Three South Shields fishermen snared for poaching with illegal nets after falling asleep by a river have been ordered to pay fines and costs totalling more than £1,300.
Scott McGuire, 30, and Stuart Ashall, 45, both of Beach Road, and John Britten, 34, of Belgrave Road, were caught by alert Environment Agency enforcement officers.
Two were found inside and one outside a tent camped at the River Derwent in Gateshead at 12.40pm on July 22, 2016.
Next to them was a gill net set across the river and a salmon’s head on the ground.
Gill nets are designed to catch fish by their gills and are rarely licensed in rivers due to their indiscriminate nature.
All claimed the net had been there when they arrived and that they had got the salmon from a supermarket.
But an investigation by a fisheries expert found the remains were of an adult wild migratory salmon.
Tests showed it had been subject to physical trauma before death and exposed to the natural environment post death.
McGuire appeared at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, where he pleaded guilty to using gill nets to catch fish at Durham Bank, Rowlands Gill.
He was fined £120, ordered to pay £300 costs and a victim surcharge of £30.
Ashall appeared on January 4 for the same offence and was fined £180, ordered to pay £400 in costs and a victim surcharge of £30, after pleading guilty.
Last November, Britten appeared in court to plead guilty to the same office and was fined £45, ordered to pay costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £30.
David Shears, Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “The River Derwent is a recovering river that had been previously affected by industry, but which has been slowly improving.
“Gill nets such as the one used in this case are designed to catch fish by their gills and can be extremely damaging to fish stocks.
“Illegal fishing like this can have a devastating impact, especially on recovering rivers such as the Derwent.”