Civilian air service patrols for shellfish poachers

A unique new partnership between The Black Fish and the Wildlife Air Service has realised crucial surveillance flights for shellfish poaching off the UK’s North West coast. Monitoring flights were carried out over the coasts of Northern Wales, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria for two weeks in mid-August. Observers from The Black Fish inside a Cessna 172 patrol aircraft have been on the look out for shellfish poachers, believed to be operating in the River Dee estuary and Morecambe Bay during low tide.

Pilot Dan Beeden after an early evening patrol flight. Photo by Paul Wolfgang Webster.

While the initial flights have not yet uncovered the larger poaching operations believed to be taking place in the region, the air crew remain determined. “This is all about having eyes in the sky and ramping up crucial surveillance capacity. We will locate illegal activity soon enough if it is occurring. Otherwise we very much hope to confirm the shellfish populations in this region are safe and well protected.” says Wietse van der Werf, the primary Airborne Inspector onboard; responsible for evidence collection and analysis.

Dan Beeden, pilot and founder of the Wildlife Air Service; “This is the start of a much larger operation we will run along the UK coast over the coming months in order to have eyes in the sky and ensure crime on our coasts can be identified and tackled. The regions we are now patrolling have traditionally experienced problems with shellfish poaching. Our flights help realise much needed additional monitoring capacity to collect evidence, which will be handed over to enforcement agencies.”

The Black Fish’s Citizen Inspectors have carried out coastal patrols on the ground during the same period as the Wildlife Air Service’s patrols in the air. Collected evidence has been shared between the two organisations to ensure investigative efforts into shellfish poaching can be as effective and cooperative as possible. The Black Fish is preparing for a report to be published during the fall, which will be presented to prosecutors and national enforcement agencies.

Learn more about issue of shellfish poaching here. Follow the Wildlife Air Service on Twitter and Facebook.

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