Fishery boss in landmark case

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A FISHERY manager has been fined £1,650 in a landmark hearing after he carried out a money-spinning scheme that posed a threat to the local environment.

Timothy Phillips, of Blackdyke Road, Hockwold cum Wilton, appeared at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court last Thursday to plead guilty to charges of keeping a prohibited species of fish without a licence.

Phillips was found to be keeping sturgeon – a non-native species – at Witchlake Fishery in Hockwold cum Wilton.

The prosecution was the first of its kind under the Environment Agency’s Import of Live Fish Act (ILFA).

Chris Badger, prosecuting, told the court of the banned species’ destructive potential.

He said: “Non-native species of flora and fauna are considered to be the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide after habitat loss and destruction.”

Mr Badger said species such as sturgeon could introduce new diseases and parasites into water.

Phillips took over the site’s licence in June 2007. He was given a short-term licence to keep sturgeon in March 2008, with the condition that he remove all of the fish by the end of August 2008.

An extension on the licence was granted until March 2009 but Phillips had still not removed the predatory fish by that time.

When Environment Agency officers searched the area in August, they found sturgeon with hook marks showing they had previously been caught.

Mr Badger said Phillips’ motives for keeping the fish were purely money-motivated.

“The reason Phillips did not remove the sturgeon from the lake is simply that there is a financial advantage to him in not doing so.

“Sturgeon are attractive to anglers and he was able to charge a premium in fees as a result,” he said.

Phillips was also ordered to pay £2,000 towards costs.