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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Sturgeon is back and museum-bound
The sturgeon
The sturgeon, which has gone missing, weighed almost 264lb
A sturgeon caught in Swansea Bay which disappeared after police intercepted it during an investigation into its alleged illegal sale has been traced.

Police moved in at the fish market in Plymouth, Devon, on Thursday, as the 9ft long, 264lb fish, went to auction.

Officers had been alerted because sturgeon, whose eggs are sold as caviar, is a protected species.

But after Devon and Cornwall Police scenes of crime officers had taken pictures of the fish, it vanished.

A spokesman for the force said that officers regained possession of the huge fish at an undisclosed location on Friday.

The fish is now under police possession
Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman

He added: "We have had a phone call and as a result we have seen the fish at a location which we are not going to release.

"The inquiry goes on. The fish is now under police possession and we are seeing if any criminal offences have been committed."

It is believed that the fish is due to be transferred to the Natural History Museum on Monday.

The sturgeon was caught accidentally in fisherman Robert Davies' net in Swansea Bay on Wednesday.

Robert Davies
Fisherman Robert Davies caught the sturgeon in Swansea Bay

Mr Davies, 27, of Llanelli, first offered the sturgeon, classed as a royal fish, to the Queen after catching it in Swansea Bay on Wednesday afternoon.

After receiving a fax from Buckingham Palace saying he could "dispose of it as he saw fit", he travelled to Plymouth to sell it at auction.

It had been bought for 650 by a fish wholesaler before police moved in.

The Devon and Cornwall force had been alerted by officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A spokeswoman for the Natural History Museum said: "We would really like to get the fish.

"It would be a big thing for us, and would go in the national collection.

"But nothing has been confirmed about whether we will or not."

Mr Davies has said he would prefer the fish to be offered to Swansea's new National Waterfront Museum, due to open its doors next year.

It was a normal day - apart from the fact I caught a valuable fish
Robert Davies, fisherman

Fisherman Mr Davies said police called him on Thursday to ask if he knew where it was.

"They've lost the fish," he said. "They called to ask if I had it but I haven't got it."

It is not illegal to catch or keep a sturgeon, providing it is offered to The Queen first and officers said if it had been given away for free or kept by the fisherman, no offence would have been committed.

The sturgeon is rarely seen in UK waters and is classified as a "royal" fish - a status granted by King Edward II.

The law decreed that every sturgeon which was caught belonged to the Treasury and had to be offered to the monarch.

This means that the Queen has to be consulted before anything is done with one.

Rarely caught

But Pc Jon Needham, a wildlife crime officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, said it was an offence to sell or offer for sale sturgeon, a protected species.

Anyone found guilty of selling one fish could face up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 5,000.

Before the controversy blew up, Mr Davies, who has been a fisherman for three years, said: "It was a normal day - apart from the fact I caught a valuable fish.

"To be honest, I didn't know what it was."

A sturgeon's eggs are used to make the delicacy caviar, which can cost several hundred pounds for a small pot.

The fish is rarely caught in the UK with as few as six believed to be landed each year.




SEE ALSO:
Three-month delay on caviar rules
19 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Farmed sturgeon 'only hope for caviar'
02 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Who eats caviar?
05 Dec 00  |  UK News



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