Keen angler and former Olympian Dean Macey is supporting crime fighting charity Crimestoppers and the Environment Agency as they team up to tackle the issue of illegal elver fishing.
Over the past 20 years the baby eel stocks have fallen by 95%. If the fishing industry is to remain viable, illegal activity, which undermines legitimate fishermen, needs to be stamped out.
Fishermen sell their catch to elver traders in the UK, who then sell on for restocking fish farms and fisheries across Europe. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulations, it is now illegal to export European elver outside the continent.
It is only legal to fish for elver between 15 February and 25 May in any year and fishermen must have valid authorisation. There are also strict guidelines for those fishing for the sought after elver.
Former Decathlete Dean is supporting the campaign to crack down on this crime and hopes that the public’s help could make a difference.
He said: "It’s really disappointing that a minority of fishermen are carrying out a crime that stains what is a very honest and enjoyable job or hobby for most.
"These individuals need to be brought to justice and I would urge anyone with information, no matter how small, to contact Crimestoppers anonymously and put a stop to this crime before elver disappears altogether."
Crimestoppers West Country Development Officer, Gordon Chisholm, added: "This is a crime committed within a small network, so I am certain there are people out there who will know who is doing this.
"You can play your part in helping to tackle this crime by doing the right thing and passing on information to us anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through our secure online form. We don’t want to know who you are, only what you know."
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said, "If elver fishermen in the UK want to sustain our fishery they need to act now to report illegal fishing and under reported catches. Only with their help can we crack down on the law breakers who threaten the future of the fishery and compete unfairly with law abiding fishermen."