A massive crackdown on illegal fish stockings could see many stillwater fisheries stripped of their stocks, we can reveal.
In a shake-up that is set to change the shape of the country’s commercials, the Government has revealed that it is set to get tough on venue owners who introduced species such as stillwater barbel without the relevant paperwork.
Next spring Defra will introduce new fish movement regulations under which it will insist the offending fish are removed, leaving many fisheries with bills running into tens of thousands of pounds. And, if the owner refuses to toe the line, then the new regulations empower the EA to go in and remove the fish, before sending the owner the bill.
One fishery that looks sure to fall foul of the strict new regime is Westwood Lakes, near Boston in Lincs. All four waters on the popular day-ticket complex contain barbel to 10lb, despite the fishery not having the required Section 30 clearance to stock the species.
“This is worrying. I may have been a bit naïve seven or eight years ago when I bought my barbel from Morris Bosh in Kent, fish I’ve since grown on in a stock pond before introducing to my lakes,” said Westwood owner Alan Copeland.
“I haven’t been devious. I wouldn’t have stocked these fish if I thought I was doing something dodgy.
“I’ll have to get in touch with my local EA fisheries team to ask for advice on what I need to do about this,” he added.
Most fisheries in England and Wales have now been registered with Cefas (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) together with details of which species they contain.
This means the EA has a list of venues which contain unlicensed ILFA (Import of Live Fish Act) species, such as catfish and sturgeon, including Norfolk’s Witch Lake, which is still selling day-tickets despite assuring the EA that it would remove its huge sturgeon and catfish.
“Situations like this are why we are seeking new legislation for live fish movements,” explained the EA’s Adrian Taylor. “It is our intention that the new scheme can be applied retrospectively and since the Westwood barbel have been illegally stocked, we could require their removal,” he added.