A POACHER’S net containing a haul of 60 sea trout worth as much as £1500 has been pulled from a “fragile” river.
The discovery – the largest of its kind in 15 years – in the River Tyne in Haddington has been described as a “professional operation”.
Illegal netting of salmon and sea trout is regarded as a serious wildlife crime – poachers use large, fine nets which capture fish by the gills, causing them to suffer a slow death. An investigation is now under way, with fishing experts worried about the effect on already-low stocks in the river.
Brian Davidson, operations director of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards, said: “This is a significant find from such a small river like the Tyne, particularly when fish stocks are low at the moment naturally. Normally, you get two or three fish trapped in nets but this looks like a professional operation.
“It’s significant for Scotland. It’s a fragile river and easily poached. I haven’t seen an incident like this on the Tyne for ten to 15 years. It’s not commonplace but does happen throughout Scotland.” Wildlife crime officers have urged anyone who may have witnessed any illegal activity to come forward.
Mr Davidson added: “These people are criminals. This will affect future generations of sea trout in the river because these fish will not reproduce.”
The nets, due to the way they are set and concealed, also present a serious danger to other aquatic life, such as otters, birds and other wildlife.
East Lothian Provost Ludovic Broun-Lindsay warned that organised criminals may be responsible.
He said: “There can be big money involved in it and if there’s organised gangs involved it can become quite a serious problem. These are often a group of men who are not adverse to a bit of violence if they don’t get their way.
“It’s deeply depressing that this sort of random theft does occur. Those that buy items from poachers – which are mostly businesses – must hold their hands up and know they are supporting illegal activity.
“It’s a crime to take fish without permission, it’s damaging for the ecology of the Tyne and the nets are damaging to the river bed.”