Fishing during the close season has always been frowned upon, and section 19 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries 1975 provided the statutory basis for prosecution. However, the repeals contained within the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 removed the entirety of section 19 without providing any form of replacement, effectively abolishing the offence of fishing during the close season.
The Environment Agency has had to let more than 100 poachers off the hook as a result of this oversight. Rapid steps are being taken to remedy the situation and the draft byelaw can be inspected on the Environment Agency’s website.
The new Act has also deleted section 35(2) of the 1975 Act, which allowed a person holding a fishing licence “on production of his licence [to] require any person who is fishing in that area to produce his licence or other authority to fish and to state his name and address”. This “stop and search” power is now only within the gift of the Environment Agency and police officers. Somehow, this seems to sit rather uneasily with the concept of a “Big Society”.