Poachers hunted over loch incidents

POLICE are targetting poachers on Linlithgow Loch after numerous reports of animals being caught in illegal hooks.

Wildlife crime officer Mike Urquhart wants residents to keep a look out for suspicious activity adding: “Poaching has been reported to myself by the Historic Scotland Ranger and the RSPB, as they have been picking up treble hooks in birds’ beaks and mouths.

‘‘It is meant to be fly fishing only on the loch, with a permit, so these hooks would only be used by poachers.

‘‘People have been seen at the north end of the loch, making their way along as it’s getting dark to fish overnight. We are doing extra patrols, as this seems to have got worse in the last couple of weeks.”

Janet McAlpine at the Forth Area Federation of Anglers (FAFA) said the problem has been going on for years, adding: “A lot of the reports are anecdotal and usually incidents take place outwith our operating hours.

‘‘On some occasions it has been during the day and police have been called and asked the offenders to move. To the best of our knowledge, no action has been taken against any of the illegal anglers.”

Historic Scotland Ranger Ian Lewis said that over the winter, a number of swans had been caught up in fishing line and hooks, adding: “In some of the incidents it is clear that the fishing line collected has not come from the FAFA fly fishing club members authorised to fish the loch.

‘‘We patrol the area around the loch during the day and advise anglers that only fly fishing is permitted. We are particularly grateful to members of the public who make us aware of injured birds to allow us to get them treatment from our colleagues at the SSPCA as soon as possible.”