A Northumberland man has been sentenced after Environment Agency officers saw him fishing illegally on a local beach.
Paul Common, 37, from East Lea, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, appeared at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on Friday 27 January where he pleaded guilty to fishing illegally with a gill net in a successful prosecution by the Environment Agency.
He was ordered to pay a total penalty of £421. The penalty includes a fine of £158, costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £63. The gill net used was also forfeited and destroyed.
Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers were on night patrols on 29 June, 2022, when they saw Common on Newbiggin beach pulling on a rope. On inspection the officers found a gill net had been set in the sea. The high tide meant they were unable to recover it.
Officers returned during low tide the following morning to recover the 7x3m net and witnessed Common bring it in and put a dead sea trout into a bag. He was apprehended by the officers and the net was seized.
In interview Common said he was unaware gill nets were illegal, despite being an experienced angler.
Gill nets catch fish by entanglement, causing them to die from asphyxiation after becoming caught in the net’s mesh. The use of gill nets is subject to strict conditions, and they are not allowed at all if targeting migratory fish such as salmon or sea trout.
It is vitally important that sufficient adult fish can spawn to maintain fish stocks and ensure survival of threatened species.
David Shears, Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency in the North-East, said:
Illegal fishing has a serious impact on fish stocks and on the local economy. It’s vital that adult sea trout and salmon are allowed to spawn to preserve stocks and the long-term future of angling.
The Environment Agency’s work in fisheries enforcement is about protecting our wildlife, supporting sustainable fisheries and businesses and promoting the benefits of recreational and legal angling.
We won’t hesitate to take action to stop illegal fishing and hopefully this will act as a deterrent for anyone thinking of breaking the law.
The Environment Agency carries out enforcement work all year round and is supported by partners including the police and the Angling Trust. Fisheries enforcement work is intelligence-led, targeting known hot-spots and where illegal fishing is reported.
Around £25 million is raised annually through fishing licences. This money pays for stocking waters with half a million fish and improving rivers and fisheries for anglers and the wider environment.
Any angler aged 13 or over, fishing on a river, stream, drain, canal or still water needs a licence to fish. A 1-day licence costs from just £6, and an annual licence currently costs from just £30 (concessions available). Junior licences are free for 13 to 16-year-olds. Buy a rod licence now.
Illegal fishing can be reported to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.