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The Nets are Closing In

Aug 22,2007 SACN

Environment Agency nets poachers in Poole Harbour

Three poachers were filmed by Dorset’s police helicopter as they removed fish from an illegal net in Poole Harbour.

The trio were spotted by Environment Agency officers during a routine fisheries patrol on July 4, 2006.

The police helicopter was in the area and offered to assist in the operation.

The poachers had fixed an illegal net across the entrance to the River Piddle using a flat-bottomed boat known as a ‘Poole canoe.’

The net was set in such a way so as to intercept any fish trying to enter the river including salmon and sea trout.

As the fisheries officers approached they saw all three offenders in the water alongside the boat.

One was removing fish from the net that contained five grey mullet and one bass.

The fish were returned alive to the water by Agency officers.

Five dead mullet were lying in the boat.

The net was attached at each end to two coloured marker buoys and anchored to the river bottom with weights.

It had been placed inside a fishery owned by the Environment Agency where the use of such a ‘fixed net’ is prohibited.

Officers seized the dead fish and net.

When asked what they were doing the offenders claimed they were catching fish for their dog.

One of the defendants, Michael Corcoran, said he hadn’t realised they had done anything wrong.

A second said he knew they couldn’t keep any salmon or sea trout and that any bass caught would have to be returned to the water as they were fishing within a bass nursery area.

The Dorset police helicopter assisted in the final stages of the operation by hovering overhead and filming the scene.

‘This net was fixed across the mouth of the River Piddle at one of the most important times of the year for migrating salmon and sea trout.

It was effectively blocking the movement of fish upstream and would have caught most fish as they entered the river with the tide.

Had it not been discovered it could have resulted in a significant loss of breeding stock,’ said Stuart Kingston-Turner for the Environment Agency.

Michael Corcoran, 33, of Gussage Road, Parkstone was today fined £200 and ordered to pay £150 costs by East Dorset Magistrates after pleading guilty to using a fixed net in tidal waters contrary to Section 6(1) and Schedule 4 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

A reporting restriction, imposed by magistrates at an earlier hearing, prevented the naming of the two other defendants who were each fined £100 and ordered to pay £150 costs. The court ordered forfeiture of the net and fish caught.

Environment Agency closes net on rogue fisherman

A handful of unscrupulous fishermen plundering bass stocks on two Cornish estuaries could soon find their luck has run out! 

During rough weather a small number of licenced and unlicensed fishermen have been setting illegal nets in the sheltered waters of the Fal and Helford.

Both estuaries contain bass nursery areas where it is an offence to fish for bass from a boat at certain times of the year.

The restrictions were introduced to protect young fish. 

In a new move, the Environment Agency has teamed up with the harbour authorities at St Mawes, Falmouth and Truro, Cornwall Sea Fisheries and the Marine Fisheries Agency in a bid to bring the offenders to book.

‘By sharing intelligence with other agencies we are increasing our effectiveness and maximising our chances of detecting illegal fishing in these important bass nursery areas.

There are only a small number of rule breakers who deliberately flout the law,’ said Mark Pilcher for the Environment Agency. 

‘As our intelligence grows we are in a better position to prosecute persistent offenders and seize and destroy their gear.’ 

‘We are keen for the local fishing community to work with us.

They understand we are only targeting a minority of fishermen who don’t play by the rules and through their illicit activities are putting local bass stocks at risk,’ said Mark Pilcher. 

Spells of unsettled and stormy weather has seen an increase in reports of illegal netting this year.

Instead of putting to sea, offenders have turned their attention to sheltered estuaries in search of rich (but illegal) pickings. 

The bass nursery area laws in the Fal and Helford are in force from April 30 to January 1.

The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing sea fishery byelaws on Cornish estuaries and has a regulatory role on marine species such as bass, cockles and prawns.

Cornwall is one of the few areas in the country where the Agency has a duty to police regulations relating to seafish and shellfish as well as salmon and sea trout. 

Members of the public can help by reporting possible illegal netting to the Environment Agency hotline 0800 80 70 60 (Put it in your mobile now).

See: This is Cornwall

See: Fish and Fly

See: Fish and Fly


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