The Environment Agency (EA) is the regulating authority for freshwater angling in England. The EA reports statistics across the operational area of Devon and Cornwall so is unable to specify figures for Devon only.
A rod licence is required to go freshwater fishing and the income from licence sales goes back into enhancing fishing, with a proportion dedicated to enforcement. This year up to 31 July the EA sold 16,661 rod licences in the Devon and Cornwall operational area generating £434,222 of revenue.
Unfortunately, in Devon and across the country not everyone who goes fishing has a licence. The EA estimates one offence for every 25 anglers checked nationally and in Devon and Cornwall annual evasion rates are estimated at 4%.
Covering Devon and Cornwall, the EA has four Fisheries Enforcement Officers in post, with another in recruitment, who are responsible for checking anglers have the correct licence. In the 2019-20 financial year, 702 licences were checked across Devon and Cornwall - of these 24 people were prosecuted, two were cautioned and one formally warned for offences of not having a licence or not complying with the conditions of their licence. The number of prosecutions in Devon and Cornwall has remained at a similar level since 2016.
Rod licence checks were temporarily suspended during the coronavirus lockdown period in line with Government advice to help protect EA staff and others. The EA maintained links with partners during this time and has now recommenced rod licence checking and other field-based operations, in line with latest Government guidance and safe ways of working.
To deter illegal angling, the EA works with the police and engages with the public to provide advice and guidance and gather intelligence. It also works with local clubs and the Angling Trust to raise awareness and support local projects to improve habitats for fish and promote angling.