Joint boat patrols target illegal fishing

Yesterday (Thursday 24 September) fisheries enforcement officers from the Environment Agency and Northumbria Police carried out joint boat patrols on the River Wear on the lookout for people fishing illegally and as part of their investigation into the use of illegal fishing nets.

Officers Joe Watson and Mark Snowdon were joined by Northumbria Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer PC Peter Baker for the operation on the Environment Agency’s boat ‘Shearwater’.

They set off from Viking Park before taking in Tynemouth and down the North East coast into the River Wear at the estuary.

The River Wear is a major salmon and sea trout river with thousands of fish returning each year to spawn. Fisheries Enforcement Officer Joe said:

Unfortunately these fish can become the target of those who wish to take them illegally with nets that are indiscriminate in nature and which will kill all types of fish and also other wildlife unfortunate enough to get caught up in them.

A number of these nets have been seized already from the river this year and across the North East as a whole.

Working jointly with our partners at Northumbria Police and the Port of Sunderland enables us to target illegal activity of all kinds in and around the river. By combining our expertise and knowledge and sharing resources we can continue to protect wildlife, detect crime and improve the local river and water environment.

The images shows the EA and police on boat patrols underneath the Wear Bridge.

Illegal fishing nets seized

In July, two large illegal fishing nets were recovered from the River Wear in Sunderland, and another in Washington. PC Peter Baker, of Northumbria Police, added:

These actions can often result in the indiscriminate death of wildlife and it’s important people recognise this is against the law. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Environment Agency and other partners to tackle and prevent this type of offending.

Fisheries is very carefully managed to protect the future of the industry and ensure fish can get to their breeding grounds to spawn. Nets such as those seized are capable of taking significant numbers of fish and can have a damaging impact on future fish stocks.

Fisheries enforcement officers actively patrol North East rivers and coastline, acting on intelligence and responding to reports of illegal fishing.

Those who operate unlicensed nets risk prosecution, with unlimited fines and possible prison sentences available to the courts, and Environment Agency officers can seize equipment and vehicles.

Information about illegal fishing can be reported to the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Environment Agency officers out on patrol are wearing the appropriate protective equipment and adhering to social distancing measures.

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