SWINDON Council has resorted to removing large numbers of fish from the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal in a bid to stop illegal fishing due to lack of resources for regular patrols.

Residents and dog walkers in the area called for action to be taken to stop anglers fishing in the canal, which runs behind Kingshill’s Esso garage, after Douglas Love’s three-year-old chocolate labrador, Bella, needed surgery to remove a fishhook that had become lodged in her oesophagus.

The council owns the canal and is responsible for maintaining it but has said that it cannot maintain patrols regularly enough for them to be an effective deterrent and so have taken the decision to remove fish from the stretch of water.

A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The removal of the fish from the canal is the best way of tackling the illegal fishing problem as we do not have the resources to patrol the canal around the clock.

“We have had to wait for suitable conditions to remove the fish, which is why the work is being carried out now by specialist contractors.

“The fish that are being removed we will be used to restock other lakes.”

But the move has not gone down well with everyone.

Dog walker Paul Scarr said he was furious the wildlife in the area was being moved.

“I’m disgusted,” the 64-year-old said. “I was walking my dog along there and saw them with nets taking the fish out.

“They had a flatbed truck and they were putting them all in big tanks.

“I asked them what they were doing and they said it’s because the council don’t have the resources to police it.

“They’ve destroyed the eco-system down there and now the water is horrible. I just don’t think it’s right.”

The Environment Agency has been consulted by the council and their officers have the powers to take enforcement action.

An agency spokesman said: “The Environment Agency is absolutely 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.

“Legitimate anglers provide us with invaluable help in keeping a watchful eye on our rivers.

“We urge all those who value the future of angling to report any suspicious fishing activities to us so that our teams can swiftly take action.

“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 Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 with any information.”