A GIANT illegal fishing net has been seized during an operation.

The Environment Agency removed the 40-metre net in a cross-border enforcement operation at Skinningrove in Redcar and Cleveland.

The operation was undertaken by agency fisheries officers from Yorkshire and the North-East, working in partnership with North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

The crew were tipped off about the net, which had the potential to capture a large number of sea trout, but officers found it before it had the chance to make a significant catch.

Paul Slater, fisheries team leader for the Environment Agency, said: “The tip off highlights the importance of people volunteering information to us that helps to protect the local fishing industry.

The Northern Echo: The 40-metre illegal fishing net which was seized at SkinningroveThe 40-metre illegal fishing net which was seized at Skinningrove

“It is illegal for individuals to fish for sea trout by net without an official licence obtained. Even during the current unprecedented times created by Covid-19, we are still actively patrolling the coastline and responding quickly to any reports of illegal netting.”

A licensed, strictly regulated and managed sea trout fishery operates in the coastal area around the waters of Skinningrove.

But the use of unlicensed nets which illegally take salmon and sea trout from the sea whilst the fish are returning to their spawning rivers is a major concern for the Environment Agency in the North East and Yorkshire. Such nets are indiscriminate by nature and are often left for long periods of time where they not only take significant numbers of fish of all kinds, but also capture mammals and sea birds.

Those who operate unlicensed nets leave themselves open to the full force of the law. There are unlimited fines and possible prison sentences available to the courts when initiating prosecution cases.

In recent years a number of significant prosecutions have taken place in the region with one individual being fined.