On Tuesday 25 March 2014, Graham Stokes of Gloucester pleaded guilty at Gloucester Magistrates’ Court to one charge of unauthorised elver net fishing.
The 49-year-old was fined £250, ordered to pay £350 in costs, along with a £25 victim surcharge. The court issued a destruction order of Mr Stokes’ elver net and banned him from applying for any authorisation for two years.
The charge was brought by the Environment Agency under Section 27B (1) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 75.
On 6 May 2012 Environment Agency Environmental Crime Officers saw two men standing by the bank of the River Severn at Sandhurst and asked to see their elver dip net authorisations. At that time, Mr Stokes stated that he had not been fishing for elvers but merely watching, however, the officers found a dip net a few metres further upstream and then Mr Stokes admitted that he had been using it and that he did not have an authorisation. The net was seized and Mr Stokes told staff he had found it earlier that evening.
Eel stocks in Europe are at a historic low and the system of authorisations under the legislation is designed to ensure that the population of eels and their young is maintained at sustainable levels. Unauthorised fishing undermines this system. An authorisation, which is obtainable from the Environment Agency, costs £85 per year.
In court, Mr Stokes told the court that he had been teaching a friend to fish for elvers at the time. He accepted that he himself had also been using a net to try and catch the elvers.
Sentencing for the offence, the court told Mr Stokes that it regarded this type of offence seriously and that the penalty would have been greater but for his personal circumstances. They had no hesitation in ordering destruction of the net and they banned Mr Stokes from applying for an authorisation to fish for two years.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said: “Glass eels (elvers) are fished by eel nets men on the River Severn and an authorisation is required in order for us to monitor and control a generally declining eel population. By avoiding the cost of an authorisation, Mr Stokes has ended up forfeiting an expensive elver net”.
Illegal fishing can be reported to the Environment Agency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. You can also report illegal fishing and any other information on environmental crime, anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
On 6 May 2012 on the River Severn at Sandhurst where fishing or taking fish may be authorised under Section 27A Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, Graham Stokes did fish for elvers by means other than a licensable means of fishing, namely an unauthorised elver net, contrary to Section 27B (1) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975