Saturday, 29 May 2010

Gill netting spectre still hangs over the Fens

SEIZED: An EA official with an illegal gill net

The spectre of illegal fish removal hung over the Fens tonight, after PAC members found dead bream tangled in a gill net floating in the River Welland.

The grim discovery is a stark reminder of the devastation those who remove coarse fish for food can cause to our nation's fisheries - not to mention the less than eager attitude on the part of the authorities when it comes to prosecuting those responsible.

So-called fish theft is against the provisions of sections of the Marine Bill, which outlaw almost all fish removal from our waters, apart from limited numbers of fish for use as bait.

Monofilament gill nets are freely available on the internet. They are used commercially for catching surface-swimming species of sea fish.

Gill nets are not a legal fishing method in freshwater, yet their use appears to be on the increase - probably because they are a more efficient method of fishing than set lines or fyke nets.

So far, just one case involving the use of gill nets to catch coarse fish has come before the courts.

Migrant workers were ordered to forfeit boats and equipment worth thousands of pounds after they were caught red-handed netting fish from Norfolk's River Wissey two years ago.

Clikc here to read our report.

The Environment Agency's national head of enforcement said the case sent out a clear message that stealing fish from Britain's rivers would not be tolerated and pledged it would take "strong action" to bring offenders to justice.

Since that case came to court, there have been numerous occasions when gill nets have been found by pike anglers and fishing club bauiliffs.

But the "strong action" promised has not materialised. You sometimes wonder when it ever will.

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