LARGE-SCALE illegal fishing has prompted Scottish Canals to appoint its first canal-side ranger to crack down on the crime.
Poachers are using nets and traps to haul in significant quantities of perch, roach, tench, pike and common eel, which are believed to be sold on the black market.
The problem is worst on the Union and Forth & Clyde canals which span the Central Belt, especially in built-up areas such as in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Scottish Canals said it had a strict “catch and release” policy to preserve fish stocks.
It said illegal fishing had damaged the canals’ “delicate ecosystem” and threatened the future of legitimate angling.
Ranger Linton McBurnie will be assisted by a network of volunteers across the canals, who will be recruited if his role is successful.
Mr McBurnie, who has worked on the canals for more than 30 years, will also promote legal fishing on the waterways - which costs £5 a year.
A spokesman for Scottish Canals said: “Over the past year, both the Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling and Scottish Canals have received a growing number of reports of illegal fishing, particularly on the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals.
“The majority of cases that are reported to us involve the use of nets, traps and fixed lines.
“One of the main goals in the appointment of the canal-side ranger is to tackle the issue of illegal fishing and work with Police Scotland to ensure the waterways can continue to be enjoyed by all users.”
Federation chairman Gus Brindle said: “Linton’s enthusiasm and experience makes him exactly the right person to get the project up and running.
“His appointment will help to address some of the issues which are of most importance to our members who regularly fish the canals.
“Educating young anglers about social and environmental responsibility is equally as important if we are to develop the fantastic resource of the canals into a top-quality fishery and attract more anglers onto the towpath.”