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Old 14th April 2011, 07:19
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Default River Taw Salmon poachers could face prison if they are caught again

Two Bideford men could end up behind bars if they are caught poaching salmon again on the Taw and Torridge estuary.

On August 17, 2010 Environment Agency fisheries officers were on patrol near Instow when they saw Andrew Horne and Stephen Cook in a blue fishing boat on the Taw and Torridge estuary. Attached to the stern of the boat was a 300 metre long net stretched across the River Taw towards Crow Point.

As the boat moved across the mouth of river Stephen Cook was seen to remove two large silver fish from the net and throw them into the boat towards Andrew Horne. A total of five fish were caught in the monofilament drift net.

Later the same evening Agency officers met the two defendants as they came ashore at Instow Quay. They asked Mr Horne what he had caught and he pointed to a 3lb bass, 2.5 lb mullet and small flatfish in the bow of the boat.

Officers then searched the craft and found two freshly-caught salmon hidden under a tarpaulin. The fish weighed around 6lb each. When questioned Mr Horne admitted he intended to sell the fish. Wild salmon currently fetches around £15.00 per pound.

Both defendants are experienced netsmen and are allowed to fish for sea fish including bass and mullet, but must immediately return to the water any salmon or sea trout they catch accidentally in their nets.

The two men positioned their net at the mouth of the River Taw on an incoming flood tide – they very time salmon and sea trout are most likely to be entering the river from the sea.

Magistrates heard there had been a serious decline in salmon numbers on the Taw and Torridge. Special measures have been introduced by the Environment Agency to protect the ‘fragile’ salmon stocks. These include reducing the number of licensed salmon netsmen, shortening the netting season and banning the sale of rod caught salmon and sea trout.

‘These fishermen are well aware of the laws relating to salmon, but decided to keep two fish instead of putting them straight back in the water. With salmon of this size worth up to £90 each, the offending was clearly financially motivated. The loss of a single female salmon represents the loss of thousands of eggs and fry that could help replenish local salmon stocks,’ said Paul Carter for the Environment Agency.

Appearing before Barnstaple magistrates, Andrew Horne of Biddyblack Way, Tarka Point, Bideford and Stephen Cook of Newton Road, Bideford were each given a three year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £450 costs after pleading guilty to illegally taking two salmon on the Taw and Torridge on August 17, 2010 contrary to Section 27(a) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

Magistrates ordered forfeiture of the net and salmon and warned the two defendants they could face ‘severe punishment’ including a custodial sentence of up to three months if they are caught illegally fishing again.
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