On 20 September 2017 Ni Li and Zhixiong Li pleaded guilty to a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard how on 15 June 2015, 361 live American lobsters and 35 Dungeness crabs were released off Brighton on the Sussex coast by a party of over 100 Buddhists as part of a religious ceremony. The court was told how Zhixiong Li organised the party and oversaw the release, and that Ni Li procured the lobsters from a specialist fish merchant in London.
The action was contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which is in place to protect indigenous species from invasion by non-native species. When the release was discovered swift action by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) working with the local fishing industry led to a significant number of the non-native animals being recovered.
Ni Li was fined £3,500, ordered to pay £9,000 in compensation, costs of £3,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.
Zhixiong Li was fined £500, ordered to pay £9,000 in compensation, costs of £3,000 and a victim surcharge of £50.
The compensation was awarded to the MMO to pay for the action to recover the non-native species.
Commenting on the prosecution a spokesperson for the MMO said:
The size of the fines in this case recognises the significant risk to the marine environment posed by offences of this nature.
The MMO would like to thank both the local fishing industry for their significant assistance in the recovery of the animals from our seas and the Buddhist community for their help in communicating and educating people on the risks posed by the release of non-native species into our waters.