Fish Legal, the legal arm of the newly-formed Angling Trust, has taken decisive action against a team of poachers operating in Eastern England. The poachers were found guilty but were fined just £60 and had their equipment confiscated. Fish Legal’s lawyers have threatened the poachers with an injunction to prevent them returning.
Angling Trust chief executive said: “one of the priorities of the Angling Trust is to fight for better protection of fish stocks from poachers and other illegal activity. This action should send a clear message to all poachers that we mean business and will use all legal means to prevent them damaging our members’ interests.”
Letters were sent by recorded delivery to the poachers ahead of court action asking them to make an enforceable promise that they will never again fish on waters of the King’s Lynn Angling Association (KLAA). If they do not agree to the undertaking, then Fish Legal will apply for injunctions against them.
On the 25th May 2008 police arrested three men on the banks of the River Wissey near Hilgay, and took them to Downham Market Police station where two of the men were later charged. The individuals had been found with an assortment of fishing paraphernalia including a 60m x 2m net, a crayfish trap, several rods and two boats – one with an outboard engine. The men had set up camp on the bank and were barbequing some of their haul. In a particularly cruel attempt to keep their illegal catch fresh, fish – including tench and perch - had been threaded onto a wire which was then submerged.
All of the men arrested initially denied the charges brought against them. During police questioning, one of the offenders imaginatively claimed that the large net containing fish found in his possession was not his but had become entangled in his boat propeller.
Two of the group were subsequently convicted at Central South and West Norfolk Magistrates Court for a variety of offences under both the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 and the Theft Act 1968, including fishing in the closed season, fishing without a rod licence and illegal use of a net.
Ashley Brown, Secretary of the KLAA, explained: “The club has spent over £2000, with help from the Environment Agency, putting signage on all access points on club waters highlighting that no fish can be removed. When the defendants were arrested KLAA hoped the courts would make an example of them. KLAA felt very let down with the outcome and so decided to contact Fish Legal for advice on whether we could take further action as we needed a deterrent to stop people stealing our fish as these are the future of the club”.
This one of many benefits of membership of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal for clubs, commercial fisheries and riparian owners. This work can only be carried out with the support of thousands of individual anglers.
For more information on membership of Angling Trust, visit www.anglingtrust.net or phone 0844 7700616.