The Environment Agency is clamping down on illegal sales of wild salmon and sea trout by targeting restaurants, hotels, pubs and fish mongers in Yorkshire.
Fisheries enforcement officers are visiting food businesses to check coolers, freezers and fish storage facilities as well as giving advice on how to spot wild salmon and sea trout that have been caught illegally. Bailiffs are also patrolling rivers and coastal areas, overtly and covertly, to target illegal fishing.
Anyone caught illegally fishing or in possession of illegally-caught fish will face prosecution and a substantial fine.
The enforcement campaign aims to protect wild salmonid populations that are put at risk by illegal fishing. The operation covers the Yorkshire coast with a particular focus on the Esk catchment area in North Yorkshire.
Paul Slater, team leader at the Environment Agency, said:
We are determined to stop the illegal fishing and trade of salmon and sea trout because these activities have a terrible impact on fish populations.
Legitimate netsmen sell wild salmon and sea trout with an Environment Agency tag attached to the carcass. If this is not present, then you may be handling illegally-caught fish and you may be liable for prosecution.
Other tell-tale signs are apparent on the fish carcasses themselves: any spear of gaff wounds, or snare or gill net marks on a salmonid can indicate that a fish has been caught illegally.
Wild salmon and sea trout that have been caught legitimately must possess an Environment Agency tag that identifies the source of the fish. This tag must remain attached until a fish is processed.
Salmon or sea trout caught by rod and line will not be tagged, because it is illegal to handle, buy or sell salmonids caught this way. It is also illegal to handle these fish if you suspect they may have been taken during the close season.
Salmonids cannot be sold or bought if they are ‘unclean’ - a term used to describe a fish that is about to spawn or has recently spawned. Unclean fish can be dark in colour with red spots on their gill covers.
If you are handling farmed or imported net-caught fish, which do not require tags, you are advised to ask the seller for a signed receipt that shows the seller’s name and address and details of when and where the fish were caught.
If you are offered wild salmon or sea trout that you suspect has been rod caught, illegally caught or are unclean, please report the matter to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 807060. Anyone who spots illegal fishing should also report the information to the hotline.
For further information on fishing byelaws and to find out the close season runs in your area, visit our byelaws website pages.