£61,000 to be confiscated from ringleader of 20-year Teifi poaching operation
The ringleader of a long-running illegal poaching operation on the Afon Teifi will have £61,791.50 confiscated due to the financial gains he made from his crimes.
In a sentencing hearing at Swansea Crown Court on 8 July, 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 and netting equipment seized from him.
As Mr Rees was unable to pay the sum for confiscation, he was made to pay a nominal sum of £1. If he comes into money or assets in the future, the remaining debt will be confiscated.
Mr Rees had previously pleaded guilty to illegal fishing charges brought forward by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). NRW had also made an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate ill-gotten financial gains.
Mr Rees kept a detailed ledger of his illegal catches. Over a seven-year period, 373 dated entries of fish capture were made detailing the number and weights of the fish caught, which included 989 sea trout and 302 salmon.
The illegal fishing undertaken by Mr Rees and his associates between 2013 to 2020 has led to the loss of an estimated 686,534 salmon eggs and an estimated loss of 2,285,164 sea trout eggs.
The investigation was triggered after NRW Enforcement Officers were patrolling a stretch of the River Teifi near Cenarth and found that a gill net was illegally set in the river.
While monitoring the area overnight, a person wearing dark clothing was seen retrieving the net at 5am and was identified as Emlyn Rees, a person known to the enforcement officers and who has three previous convictions 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 searched. The outcome of the search was the basis for the rest of the investigation and the implication of his co-defendants.
Ann Weedy, Mid Wales Operations Manager at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said:
“The impact of this illegal operation is staggering. The sheer scale of the number of fish caught has undoubtedly resulted in a significant and unsustainable loss of breeding potential. Since 2020 all salmon and large sea trout caught in Wales have to be returned alive to the river to help protect these vulnerable stocks.
“This case should stand as a warning to would-be offenders that we will pursue every case where there is evidence of wrongdoing, and if we can demonstrate that a significant financial gain has been made, we will look to confiscate that gain.
“I would like to thank our legal team for pursuing the illegal gains made from Mr Rees’ crimes. I would also like to thank our dedicated team of Enforcement Officers, whose detailed and dogged investigation exposed an astounding scale of criminality.
“We are also very grateful to our colleagues at Dyfed Powys Police for their support and to members of local angling associations who provided victim impact statements which greatly helped our case.”
Sergeant Esther Davies, Dyfed-Powys Police said:
“This is an excellent example of joint partnership working between the police and NRW. In 2020 Dyfed-Powys Police’s Rural Crime Team arrested Mr Rees for offences under the Salmon and Freshwater fisheries Act, which then led to joint searches of his address and a vast amount of evidence being recovered.
“Subsequently Dyfed-Powys Police and NRW executed seven warrants as part of the investigation into an illegal fishing operation on the River Teifi.
“The operation involved 25 police officers from the force and nine NRW enforcement officers, and targeted seven properties in the Cardigan area, linked to people believed to be involved in illegally catching and obtaining salmon and sea trout, or sewin, on an unprecedented scale.
“Poaching has been a real issue on the River Teifi for many years, and I hope this investigation and the sentence handed down today strongly demonstrates our commitment to investigating wildlife crime and reassures our fishing and angling communities.”