Illegal netting hits salmon levels in the Dee, says Environment Agency Wales
Fisherman who illegally net salmon in the Dee estuary are "environment criminals" who are reducing fish stocks, says Environment Agency Wales.
It is urging the public and legitimate fishermen to report illegal netting to protect the levels of migratory fish.
The estuary is an important route to spawning grounds for salmon and sea trout which migrate up the River Dee.
A buy-out for legitimate "netsmen" aims to ensure no legally-taken Dee salmon are sold to hotels or fishmongers.
The environment agency and the Dee Fishery Association said illegal netting was having a significant effect on the migrating fish population in the estuary as it prevented many fish from reaching their spawning grounds. The agency's area manager David Edwell said: "Environmental crime is becoming increasingly unacceptable to people and using an intelligence-led approach is a very effective way to catch the offenders.
"We are asking legitimate fishermen and people on both sides of the Dee Estuary to act as our eyes and ears and make sure we catch these people."
The Dee Fishery Association (DFA) said its net buy-out scheme was a crucial "one-off" opportunity to end estuary netting to ensure the survival of Dee salmon and sea trout, for both environmental and recreational reasons.
Its website read: "The fish that return to spawn in the Dee are the fish which have actually survived their migration to sea and overcome the hazards of costal and high seas nets, global warming, declining food supply and natural predators.
"If we can ensure the successful spawning of these fish we will have laid the foundation for the exponential development of the Dee stock year-on-year."
Chairman John Roe added: "It has taken many years of hard work and fundraising to phase out salmon netting in the estuary.
"Salmon numbers are slowly improving but we need to do more to ensure that we build on this success so that more salmon manage to reach their breeding grounds further upstream."
People are urged to ring the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 if they see anything suspicious.