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Sunderland fisherman fined after being caught using illegal net at beach

A Sunderland man has been left almost £600 out of pocket after being caught fishing illegally.

By Kevin Clark
Friday, 29th April 2022, 3:00 pm

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Lee Burton was sentenced at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, having been found guilty of fishing illegally for commercial gain after a prosecution by the Environment Agency.

Burton, 48, of Buttermere Street, Grangetown, was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £500 as well as a victim surcharge of £95.

Staff from the agency attended the beach at Ryhope in October 2020 after being alerted to the presence of a suspected illegal net .

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When officers arrived at the scene, they discovered Burton recovering a 25-metre long and two-metre deep Gill net, in which had been caught a sea trout and several more sea fish including a large sea bass and a pollock.

Gill nets catch fish by entanglement, causing fish to die from asphyxiation after becoming caught in the mesh. The use of such nets is subject to licensing by the Environment Agency, which has responsibility for maintaining, developing and improving fisheries in England.

Gill nets are rarely licensed, as they are indiscriminate in the fish they kill, and highly effective at doing so.

In recent years, such nets have only been licensed to take sea trout and only between March 26 and May 31 in order to preserve fish stocks. It is vitally important that sufficient adult fish can spawn to maintain fish stocks and ensure survival of threatened species.

Burton's nets (left) and part of his catch

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David Shears, Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency in the North-East, said: “Unregulated illegal activity has a serious impact on fish stocks and on the local economy. It is estimated that in the North-East, angling contributes over £40million to the local economy.

“The Environment Agency’s work in fisheries enforcement is all 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.”

Burton was caught on video reeling in his net

Illegal fishing can be reported to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.