Elver netsman banned for illegal fishing
A Bridgwater man has been banned from elver fishing for four years after he was caught fishing in a 'no go' area on the River Parrett. Christopher Bond was also ordered to pay £900 in fines and costs.
Environment Agency bailiffs were on a routine night patrol on March 7, 2013 when they saw the defendant and a second man behaving suspiciously near the Huntspill Sluice. Mr Bond’s companion picked up an elver dip net, climbed over a safety rail and placed it in the water next to the sluice gate.
The sluice is a large flood defence structure that controls the discharge of water from the Huntspill drain into the River Parrett. Baby eels (elvers) arriving on an incoming tide are attracted by freshwater leaking out of the sluice and congregate around the structure in large numbers.
Anyone fishing beside the sluice will catch many more elvers and have an unfair advantage. For this reason, it is illegal to fish within 10 metres of the structure. Netsmen are made aware of this restriction when they apply for an authorisation to fish for elvers.
Both Christopher Bond and his fishing companion were inside this 10 metre ‘no-go’ area when bailiffs saw them at Huntspill Sluice on March 7. Bond helped the second man manoeuvre the net out of the water, over a safety rail and empty the contents into a bucket a total of three times.
By assisting his companion, Bond was guilty of illegal fishing even though he wasn’t actually using the net himself.
The second fisherman told the bailiffs he had been fishing further down the bank and had only come to the sluice to wash his net which he claimed was ‘filthy.’ The two men had caught elvers worth approximately £40. The catch was returned to the river and their fishing equipment seized.
‘These fishermen knew they shouldn’t have fished so close to the Huntspill Sluice. In doing so they gained an unfair advantage over law-abiding elver netsmen. It was a deliberate attempt to illegally boost their catch and was motivated by greed,’ said Richard Dearnley for the Environment Agency.
Appearing before Taunton magistrates, Christopher Bond of Eldergrove Close, Bridgwater was fined £82. and ordered to pay £800 costs after being found guilty of illegally fishing for elvers at Huntspill Sluice on March 7, 2013, an offences under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.
At an earlier hearing, Bond’s fishing companion, Paul Evans, of Furlongs Avenue, Bridgwater, also received a four year ban after entering a guilty plea. Magistrates fined Evans £350 with £400 costs. The two men were ordered to pay victim surcharges of £20 and £30 respectively.