Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1



Poaching pair fined for taking Cumbrian salmon

  Published 25 July 2003

  Two men from west Cumbria were yesterday (Thursday) fined £500 each after being caught poaching salmon from River Ehen at Ennerdale Bridge.

  John Anthony Taylor, aged 43, of Queens Crescent, Frizington, and Derek Andrew Bulman, aged 22, of Arlecdon Road, Frizington, both pleaded guilty to two offences when they appeared at Whitehaven Magistrates' Court.

  As well as being fined, the men were ordered to pay £125 costs each to the Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution.

  Neil Pilling, prosecuting for the Agency, told magistrates that Taylor and Bulman were spotted by an Environment Agency bailiff near Ennerdale Bridge on 14 December 2002.

  Taylor was seen bending over tree roots searching for fish in the River Ehen, while Bulman was acting as his guide and "look out". The two men worked a stretch of the river near Ennerdale village.

  The Agency bailiff telephoned for assistance, and a colleague soon arrived. Taylor and Bulman approached a black Ford Sierra parked near the church in Ennerdale village, and as they did so the bailiffs stopped them.

  The court was told that the bailiffs found a live salmon, weighing about 5lb, in a plastic bag in Taylor's jacket. The fish had two hookmarks in its stomach. Taylor's jacket also concealed an extendable "gaff hook"—an illegal pole with a hook attached used for landing large fish.

  Both the gaff hook and the salmon were confiscated by the Environment Agency bailiffs.

  Speaking after the hearing, the Environment Agency's Fisheries Team Leader, Jeremy Westgarth, said: "Poaching is a serious crime and this case shows the Environment Agency is determined to stamp it out. The fish these men had was spawning and contained about 4,000 eggs, which have now been lost from the Ehen river system.

  "We have a dedicated and professional team of officers who carry out anti-poaching patrols and surveillance on rivers. We are increasing these patrols and we will take action against anyone we catch poaching."

Custodial sentences for men illegally netting in Cardigan

  Published: 5 December 2003

  Lee Thomas Davies of Belmont, Pendre, Cardigan and Jason Lee Tamlin of Ridgeway, Cardigan both received custodial sentences at Cardigan Magistrate's Court on 2 December 2003 on charges brought by Environment Agency Wales under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. The offences took place between the two town bridges on the River Teifi in Cardigan in May 2003.

  Davies had pleaded guilty to illegally netting salmon on 11 and 23 May, while Tamlin had pleaded guilty to the same offence carried out on 23 May. Davies was sentenced to seven days imprisonment on each charge, sentences to run concurrently. Tamlin was sentenced to seven days imprisonment for the offence, which took place on 23 May.

  In announcing its decision the Chairman of the Bench told the defendants that they considered these matters to be very serious and not as trivial as their solicitor had tried to persuade the Court. He emphasized the need for fish stocks to be preserved.

  Following the case an Agency spokesperson commented: "Salmon stocks are declining and it is vitally important that fish returning to the rivers are protected so that they can spawn. By using the net in this location they could have seriously reduced the numbers of fish able to return to the headwaters of the river and successfully replenish stocks."

  Fishing is a very popular sport, particularly on the River Teifi, and it makes a significant contribution to the Welsh tourist economy. People who take fish illegally and have no regard to the consequences of their actions could seriously affect the future viability of fisheries."

Illegal netting on River Neath costs Swansea men £1,100

  Published: 15 December 2003

  Two Swansea men have pleaded guilty to an illegal netting offence on the River Neath. The offence took place near Giants Grave, Skewen on 22 August this year. At Port Talbot Magistrates' Court on 10 December 2003, Derek Royston John of Lon Hafren, Caemawr, Morriston and Derek Alexander Williams of Llangyfelach Road, Brynhyfryd were both fined £350 and each ordered to pay costs of £200 to Environment Agency Wales who brought the prosecution.

  John and Williams both pleaded guilty to using an unauthorised fixed engine (net) in any inland or tidal waters contrary to Section 6(1) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 (as substituted by Section 33(1) of the Salmon Act 1986) and to breaching Byelaw 5(A) of the Agency's Sea Fishery Byelaws by using a prohibited instrument to take sea fish, an offence contrary to Section 211 of the Water Resources Act 1991.

  The Court was told that following a report from a member of the public, Agency bailiffs mounted a covert surveillance operation on the site of a submerged net located near the premises of Simms Metal at Giants Grave. As the net became uncovered a number of fish were seen struggling in it. The two defendants subsequently arrived at the net site and were seen to remove a number of fish from the net. Both also removed sticks and weed from the net before resetting it. The two men were subsequently intercepted by the Agency bailiffs and advised that their actions had been witnesses and recorded on video camera.

  Five mullet were recovered as well as a 70 metre net which had been fixed to two steel posts. The fish were forfeited and in addition the Agency retained possession of the net under its powers under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

  It was emphasized to the court that the primary purpose of the legislation was to protect stocks of salmon and migratory trout and that although only sea fish had been taken on this occasion, the potential existed for any migratory fish present in the river to also be captured as this form of fishing does not discriminate between species.

  After the case an Agency spokesperson commented: "Using nets within rivers and tidal estuaries is not only illegal but there is a huge potential to deplete fish stocks as nets are totally indiscriminate. The River Neath like many other rivers is unable to meet spawning targets for salmon and sea trout, to sustain healthy stocks. Poaching can have serious consequences for fish stocks. The Agency is pleased that the magistrate chose to reflect these concerns by issuing significant fines."

  Anyone who sees pollution, illegal tipping of waste, poaching, fish in distress or danger to the natural environment can contact the Agency's emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, calls are free and will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Winchester salmon poacher receives community punishment and tagging order

  Published: 30 January 2004

  Yesterday at Basingstoke Magistrates Court Aaron Petch of Fivefields Road, Winchester pleaded guilty to illegally taking salmon and failing to state his name and address to a Water Bailiff on 5 January 2003 in a case brought by the Environment Agency.

  At 5 am on 5 January last year Mr Petch was observed by Environment Agency Fisheries Officers shining a powerful torch into a private side stream of the River Itchen in Winchester. He then proceeded to use a hand held snatch (a weighted treble hook used to foul hook fish) to snag a pair of spawning salmon. Mr Petch was then approached by the Environment Agency Fisheries Officers who arrested him and, with the assistance of two police officers, took him to Winchester police station where he was interviewed.

  Taking into account his previous convictions, Magistrates sentenced Petch to an 80-hour Community Punishment Order for using the snatch and light. He also received a four month Tagging Order with a 10 pm to 6 am curfew, was banned from holding a fishing licence for one year, forfeited the snatch, torch and fish seized by the Fisheries Officers and was ordered to pay costs of £150 to the Environment Agency.

  Adrian Saunders, Environment Agency Area Fisheries Technical Support Team Leader said, "The salmon population of the River Itchen is under a great deal of pressure at the moment. The Environment Agency and its partners are putting a huge amount of effort into saving these magnificent fish and licensed anglers are returning 100% of the salmon they catch alive.

  "It is therefore extremely disappointing when poachers illegally take spawning fish at the moment when they are making their contribution to completing the life cycle. Environment Agency Fisheries Officers are on duty day and night and working with other enforcement agencies we will ensure that poachers are caught and put before the Courts where they are liable to receive stiff punishments, even prison terms for serious offences, if convicted."

Otters Endangered by Illegal Eel Nets

  Published 4 March 2004

  A Dorset fisherman was today ordered to pay £3,000 in fines and costs for setting dozens of illegal eel nets in Poole Harbour. The eel fisherman also had £1,480 worth of nets destroyed by the Environment Agency.

  Eel fishing is strictly controlled by the Agency to protect stocks and each net, known as a fyke net, must be licensed. Fishermen must also fit their nets with otter guards to prevent otters from drowning.

  On 23 July 2003 fisheries officers were patrolling Poole Harbour when they found 182 fyke nets set in three separate areas within the harbour. A third of the nets weren't displaying Agency licence tags. There were no otter guards fitted to 37 of the 62 nets seized. Otters are attracted to eels caught in fyke nets and can drown if they get trapped inside a net.

  Agency officers traced the owner of the nets to Steven John Charles Matthews, of Poole Road, Upton, Poole. He admitted the nets were his. The fishing boat used to set the nets was called, appropriately, "Silver Eel". The licensing of nets is important because it provides valuable information on eel stocks.

  "Otters are a protected species. We are fortunate in Dorset to have seen an increase in otter numbers on local rivers in recent years. Sadly, there have been fatalities. Two years ago an adult otter and two cubs were found dead in an illegal fyke net in the River Stour and another otter drowned in a net in Poole Harbour. It is therefore very important that eel fishermen ensure their nets are fitted with otter guards," said Julian Wardlaw for the Environment Agency.

  Matthews was today found guilty in his absence by Bournemouth Magistrates who fined the fisherman £1,500 and ordered him to pay £1,500 costs for placing and using unauthorised fyke nets in tidal waters on or about 23 July 2003 contrary to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 and the Salmon Act 1986.

Agencies join to halt elver crime

  Published: 10 March 2004

  On Wednesday 10 March 2004 the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire Police, Gloucester City Council and British Waterways announce a new joint campaign to pool resources and information to combat the anti-social behaviour and lawlessness that gives the traditional activity of elver fishing a bad name.

  The agencies involved stress that responsible elver fishermen who operate within the law have nothing to fear. The campaign is not intended to restrict the number of elvers caught, or stop elver fishing, and the intention is to preserve this historic activity along the banks of the River Severn.

  Recently, examples of irresponsible behaviour have been on the increase. With elvers fetching up to £300 per kilo on the open market in recent years, this lucrative activity is attracting people who display little regard for their fellow citizens, or the reputations of their responsible colleagues.

  Each year, the Environment Agency's enforcement teams patrol the River Severn to catch fishermen operating without a licence or involved in illegal activities, such as the use of equipment that gives them an unfair advantage and harms elvers. The licence fee (currently £20 a year) is ploughed back by the Agency into research and development to secure the future for the next generation of elvers and elver fishermen. By fishing without a licence, illegal fishermen are depriving their colleagues of future catches and may put the very existence of elver fishing in danger.

  Environment Agency Fisheries Team Leader, Al Watson, says: "This a heritage activity and well worth preserving. We hope that responsible fishermen who operate legally will support us in trying to ensure they are not cheated out of their legitimate income by their less savoury colleagues. We want to ensure it is a level playing field for everyone. This year, for the first time, we will be sharing resources and information with our colleagues in other agencies to ensure that illegal fishermen do not have an unfair advantage and to stop the irresponsible behaviour that is putting lives at risk.

  Gloucestershire Police welcomes the new initiative, which will help to make the most effective use of their resources to tackle a source of criminal damage. Inspector Emma Davies, of Gloucestershire Police, said: "The Constabulary welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with all of the other agencies and we will be working closely with them to enforce the legislation surrounding elver fishing. We are also committed to combating all aspects of criminal activity and anti-social behaviour relating to this activity."

  British Waterways are concerned about the use of unlicensed boats on the river. At the end of the elver season in May, illegal boats are often left unattended in out of the way places where children can use them during the summer months, thereby putting their lives at risk.

  Gloucester City Council is concerned about damage to stiles and fences, often using chainsaws, close to a known elver fishing spot. The wood is believed to be used by the fishermen for fires to keep warm during long cold nights fishing. In one incident, a herd of rare breed cows was turned out on to the road. The cost of replacing these fences each year falls on the council tax payers of Gloucester. Derek Brown, City Council Countryside Manager, said: "There has to be mutual respect. We respect the long-standing tradition of elver fishing but there needs to be respect by the fishermen towards the city council's land and our use of it as a nature reserve. Actions which put our visitors and animals at potential risk is unacceptable."

  Illegal fishermen are much more likely to get caught under this new initiative and it could prove very expensive indeed. Anyone caught by the Agency fishing illegally will end up with a criminal record and can look forward to a fine of up to £2,500. British Waterways say the maximum fine for an unlicensed boat is £1,000 and Gloucestershire Police and the City Council will act against anyone found causing criminal damage.

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