peter Watson of the Deer Initiative said: “The illegal killing of deer by poachers is a callous and cynical act. The Deer Initiative Partnership fully supports the Poacher’s Moon campaign and welcomes the increased police awareness of this and other rural crime. We hope that recent anti-poaching operations by a number of police forces will result in prosecutions of those who have so little regard for the law or the welfare of the deer.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
• All poaching shows a significant rise around Christmas and New Year.
• Reported incidents of deer and salmon poaching in England and Wales have more than doubled in the last year – from 158 in 2008 to 349 in 2009. (stats as reported to and recorded by NWCU)
• Salmon poaching is seasonal. Netting and other poaching operations can have devastating effects on populations in individual rivers where the fish return to spawn.
• All legal venison will have a full paper-trail to show its provenance.
• Legal salmon will have an Environment Agency tag through the gills.
• Poacher’s Moon is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Angling Trust and Cefas, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
• There is a network of Police Wildlife Crime Officers across the 43 Forces in England and Wales. Gareth Cole, who works for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, is the first dedicated poaching priority officer for England and Wales. The post is jointly funded by NWCU, BASC, EA and DI .
• The National Wildlife Crime Unit gathers intelligence on national wildlife crime and also provides analytical and investigative support.
• Copies of the Poacher’s Moon leaflet are available from the BASC press office.