An otter has drowned after getting caught up in an illegal crayfish trap by the Selby Canal.
The trap was found on an angling platform at a fishing peg on the canal just outside Selby in North Yorkshire. It was discovered by a member of the public who reported the find to the police and the Environment Agency.
It is believed that the illegal net was being used to catch crayfish. Although crayfish traps are widely available, consent from the Environment Agency is required to set the traps legally.
Approval would only ever be given if the traps conformed to strict size dimensions and had an otter guard fitted to prevent the animal getting into the trap.
Ian Marshall, biodiversity officer at the Environment Agency said: “Otters are protected by law and killing them could result in a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison. Their return to our rivers is an environmental success story and we do a lot of work to encourage their recovery.
“Anyone wanting to trap crayfish must have the relevant permits from the Environment Agency. Just because a trap is marketed for crayfish use does not mean it is of a legal design. Otter guards can be fitted to non-legal traps to prevent tragedies like this happening again.”
Fisheries officers have recovered the body which will be sent off for analysis.
Otter populations have begun to expand across the country following a decline in numbers between the 1950s and 1980s. The return of otters to our rivers reflects improvements in river habitats and water quality, which are now at their healthiest for more than 20 years. Given that numbers are still recovering, otters are legally protected.
The Environment Agency’s fisheries enforcement officers routinely look out for evidence of illegal traps, but if you see anything suspicious please report it to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
Information about gaining permission to use crayfish traps can be found online here.