Crackdown on gangs who steal thousands of mushrooms

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Martyn Fisher

BY MARTYN FISHER

Crackdown on gangs who steal thousands of mushrooms

Anyone taken to court and found guilty of stealing wild mushrooms from the New Forest could be fined up to £200 under the Theft Act

Crackdown on gangs who steal thousands of mushrooms

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Forestry Commission bosses are launching a blitz on commercial gangs who raid the New Forest each year and steal thousands of wild mushrooms.

The organisation is vowing to crack down on those flouting local by-laws by cashing in on the demand from posh hotels and restaurants for wild mushrooms.

The Bournemouth Echo reported that people suspected of taking part in the illegal activity will be stopped and told to surrender their haul or face prosecution.

Anyone taken to court and found guilty of stealing wild mushrooms from the New Forest could be fined up to £200 under the Theft Act.

It follows complaints that groups are descending on the area each autumn and damaging the environment by taking mushrooms “on an industrial scale”.

The new measures were revealed at the Court of Verderers in Lyndhurst by the Commission’s most senior official in the area, deputy surveyor Bruce Rothnie.

He told the Echo: “We are seeing a very real concern in the community about those who selfishly exploit fungi in the wild for commercial gain.

“It’s the wholesale clearance of fungi that people find disrespectful of this special place. And, critically, it deprives many others of the enjoyment of the autumn spectacle of fungi.”

Rothnie said details of suspect cars and vans would be flashed to keepers across the Forest in a bid to intercept the culprits.

He added: “We believe a combination of recording details of vehicles, confiscating hoards and threats of prosecution will send a very rapid message to those who seek to reap the benefit.”

People are only legally allowed to pick 1.5kg per person of mushrooms per day.

The New Forest Association (NFA) welcomed the measures outlined by Rothnie, but repeated its demand for all mushroom picking to be banned.

Spokesperson Brian Tarnoff called for a system similar to the one operating in Epping Forest, which is owned by the City of London Corporation.

He said: “Keepers there are empowered to seize harvests from fungi foragers and in 2013 brought 20 successful prosecutions.

“A similar regime here would make it easier to deter commercial foragers who would no longer have recourse to pretend they are picking for personal use.”

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