Environment Agency Fisheries Officers seized over £2,000 worth of illegally set fishing nets from a Hampshire nature reserve at the weekend.

Acting on information received from the public, the Dutch fyke nets were seen by Environment Agency Fisheries Officers stretched across the River Meon in the Tichfield Haven nature reserve. The river here is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is a protected conservation area.

The Fisheries team carried out surveillance on the site with the aim of apprehending the poachers. However it was decided that leaving the nets in place any longer posed an unacceptable environmental threat and subsequently action was taken to remove them. In all, twenty sets of nets were recovered containing 15kgs of eels.

Rob Waring, Environment Agency Fisheries and Biodiversity Team Leader for Hampshire, said: "These traps were posing a real threat to migratory sea trout stocks as well as eels. The Environment Agency regulates all methods of fishing on inland waters and these traps were unlicensed and set without any permissions or consideration for the possible damage to fragile fish stocks and bird communities, for which the reserve has a statutory duty to protect.

"In addition, the traps were not fitted with the necessary guards to prevent otters from drowning. The equipment seized has a market value of approximately £2,000 and the Environment Agency will have no hesitation in prosecuting any persons identified as being responsible for illegal fishing."

If members of the public have any information about this incident, they are requested to phone the Environment Agency's 24-hour incident hotline in confidence on 0800 807060.