A Teesside man has been handed one-month, night-time curfew order after he was caught using illegal fishing methods on the River Tees.
Thomas Cunningham, 50, of Lanehouse Road, Thornaby on Tees, Cleveland, was sentenced at Teesside Magistrates’ Court today (22 October) after being found guilty of four angling offences.
His curfew order stipulates that he must remain at home between the hours of 7pm and 6am daily. He has also been banned from holding a fishing licence for a year, and ordered to pay £2,000 in legal costs.
Cunningham’s illegal fishing activities were discovered by Environment Agency enforcement officers during routine patrols of the river.
He was seen on Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 October last year trying to catch migratory fish using the illegal method known as ‘stroke hauling’ or ‘snatching’.
This involves using a hook, which is cast into the water, allowed to sink quickly and is then pulled back with force.
Stroke hauling is banned because the fish are impaled on the hook and can be left severely injured and in some cases unable to breed.
On both days, Cunningham had been with an accomplice, who was sentenced by the court on 28 May for his part in the crime. Robert Walker, 38, of Haddon Street, Middlesbrough, Cleveland, was handed a 28-day custodial sentence after admitting four offences.
Cunningham, who did not possess a valid fishing licence, denied fishing illegally. He claimed that he was using legal methods, but his activities were recorded on CCTV and he was found guilty after a trial.
Kevin Summerson, Fisheries Enforcement Officer at the Environment Agency, said: “We are really pleased with the outcome of this case. Stroke hauling is prohibited because it can be extremely detrimental to the important migrating fish stocks found in the Tees.
“Major rivers in the North East are recovering from years of pollution, particularly in their lower tidal reaches, so it is vitally important for the ecology and economy of the region that the fish stocks are protected.
“Illegal fishing will not be tolerated – our enforcement officers carry out regular patrols and those caught flouting the rules will be prosecuted. Anyone who believes illegal fishing to be taking place should contact the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 807060.”