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Clampdown launched on salmon poaching in Hampshire
5:24pm Tuesday 3rd September 2013 in News
THE Environment Agency is launching a new initiative to protect Hampshire salmon.
Salmon Watch is part of the crackdown against fish theft and poaching that are jeopardising the recovery of the king of fish.
Since a previous campaign was launched across Hampshire last October, fisheries officers have arrested or cautioned five poachers, following public tip-offs.
Rivers in Hampshire, such as the Test, Itchen and Avon, are world-famous for their salmon but surveys show that numbers are well below target.
Evidence gathered from patrols shows that the fish are being increasingly targeted by poachers.
Tim Sykes, of the Environment Agency, said: “We are committed to eliminating illegal fishing and we will have no hesitation in prosecuting those who commit fish crime to the fullest extent of the law. It is of great concern that salmon numbers are down in part due to fish theft.
“Our specialist fisheries enforcement officers continue to carry out regular patrols and covert surveillance at poaching hotspots to target individuals involved in illegal angling. They have also stepped up their day and night boat patrols along the coast to clamp down on illegal fishing.
“However we cannot tackle this crime alone. Legitimate salmon anglers on the Rivers Test and Itchen provide us with major help in keeping a watchful eye on our rivers. We urge all those who value the future of angling in the Solent and the preservation of this iconic species to report any suspicious fishing activities to us so that our teams can swiftly take action.”
Chris Pearson of the Itchen Salmon Group, said: “Salmon rod fisheries on the Itchen voluntarily agreed to a 100 per cent ‘catch and release’ policy at the turn of the century when it became evident that the numbers of returning salmon had fallen to critical levels.
“Since that time modest improvements in the runs of salmon have been made but the stock still remains vulnerable and the Itchen Salmon Group fully supports this crackdown on poaching.
“Poaching is an insidious activity that not only removes precious salmon from the river but leaves others horribly mutilated and unable to complete their life cycle.”
The agency is urging those who value the Solent to report any suspicious fishing activities. Tell-tale signs are nets in estuaries or nets strung between moorings in local harbours and marinas.
The poachers toolkit: A snatch is a weighted treble-hook on a hand-held line which is used to deliberately ‘foul hook’ or impale fish – with this poachers can catch the fish faster than with a rod and line but it causes a lot of damage to the fish. Look out for individuals leaning over bridges and suddenly jerking a hand-held fishing line or, if they have successfully hooked a fish, landing a large silver fish without a fishing rod.
If anglers or members of the public do come across these illegally set instruments they should leave them in place and report the location immediately.
Poaching on a large scale is only financially worthwhile if there is a commercial demand. That is created by a few unscrupulous local food outlets which are prepared to commit an offence by buying illegally caught fish.
Salmon eggs hatch in May and juveniles spend just one year in freshwater before migrating to sea. After one or two years they return to their home rivers, congregating in estuaries in the spring and spending much of the summer in the lower reaches of the rivers before spawning late in the year.
If anyone thinks that they have seen any illegal fishing, or trade in illegally caught fish, they should phone the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
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