Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 16:01 UK

Fish poachers' boats confiscated

The fish poachers' boats (photo courtesy of the Environment Agency)
The poachers' two boats and their equipment has now been confiscated

Two poachers who stole fish from a river in Norfolk have been ordered to surrender their boats and equipment.

Oleg Stepin, 43, and Gunnar Kaspars, 39, admitted charges relating to the theft of fish from the River Wissey.

They also pleaded guilty to not having rod licences and fishing in the closed season, contrary to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

Police arrested the pair from Aberdeen on 25 May following a tip-off, Kings Lynn magistrates' heard.

Stepin also pleaded guilty to using an unregistered boat and using a gill net - designed to ensnare fish by entangling them - which is an unlicensed instrument.

The forfeiture of their boats will leave a large hole in both their pockets
Neil Sampson, national fisheries enforcement officer at the Environment Agency

Gill nets are illegal under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act as they cause extensive damage and distress to the fish they catch.

Stepin was ordered to pay 60 costs and to surrender his boat, outboard motor and petrol pump, worth about 4,000.

Kaspars was also ordered to pay 60 costs and to surrender his dinghy, worth about 1,000.

After the hearing Neil Sampson, national fisheries enforcement officer at the Environment Agency, said: "Although we were disappointed that these men were not given a more severe sentence, the forfeiture of their boats will leave a large hole in both their pockets.

"The result sends out a clear message that illegal fishing practices will not be tolerated - the Environment Agency will take strong action to ensure offenders are brought to face justice."

The poachers' barbecued fish (photo courtesy of the Environment Agency)
Police found fish on a barbecue and live fish on a line

Stepin and Kaspars were arrested after police received a tip-off from a boat owner who noticed the pair had set up a camp along the banks of the river and were barbecuing fish.

Det Con Ian Young, of Norfolk Police, told how officers found fish on a barbeque and several live fish threaded on a washing line which were being kept alive in the river.

"The live fish, including several tench, between four and seven pounds and a two and a half pound perch, all had scale damage," he said.

"The perch died on its release."

Det Con Ian Young said the pair were part of an organised gang of poachers who had travelled from Scotland to Norfolk to steal a large quantity of fish.


SEE ALSO
River patrol takes to two wheels
13 Aug 08 |  Cornwall

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