Environment Agency first prosecution under ILFA

5 May 2011 - Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Fishery manager Timothy Phillips was today(Thurs) fined £1,650 for illegally keeping live sturgeon in a fishing lake at Thetford.

It was the first Environment Agency prosecution under the Import of Live Fish Act (ILFA).

King's Lynn Magistrates' Court heard that the only place sturgeon should be kept is in an ornamental pond but that there was a financial advantage to keeping sturgeon in the lake as they are attractive to anglers.

Phillips was accused of keeping prohibited non-native live fish at Witchlake Fishery, Oakwood Park, Blackdyke Road, Hockwold cum Wilton,Thetford, in Norfolk without a valid licence. He was also ordered to pay £2,000 towards costs.

Chris Badger, prosecuting counsel for the Environment Agency told the magistrates that it was recognized that the spread of non-native species such as sturgeon had a 'far-reaching and undesirable' effect on animals and plants in rivers and lakes.

He said they could introduce new diseases and parasites into water. '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 told magistrates that Phillips took over the licence for the site in June 2007. In January 2008 he applied to amend the licence to allow the keeping of sturgeon and change the name of the site to Witchlake from Macs Lake.

A time-limited licence was issued in March by CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) with a condition to remove all sturgeon from the lake by 31 August 2008 but the fish were not removed, he told them.

Mr Badger said that Defra wrote to Phillips after an extension was given to March 2009 but still the fish had not been removed. They pointed out that putting sturgeon back into the fishing lake was a criminal offence. His temporary licence was revoked in August 2010.

He told the court: '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.'

Environment Agency officers went to the fishery in August and removed by electro-fishing five sturgeon which were given to Phillips to put into an ornamental lake. At least one of the sturgeon showed signs of hook marks showing it had been previously caught.

Phillips admitted to keeping the sturgeon illegally but always insisted that he told anglers not to return them to the fishing lake. However, an off-duty Environment Agency officer who went to the fishery was never given that information and witnessed sturgeon being caught and returned to the lake.

Over two days he saw more than 800lb of sturgeon hooked, landed and returned, Mr Badger told the court. None were ever removed to another water.

Phillips told investigating officers that he considered that all the fish in the predator lake belonged to the owner of the fishery and he was not responsible for putting them there.

The court was told that Phillips had been sent to prison for two months for four previous convictions for environmental offences in 2002 relating to the illegal keeping, treating and deposit of waste tyres without a licence.

After the hearing Adrian Saunders, Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Campaigns Manager said: 'Fishery owners should be aware that if they have non-native fish or are thinking of introducing ILFA species they must apply for an ILFA licence, and comply with any conditions, or face the consequences.'

'Failure to deal with this now may result in increased costs in the future, as planned legislation will give the Environment Agency improved powers to remove fish and recover its costs, where the owner fails to comply.'

Environment Agency officer Kye Jerrom added: 'If in doubt, fishery owners should get in touch with their local Environment Agency fisheries officer who will help them conform to current legislation, ensure their fishery is legal and ensure that they are not liable to prosecution.

'We are making it our priority to safeguard all fisheries and the wider environment from the risks posed by ILFA species and their illegal keeping.'

All fisheries must:
  • Ensure ILFA listed species are licensed with CEFAS
  • That all conditions of that licence are abided by and enforced.
  • Remove all listed species from that water, when caught, if this is a requirement of the licence.
The Environment Agency can help with advice and guidance on:
  • Form completion
  • New applications
  • Screening advice
  • Fish relocation

A guidance leaflet can be found at

The application for licensing ILFA species at a fishery can be found at

Phillips pleaded guilty to:

Timothy Phillips, between 31st March 2009 and 18th August 2010, kept live fish, namely sturgeon, a species specified in the Prohibition of Keeping or Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) (Amendment) (England) Order 2003/25, without having a valid licence authorising their keeping, contrary to section 3(1)(a) of the Import of Live Fish (England and Wales) Act 1980.

All Environment Agency news releases, both regional and national, can be found at

All text in this article is licensed under the Open Government Licence.

Sturgeon seized in surveillance swoop

14 June 2007 - Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Fish Health Inspectors (FHI) from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have reported to the authorities two men for attempting to illegally import sturgeon into the UK without the required fish health certification.

Ten boxes containing more than 140 Diamond sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) were seized on Monday, 11 June, as a result of a surveillance operation. The men were observed unloading the boxes from a delivery vehicle to a waiting van at a car park near Ashford, Kent.

The fish were 7-22g in weight and between 11 and 18cm in length. They were taken to Cefas' laboratory in Weymouth, Dorset, to be photographed and measured as evidence. The fish were subsequently humanely slaughtered.

It is believed that the fish originally came from a fish farm in the Czech Republic and were transported from the Continent via the Channel Tunnel.

A FHI enforcement officer commented: "Many responsible fish farmers follow the rules for the legal importation of non-native fish to the UK. Although fish smuggling has been significantly reduced in recent years, there is still a very small minority of individuals who are prepared to take risks."

This is the latest in a series of successful interceptions of live fish in recent years. The men have been reported to the authorities for not having the necessary health certification for importing live fish into the UK.

All text in this article is licensed under the Open Government Licence.