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Environment Agency patrol seizes record number of illegal gill nets

Mike Dunning

Environment Agency

9th July 2003

On Saturday 5th July an Environment Agency fisheries enforcement patrol in the St Austell Bay area in Cornwall seized the largest number of illegal gill nets yet recorded.

The Agency boat was searching a restricted netting area known for holding salmon and sea trout returning to the River Fowey.

On board was new team member Claudine Fontier - on her very first fisheries enforcement patrol. Claudine was on net spotting duty as the boat searched the water close to the shore near Black Head. She was stunned by what she saw: “I just couldn’t believe the number of nets that came into view as I scanned the spotlight across the surface of the bay”

Seven fixed surface gill nets were detected in succession within several hundred metres of the shore in a zone between Black Head and Carlyon Bay.

The seized nets measured between 100-150m long and had been carefully rigged with the minimum number of surface floats to avoid detection. Each net was fishing from the seabed to the surface in order to intercept any fish passing through the area.

Commenting on the importance of the seizure, Agency Team Leader Mark Pilcher said “This is a fantastic result in the battle to protect the South West’s threatened salmon and sea trout. It sends a clear message that any nets set in restricted areas around the Cornish coast will be seized and those responsible prosecuted. We also attended a meeting recently with local fishermen to make sure they understand the law and know exactly where they can fish legitimately”.

1. The seized nets have been bagged and labelled and placed in a secure storage facility. If the nets are not claimed within one month they will be destroyed.

2. It is an offence to set fixed surface gill nets which may interfere with migrating salmon and sea trout in any of the restricted netting areas around the Cornish coast irrespective of the species of fish sought by the netsmen. The maximum penalty for this offence is 2500 and the offenders can have their boats, nets and any vehicles seized if found guilty.

Doc reference: 128/03