Wildlife Crime Report 2020

The Institute was very pleased to be asked to lead on the fisheries crime chapter of this years Wildlife and Countryside Link Crime Report.

The introduction to the full report can be found below and both the report and the fisheries specific content can be dowloaded at the bottom of the page


This report, the third annual report produced by Link members, demonstrates that a diverse and widespread underworld of wildlife crime continues to operate across England and Wales. It threatens an extraordinary array of wildlife: bats, birds, badgers, plants, hares, deer, amphibians and reptiles and more. The nature of the threat is just as diverse, from centuries old hunting and trapping practices and poisoning, to sophisticated online cybercrime. The numbers we set out in this report are likely to be a significant underestimate — they represent the data gathered by our organisations in the absence of consistent reporting by enforcement agencies and government. As the UK ramps up its international advocacy on tackling wildlife crime, we challenge government to invest in reporting, detecting and stamping out these domestic offences once and for all.

Although this report covers incidents and issues for 2019, it cannot be ignored that at the time of its publication, we face a very different world following the global spread of COVID-19. Whatever the origins of the virus, the pandemic has put the interdependence of society, economy and environment into sharp focus. Perhaps it takes the exposure of our vulnerability for us to realise just how precious our wildlife is, and to reveal how we may lose some species for good if we fail to take action against those who commit crimes against them. Of late, the Westminster Government has spoken of its intention to oversee a green recovery, and with it the protection of wildlife. This statement of intent must be backed by robust and strategic action.

Action on domestic wildlife crime is well overdue. In November 2015, after nearly three years’ work, the Law Commission published its review of wildlife law. It highlighted such issues as the volume of different pieces of legislation covering the varying species of flora and fauna and suggested streamlining in certain areas. Due to the Brexit vote it was decided that the review would be put on the shelf and re-visited once Brexit, was done. As a consequence, at a time when the importance of a healthy relationship between humans and wildlife has never been more evident, long-overdue improvements to wildlife legislation may not be considered for many years to come. This is despite the fact that some of our current wildlife legislation was enacted just short of two hundred years ago (1824) and uses such antiquated terms as conies (a 19th century term for rabbits). Our current legislation is outdated and no longer fit for purpose.

With all the technology now available, it is disappointing that we cannot say with any good authority exactly how much wildlife crime actually takes place within England and Wales. Since the launch of the first Wildlife and Countryside Link report “The recording of wildlife crime in England and Wales”, published in November 2017, the Government has taken no action to make wildlife crimes offences notifiable under the Home Office Counting Rules. If this were enacted then, with the push of a computer button, a better picture of what is actually happening would be clear for all to see. Who would have thought in the twenty-first century that this was such a difficult exercise to achieve?

In the absence of this data, the Wildlife and Countryside Link annual Wildlife Crime Report aspires to at least give the reader an overview of the type and extent of wildlife crime that is happening in England and Wales, albeit based on data from Link members which is, by its nature, not comprehensive. For accurate crime figures, we need police and other law enforcement agencies to be well trained and knowledgeable in the crimes themselves. For this to happen there needs to be investment in the training and knowledge aids available to the police and other law enforcement agencies. We support the College of Policing’s efforts to provide suitable on-line training aids such as Authorised Professional Practice (APP) and the on-line knowledge hub. This work was commenced in 2015 and it is disappointing that to date, the information available to enforcers is limited to bats and badgers. Other national priority species should be added without delay.

Following efforts from Link members to extend our wildlife crime reporting, new to this year’s report is a chapter on hunting with dogs. For each chapter we detail the legislation and species involved, possible drivers of the crime, its extent, recent challenges and highlights, plus recommendations going forward to address identified issues.