netting sea trout christchurch

A fisherman has been ordered to pay nearly £400 Poole Magistrates Court, for illegally netting sea trout in Christchurch Harbour, Dorset. Photo: UK Gov

Fisherman Martin Williamson, of no fixed address, has been ordered to pay nearly £400 for fishing illegally in Christchurch Harbour.

The case was brought by the Environment Agency. Williamson denied using a net to catch fish when their use was limited, but he was found guilty after a trial at Poole Magistrates Court on 18 May 2023. Williamson was ordered to pay a total penalty of £384.

At the time of the offence in June 2021, a net limitation order was in place at Christchurch Harbour. This meant the Environment Agency had granted no net licences to fish for salmon and sea trout in the harbour, in order protect at risk populations.

But when Environment Agency fisheries officers, working with officers from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), discovered Williamson in the harbour. He was found to have a mature sea trout in his haul.

When he failed to appear before Poole Magistrates Court, the court issued a warrant for his arrest backed by bail, and this, in turn, led to his attendance at court.

Williamson was found guilty of fishing without a licence and of taking sea trout with a net contrary to Section 27 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

He was fined £250 and ordered to pay legal costs of £100 plus a victim surcharge of £34.

Late evening on 03 June 2021, Environment Agency fisheries officers along with colleagues from IFCA were on patrol to detect possible illegal fishing in Christchurch Harbour, near Highcliffe Sailing Club.

On arrival, officers used night vision equipment to scan the harbour. About 250 metres offshore, they spotted Williamson in his small boat ‘My Lady’ rowing across the harbour, setting a 300m gill net from the stern of the boat.

Officers kept the boat under observation for some time, and they saw Williamson haul the net back aboard the boat.

In the early hours of 04 June 2021, Williamson came ashore. Amongst numerous legally caught fish, officers found one dead mature sea trout.

Stuart Kingston-Turner, fisheries enforcement specialist, said:

“There can be a significant impact on stocks when even low numbers of sea trout are taken illegally. One sea trout can equate to the loss of up to 15,000 eggs.

“Mr Williamson had ample time to check the catch in his net and return the sea trout to the water before coming ashore.

“With the continuing decline of migratory fish in some of our rivers the EA takes cases of fish poaching seriously and will pursue the individuals involved.”


The net limitation order for Christchurch has now lapsed. However, the Environment Agency, in consultation with Defra, has now put in place a new local byelaw that extends the prohibition on fishing for sea trout and other migratory fish in Christchurch Harbour to enable long-term protection to stocks and enable numbers to recover.

Between 02 June and 05 June 2021 at Christchurch Harbour, Martin Williamson fished using a licensable means of fishing, namely a net, when he was not entitled to use that means by virtue of a fishing licence.

Contrary to section 27(1) (a) (i) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

Source: Press Release

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