Seven people were arrested on Tuesday (10 September) for illegal fishing activities on the River Wear in Durham city centre, as part of an operation led by the Environment Agency.
After receiving intelligence that illegal fishing and the poaching of salmon was taking place in this area, the Environment Agency’s fisheries enforcement team arranged the overnight crackdown.
With assistance from Durham Police, officers targeted the Framwellgate waterside area of the city, where the Environment Agency has been tackling the problem of illegal fishing. Suspects are regularly using prohibited instruments to impale and kill salmon and take them from the river, often to sell on. One tool used on this occasion was a ‘snatch’, which is a weighted treble-hook used to deliberately ‘foul hook’ or impale fish.
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.
As a result of the crackdown, seven people were arrested at the scene, three cars were searched and seven salmon seized. A number of fishing rods and a large amount of illegal equipment were also seized by enforcement officers and Durham Police.
All the suspects were interviewed by Environment Agency enforcement officers in Police custody where evidence was gathered before being released.
David Shears, special enforcement officer at the Environment Agency said: “We have received increasing amounts of evidence that unscrupulous individuals are using illegal and dangerous equipment to catch salmon in Durham city centre. These methods have the potential to harm wildlife, seriously damage fish stocks and 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. Last night’s results show how effective targeted enforcement can be.”
Further up the River Wear, at Croxdale, one man was reported for unlicensed fishing and byelaw offences carried out during the hours of darkness.
Anyone tempted to carry out such illegal activity needs to be aware that use of prohibited instruments to take or attempt to take fish carries a maximum penalty of £2,500 and/or 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.
If anyone thinks they have seen any illegal fishing, they should phone the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111. National and regional byelaws can be found on the Environment Agency’s website www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish