An Eastbourne man who was caught illegally fishing and having stolen nets has been fined by the courts.
David Lambert, 43, of Wakehurst Road, initially gave officers from the fisheries authority false details when challenged and fled.
But a social media campaign helped track him down and he was charged with stealing fishing nets by Sussex Police and in a separate case, was prosecuted for byelaw fisheries offences after an illegal quantity of lobsters was found in his vehicle.
The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority brought the prosecution against Lambert.
A spokesperson said “David Lambert was apprehended illegally netting for fish off Eastbourne beach.
“When under caution, Lambert gave a false name and address to the fishery officers interviewing him. At the time of the offence Lambert refused to show official identification and fled the scene.
“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 Lambert’s correct details.”
On July 2 Sussex Police searched Lambert’s property and vehicle and an illegal quantity of lobsters was found and seized by Sussex IFCA.
“In respect to the two breaches of Byelaw fisheries offences committed Sussex IFCA offered Lambert a Financial Administrative Penalty of £750,” said the spokesperson.
“He did not pay the penalty and was subject to prosecution by the authority in respect to all relevant offences found during the IFCA’s investigations.”
Lambert pleaded guilty to the illegal use of fixed nets and illegally retaining a quantity of lobsters at Eastbourne Magistrates Court in December.
He was also prosecuted for providing officers with incorrect identification details, believed 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.
Lambert was ordered to pay a £2,230 fine, £50 victim surcharge, £180 court costs and £750 towards legal costs.
Magistrates warned Lambert that he had brought the matter upon himself and that the consequences of his actions had taken up a lot of public body time.
Earlier in the year a quantity of fishing nets were also seized by Sussex Police from Lambert’s home as it was suspected that a quantity of these may also have been stolen.
He was charged with the theft of nets, pleaded guilty to theft and was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £100 fine. The stolen nets previously kept in storage by the IFCA, were subsequently returned to their original owner.
The Sussex IFCA spokesperson said, “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.
“It has been a real success working with the Environment Agency, Sussex Police and the Eastbourne fishing community.
“We are very pleased 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.
“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.”