A CRACKDOWN has been launched on poachers targeting Hampshire’s salmon.

Salmon Watch is part of the campaign against fish theft and poaching that is jeopardising the recovery of the king of fish.

Since a previous campaign was launched across Hampshire last October, fisheries officers have arrested or cautioned five poachers.

Rivers in Hampshire, such as the Test, Itchen and Avon, are world-famous for their salmon, but surveys show that numbers are well below target.

Tim Sykes, of the Environment Agency, said: “We are committed to eliminating illegal fishing, and we will have no hesitation in prosecuting those who commit fish crime to the fullest extent of the law.

“Our specialist fisheries enforcement officers continue to carry out regular patrols and covert surveillance at poaching hotspots to target individuals involved in illegal angling.

“They have also stepped up their day and night boat patrols along the coast to clamp down on illegal fishing.”

Chris Pearson, of the Itchen Salmon Group, said: “Salmon rod fisheries on the Itchen voluntarily agreed to a 100 per cent ‘catch and release’ policy at the turn of the century when it became evident that the numbers of returning salmon had fallen to critical levels.

“Since that time, modest improvements in the runs of salmon have been made but the stock still remains vulnerable.”

If anyone thinks that they have seen any illegal fishing, or trade in illegally-caught fish, they should phone the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call the Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555111.