Further arrests in Durham illegal fishing operation

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Two more people have been arrested in Durham city centre as part of a continuing crack-down on illegal fishing.

Environment Agency officers and Durham Police last night (Tuesday 17 September) swooped on Framwellgate, on the River Wear, where they seized eight migratory fish, two fishing rods and a large amount of illegal equipment.

The surveillance activities are being carried out as part of ‘Operation Dastard’. A similar night-time swoop a week ago saw seven arrested for poaching salmon.

The suspects apprehended last night were interviewed by Environment Agency enforcement officers in police custody to gather evidence before being released.
They were using bare treble hooks and weighted lines to deliberately ‘foul hook’ salmon or sea trout as they make their journey up to the headwaters where they will spawn.

‘Foul hooking’ is a technique where the hook impales the fish about its body or head rather than the fish taking the hook in its mouth out of choice. Not only is this an illegal method but fish that are caught in this way can sometimes break free from the hook or snap the line and become susceptible to disease and may die before reaching the spawning grounds.

Salmon and sea trout are a valuable ecological, economic and sustainable fish stock. Their migratory life cycle makes them extremely vulnerable to long-term damage if illegal poaching activities continue. A large female salmon may carry up to 10,000 eggs, so if these fish are illegally removed it can have a major impact on future fish stocks in local rivers.

Kevin Summerson Team Leader Fisheries Enforcement at the Environment Agency said: “We had continued to receive information from members of the public and concerned anglers that illegal activity was still happening in Durham city centre.

“These poachers are not taking ‘one for the pot’, they are taking frequently high numbers of fish that are often sold on for monetary gain.

“The methods that are being used can have a dramatic impact on wildlife, cause serious damage to already threatened fish stocks, our natural heritage, and ruin the sport for legitimate anglers and future generations.

“The Environment Agency is committed to eliminating illegal fishing. We urge anglers and members of the public to report any suspicious fishing equipment or fishing activities that they come across, particularly at night. We take illegal fishing very seriously and will look to prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law. With accurate and recent information to hand we can use our resource to its best advantage and continue to deliver effective targeted enforcement.”

Anyone tempted to carry out such illegal activity should remember that use of prohibited instruments to take or attempt to take fish carries a maximum penalty of £2,500 and three months imprisonment. As well as financial penalties, those found guilty can be banned from holding a fishing licence for a period of up to five years and may have to forfeit any fishing equipment they were using. It is also an offence to buy and sell salmon that has been taken illegally.

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