Chefs and restaurant owners who buy salmon and trout have been urged to make sure their dish of the day hasn’t been illegally caught from the River Wear.


Enforcement officers from the Environment Agency are asking wholesalers and restaurant staff to help stop the trade in illegally-caught fish from Framwellgate Waterside near Durham city centre.


The Newcastle-based team say they have received reports that poachers have been using the stretch of water on the Wear to catch the migrating salmon and trout by deliberately hooking them on the body, which is illegal, rather than in the mouth.


And now, they are asking restaurant staff and wholesalers to join them in the crackdown by being on their guard against door-to-door “tradesmen” who may be selling on the fish.


At this time of year, salmon and trout are migrating to spawning grounds and any fish taken from the water means fewer fish next year.


Special enforcement team leader Kevin Summerson said: “The Wear is one of the best game rivers in the North East yet these poachers are not only robbing the region of its wildlife, they are stealing from the local economy as well.”


In England and Wales, the entire angling industry contributes £3 billion to the economy, and salmon and trout angling contributes £500 million.


“As long as these poachers persist, we will continue to do everything in our power to bring them to justice. We will continue carrying out regular patrols, along with intelligence-led covert operations to protect, conserve and enhance this fishery,” said Kevin.


He warned that anyone caught with illegally-caught fish, including businesses, could face prosecution. In some areas, CCTV has been used to catch poachers.


Although difficult to identify an illegally-caught fish, businesses can help themselves by always buying from a licensed angler and being cautious of fish with hook marks and gouging along its body.


Framwellgate Waterside is particularly popular with anglers because it is free to use and is close to a series of fish passes so the salmon and trout are more densely packed as they head upstream.


On October 17 and 20, Gateshead is hosting the 15th International Salmonid Conference organised by the Association of Rivers Trust at the Baltic Arts Centre. Environment Agency chairman Sir John Harman will be speaking at the event.