The judge orders the ringleader of a long-running illegal poaching operation on the Afon Teifi to have £61,791.50 confiscated due to the financial gains he made from his crimes.
At a sentencing hearing at Swansea Crown Court on July 8, the judge also ordered that Emlyn Rees, of Dan y Graig, Cenarth in Ceredigion will pay a fine of £1,600 and costs of £1,000 . Mr Rees will also have his fishing gear and netting seized.
As Mr Rees was unable to pay the forfeiture sum, he was forced to pay a nominal sum of £1. If it comes in cash or assets in the future, the remaining debt will be forfeited.
Mr Rees had previously pleaded guilty to illegal fishing charges brought by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). NRW had also filed a request under the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate ill-gotten financial gains.
Mr. Rees kept a detailed record of his illegal catches. Over a seven-year period, 373 dated fish catch entries were made detailing the number and weight of fish caught, including 989 sea trout and 302 salmon.
Illegal fishing undertaken by Mr Rees and his associates between 2013 and 2020 resulted in the loss of approximately 686,534 salmon eggs and an estimated loss of 2,285,164 sea trout eggs.
The investigation was triggered after NRW officers were patrolling a stretch of the Teifi River near Cenarth and discovered that a gillnet had been illegally set in the river.
While surveying the area overnight, a person in dark clothing was seen retrieving the net at 5 a.m. and was identified as Emlyn Rees, a person known to law enforcement officers and who has already been convicted three times for illegal fishing offences.
Although he fled the scene by jumping into the river, he was later arrested with the support of Dyfed Powys police officers and his home was raided. The result of the search served as the basis for the investigation and the involvement of his co-defendants.
Ann Weedy, Head of Mid Wales Operations at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said: “The impact of this illegal operation is staggering. The sheer magnitude of the number of fish caught has undoubtedly resulted in a significant and unsustainable loss of reproductive potential.
“From 2020, all salmon and large sea trout caught in Wales must be returned alive to the river to help protect these vulnerable stocks.
“This case should be a warning to potential offenders that we will pursue all cases where there is evidence of wrongdoing, and if we can demonstrate that a significant financial gain has been made, we will seek to forfeit that gain.
“I want to thank our legal team for prosecuting the illegal gains from Mr. Rees’ crimes.
“I would also like to thank our dedicated team of law enforcement officers, whose detailed and relentless investigation revealed a staggering scale of crime.
“We are also very grateful to our colleagues at Dyfed Powys Police for their support and to members of the local angling associations who provided victim impact statements which greatly helped our case.”
Sergeant Esther Davies, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “This is a great example of partnership between the police and NRW. In 2020, the Dyfed-Powys Police Rural Crime Team arrested Mr Rees for breaches of the Salmon and Freshwater Fishing Act, which then led to joint searches of his address and the recovery of a large amount of evidence.
“Dyfed-Powys and NRW Police subsequently executed seven warrants in connection with the investigation into an illegal fishing operation on the River Teifi.
“The operation involved 25 Force Police and nine NRW law enforcement officers, and targeted seven properties in the Cardigan area, linked to people suspected of being involved in the unlawful capture and obtaining of salmon and sea trout, or sewin, on an unprecedented scale.
“Poaching has been a real problem on the Teifi River for many years, and I hope this investigation and the sentencing today clearly demonstrates our commitment to investigating wildlife crime and reassures our fishing communities and of anglers.”
(Main image: Natural Resources Wales)