Operation involving Plymouth police to catch fish poachers and marine crooks 'in the act' launched.
POLICE launched an operation this weekend to target poachers and marine crime.
Operation Moat saw officers from both land and marine units join forces with a host of agencies to better deal with criminals.
Police worked with the Environment Agency (EA), the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Acting Sgt Ryan Canning, who also acts as Plymouth's Wildlife Crime Officer said officers shared information, intelligence and tactics to "gain a picture and build cases against individuals who commit crime across our force area."
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He added: "There is no doubt that this approach has caused significant disruption to these well organised criminals. As well as multi-agency work, we also use technology employed by the force to track movements and direct appropriate resources."
He said that last weekend's Operation Moat saw the "largest organised deployment of waterborne assets in recent memory" with the aim of catching the crooks 'in the act'.
A mixture of police and EA fast RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) patrolled the South Devon coast around to the North Devon Coast.
Police and EA staff worked together to maximise their individual legal powers.
Acting Sgt Canning said: "As well as normal police powers to stop, detain, search and arrest, the EA have powers to seize boats, engines, trailers and even the cars pulling them.
"The MMO are at hand to deal with sea fish and the EA will robustly enforce any offences with regard to Salmon or Sea-trout.
"We intend to carry out similar operations over the coming months and will do them on random days of the week.
"Some people may ask 'what has this got to do with police work?'
"Well, it's been proven, time and time again, that individuals who engage in illegal netting will also turn to other kinds of criminality.
"An illegal netter will fish a protected area, an inshore mark, an estuary, in the dead of night.
"They will shoot a net, often blocking the entire river and whilst that 'fishes' the netters would not think twice about drifting amongst the moorings and checking out the yachts and other boats.
"It is often the case that unsecured engines and electrical equipment will 'go missing'. Boat owners don't tend to check their boats every day. It may be two or three weeks between visits or in some cases, months. It is therefore almost impossible to tell when the items were stolen, narrowing our chances of detecting the offence.
"Illegal netting does have a catastrophic impact on marine life, especially in our nursery areas and estuaries where small Bass and Mullet are found.."