Pic: Catch recovered from the illegal net on Eastbourne beach

Illegal unregistered fishing for financial gain is considered a significant problem by many within inshore fishing communities. Sussex IFCA works to stop those who are damaging honest fishers and the marine environment. The summer of 2015 saw a rise in reported incidents of illegal netting on the coast and in local tidal rivers. Typically these activities were conducted by individuals who were not professional fishermen, owning registered fishing vessels. 

David Lambert, 43, of Eastbourne, was one such individual who was apprehended illegally netting for fish off Eastbourne beach. When under caution, Mr Lambert gave a false name and address to the Fishery Officers interviewing him. At the time of the offence Mr Lambert refused to show official identification and fled the scene by vehicle. 

Subsequent to the net seizure the Sussex IFCA raised awareness of the incident on social media including a photograph of the gear used. The IFCA was contacted by an Eastbourne-based commercial fisherman, who positively identified the nets as belonging to him having been previously stolen. Sussex Police and the Environment Agency assisted Sussex IFCA by confirming Mr Lamberts’ correct details. 

 On the 2nd of July, Sussex Police detained Mr Lambert and obtained a search warrant for his property. Acting under the warrants of Sussex Police Officers, Sussex IFCA assisted in the search of Mr Lambert’s residence and vehicle. An illegal quantity of lobsters were found and seized by Sussex IFCA from his vehicle. A quantity of fishing nets were also seized by Sussex Police from his home as it was suspected that a quantity of these may also have been stolen.  

Sussex Police prosecuted Mr Lambert at Eastbourne court in regard to the theft of nets. Mr Lambert pleaded guilty to theft and as a result was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay an £100 fine. The stolen nets previously kept in storage by the IFCA, were subsequently returned to their original owner by both IFCA and Police Officers. 

In respect to the two breaches of Byelaw fisheries offences committed Sussex IFCA offered Mr Lambert a Financial Administrative Penalty of £750. Mr Lambert did not pay the penalty and was therefore subject to prosecution by the Authority in respect to all relevant offences found during the IFCA’s investigations.  

On the 18th December 2015 at Eastbourne Magistrates Court, David Lambert pleaded guilty to the illegal use of fixed nets and illegally retaining a quantity of lobsters contrary to the Authority’s Fixed Engine and Lobster Permit Byelaws. 

Significantly Mr Lambert was also prosecuted for providing officers with incorrect identification details. This is thought to be the first prosecution of an individual failing to provide their name and address in accordance with IFCA officer powers within the Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009. Section 256 of the Act requires individuals suspected of committing an offence to provide their name and address upon request.  

Mr Lambert was ordered to pay a £2,230 fine, which comprised of £1,250 for the three fisheries offences, a £50 victim surcharge, £180 court costs and £750 towards legal costs. The Magistrates warned Mr Lambert that he had brought this upon himself and that the consequences of his actions had taken up a lot of public body time.  

Sussex IFCA Officers said: 

 “It has been a real success working with the Environment Agency, Sussex Police and the Eastbourne fishing community. We are very pleased that the court recognised the seriousness of the offences, particularly in respect to providing false details, resulting in a £750 fine. As well as deterring future fisheries offences it should provide a clear deterrent to anyone who thinks they cannot be pursued and found”. 

For any person being inspected by fisheries officers it is important to provide the correct information and enable officers to undertake their work. As in this instance, failing to do so can result in prosecution by the Authority and a significant fine.” 

The bass fishery and lobster fisheries of Sussex are vital to support the local industry and community. The netting regulations protect migratory sea trout along the coast in the summer months. Lobsters are commercially fished for in Sussex under a permit system. Recreational lobster fishing has a restricted allowable daily catch. Sussex IFCA is committed to protecting sustainable fisheries and the marine environment. This prosecution will help protect that and will help raise awareness of the damage that a minority can cause. 

If you see suspicious fisheries activity then report it to us on admin@sussex-ifca.gov.uk or call 01273 454407   

 The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority is one of ten IFCAs whose jurisdictions cover the entire coastline of England. The Sussex IFCA is responsible for the management of marine fisheries and conservation in an area of over 500 square miles of Sussex coastal waters. To undertake statutory duties the Authority operates foot patrols and specialist inshore craft for enforcement and research activities. Our inshore response vessel Merlin is a resource we share with the Environment Agency, helping us to save public money.  To find out more about Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority: http://www.sussexifca.gov.uk/