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|Posted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:52 am Post subject: Three year 'double' ban for elver fisherman caught with ille
|8th March 2010
Three year 'double' ban for elver fisherman caught with illegal net on a Somerset river
Elver fisherman Michael Watts faced a double whammy after a Crown Court jury found him guilty of illegal fishing on the River Parrett
As well as a three year elver fishing ban, the judge extended the sentence to cover all licensed fishing. This means Watts, 56, a keen carp angler, is also banned from coarse and game fishing.
The verdict came at the end of a two-day trial at Taunton Crown Court. Watts had earlier pleaded not guilty to illegal fishing. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.
On April 22, 2009 Agency bailiffs were on a routine patrol on the River Parrett near Huntworth when they discovered an elver net tethered to the bank by a rope and stake. A float had been attached to the other end. A net used in this way is known as a fixed engine and is illegal. Elver dip nets must only be operated by hand.
Initially Agency officers didnít see the defendant who was obscured by rushes. However, as one of them walked passed he saw Watts handling the net and, after walking a short distance upstream, saw him reset it.
At first Watts denied using the net and refused to give his name and address. He was told he would be arrested if he didnít identify himself. Watts became aggressive and threatened the bailiffs. Records showed the defendant was a licensed elver fisherman, but had been using a net in an illegal manner on the day of the offence.
Fixed nets give people an unfair advantage over law-abiding fishermen as they increase catches, damage eel stocks and have a serious impact on the environment. The European Eel is an endangered species and their numbers have plummeted in recent years.
The River Parrett plays a vital part in the life of elvers, or baby eels. They enter this stretch of freshwater after a long journey from the Sargasso Sea near Mexico. At the time of the offence elvers were fetching £220 per kilogram.
ĎIllegal fishing enables people to catch more than their fair share of elvers. It harms the environment by removing food for creatures such as otters and kingfishers and is unfair to law-abiding elver fishermen. This case sends out a clear message to offenders who risk serious penalties including the confiscation of their fishing equipment and lengthy bans,í said Richard Dearnely for the Environment Agency.
In addition to a three year ban, Michael Watts, of Gloucester Road, Bridgwater, received a two year conditional discharge and had his fishing equipment confiscated after being found guilty of illegal elver fishing, an offence under Section 27 of the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. The case was heard by Taunton Crown Court on March 4- 5.