A licensed net fisherman was given a substantial fine and made to pay legal costs after admitting breaking fisheries byelaws in breach of his licence conditions.
Appearing at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, on July 10, William Rarity, aged 66, of James Williams Street, Sunderland admitted casting a drift net from his boat inside the Wear Conservation Zone on 16 August last year and failing to correctly complete the return catch log book issued to him.
The Wear Conservation Zone is classed as a prohibited conservation area all year round, and between the months of June and August there’s a higher concentration of salmon and sea trout migrating upstream to spawn.
Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, Chris Bunting told the Court that in September at the end of the licence season, Fisheries Officers checked the catch return logbook sent in by Rarity, and found some apparent alterations from around 16 August which aroused suspicions. When later questioned, Rarity claimed he had simply made some mistakes. He also handed over numerous invoices from the local fish merchants purportedly showing that the amended logbook entries corresponded with what he had sold.
However, when the fish merchants’ actual invoices were obtained and checked for the whole season, it was found that Rarity’s logbook had overstated his catches to the Environment Agency by over £17,000 worth of fish. Even though he never actually received that money.
Rarity underwent further interviews under caution in January 2019, when the full extent of the discrepancies could be put to him by officers. He made no comment. In court, Rarity accepted that the logbook, relied upon by the Environment Agency to monitor stocks, contained significant inaccuracies for the entire 2018 season.
Representing Rarity, Jason Smith explained that the drift net licence has now been abolished meaning that the defendant had lost his livelihood, and that he now relies upon benefits. The Court however agreed with the Environment Agency that the Defendant’s actions had seriously undermined the regulatory regime. Rarity had previously denied the charges, but changed his plea on the day of trial.
Joe Watson, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency, said:
This sizable fine and action by the Court sends out a very important message to commercial fishing operations and those people who choose to act illegally in contrary to their licence or permit. The Environment Agency aims to protect, maintain and develop fisheries in the region and to respect the migratory journeys of salmon and sea trout in our waters.
The North East’s fishing community is close and valued, which is why we have to safeguard against individuals who look to take advantage and defy the laws that are in place to try and preserve fishing stocks in the area.
If you see or are aware of illegal fishing activity, you can report it by contacting the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.