Club member on the New Years Honours list

New Years Honours: Guardian of North-East rivers awarded British Empire Medal

DEEPLY HONOURED: Kevin Summerson said he ‘wouldn’t change a thing’ in his long career as a water bailiff, his dedication to which earned him a British Empire Medal medal in the New Year Honours

Kevin Summerson, who lives on the outskirts of Durham city and is currently Senior Technical Specialist on the Fisheries Enforcement Team based in Newcastle, has been the guardian of North-East rivers for 40 years.

The 66-year-old first started work for Northumbrian Water Authority in December 1978 with responsibility for seven minor sewage treatment works before starting work as a water bailiff for the authority in June 1983.

Training was on the job and it was what Mr Summerson describes as a ‘steep learning curve’.

He said: “It was early August when I made my first illegal fishing arrest, jumping from cover on the banks of the River Wear in the early hours of the morning.”

He progressed through the ranks to Senior Bailiff in 1992 and eventually Team Leader in 2004.

During those 21 years in the field he investigated over 500 serious incidents of illegal salmon and sea trout poaching, some of it on a commercial scale, and made more than 140 arrests as well as meeting and checking the licences of thousands of anglers.

He has seen the transition from Northumbrian Water Authority, to National Rivers Authority to the Environment Agency as it is today.

Mr Summerson has been a constant part of a Fisheries Enforcement Team which is a beacon of excellence, working with the police on intelligence-led operations, using new technology to stay ahead of the game and driving new enforcement techniques to protect fish and North-East fisheries.

He has been involved in many firsts, including the trial of taped interviews at South Shields Police Station, the first fish poaching conspiracy case in 1994, the first case using a thermal imaging camera in 1996 and the first conviction using body worn cameras just last year.

“I don’t think I was ever the best, I just tried to be the best I could be to protect the environment that me and the rest of the team still have responsibility for – not just for me but for our future generations,” said Mr Summerson.

“During my time I have been the wettest I’ve ever been without swimming, had the privilege of seeing the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises the North-East has to offer and experienced all the high and lows that come with being a water bailiff.

“I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all again as long as I had the same incredible team of people around me.”

He added: “I am deeply honoured and humbled to even be nominated let alone receive such an honour.

“It shows that even your average person can be recognised for doing a job they have loved passionately throughout their career.

“I really hope that it helps people to understand the importance of our rivers and all the fish that are in them.”