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What to do if your fishery is polluted or damaged

What should you do in the event of pollution...or any other damage/disruption to your fishing?

Dead Fish   Fish Kill on the River Cych

We hope that you never are faced with this kind of situation. However, if your fishing is damaged or disrupted in any way, you need to know what steps to take to enable us to act effectively on your behalf. Please note that we can only act on behalf of members of Fish Legal. For more details on how to join, please call 01568 620447. If you are not a member, we are extremely limited in what we can do for you.

Any incidents should, in the first instance, be reported to the relevant Statutory Body. For England (EA), Wales (NRW), Scotland (SEPA) and Northern Ireland (NIEA), the hotline is 0800 80 70 60. When contacting the hotline, make a note of the Job Reference number they give you, what region you contacted and, if possible, the name of the officer you spoke to.

For more information on incident reporting procedures please see:

England & Wales - 

Wales -

Scotland -  

Northern Ireland - 

Then, before contacting Fish Legal, there are a number of actions you can take to help us build a case against a polluter (the EA, NRW, SEPA or NIEA may also ask you to carry out some of these).

1. Take photographs of the event and any dead fish in the water, but only if this can be done without any risk to yourself.

2. Try to identify source or perpetrator of the damage. Again, make sure you do not do anything illegal or to endanger yourself.

3. Record every single person's name/details involved and who was present when the pollution was reported i.e. fishermen, EA, NRW, SEPA, NIEA etc.

4. If possible, get the names, addresses and contact details of any witnesses to the event, ideally the most knowledgeable people about the river: qualified ecologists; fishery scientists; entomologists; local fishermen etc. The more witnesses, the better!

5. Ask the witnesses to keep a diary of the incident i.e. where it is, at what time, if it is a pollution event then what it looks like, what it smells like, what its effects are on insect and bird life, as well as fish, for the entire time that it lasts.

6. In a pollution event, obtain sample of water without endangering yourself (or get a qualified person to take the sample). Please ensure the container used is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed out beforehand. Take a minimum of 3 litres and get it analysed immediately by local Public Analyst (see Yellow Pages or local telephone directories under "Chemists: Analytical"). Samples are only of value if analysed within 24 hours.

7. If access is permitted and no risks are involved, also take a sample of water from above the pollution source.

8. Again, if it is possible without risk, remove a couple of dead fish (of each species if more than one species is affected) from the water and get the fish analysed. Freeze the fish if it is not possible to have them analysed within a short period of time. Leave all other dead fish where they are. Please remember to record on all samples, the time and date when the sample was taken and exactly where it was taken from.

Once you have contacted Fish Legal's legal team on O1568 619 379 and reported the incident to the relevant statutory body, there are several ongoing actions that will help us to build the case.

1. Keep a diary of everything that happened on the day of the inspection by the EA, NRW, SEPA or NIEA, logging who attended and what they did. Log everything that any officer says and does. Do likewise if anyone attended from the Emergency Service.

2. Keep a diary of how things are progressing since the incident: any progress made; significant effect on/deterioration of environment; the effect of pollution; whether the pollution is disappearing; fish deaths or fish disappearing.

3. Keep a record of catch returns before and after the incident, ideally including fishing effort.

4. Gather together the leases/licences showing the club's title to the waters.

5. Do not say anything to anyone who might have caused the damage or disruption.

6. Do not destroy any documents (such as invoices for any losses) since these will be needed to verify any claim.

Canal pollution  Dead fish by Outlet Pipe

What happens next ...

  • A letter will be sent by one of Fish Legal's in-house solicitors enclosing a Questionnaire to enable you to give us the basic information as to what happened.
  • Throughout, Fish Legal will meet the legal costs of the case, including the costs of any experts and indemnify you against the other side's costs in the event of an unsuccessful claim.
  • Fish Legal's solicitors will write to the EA, NRW, SEPA or NIEA making it aware of the member's interest. They have to decide whether to prosecute and this often takes some months. There is nothing Fish Legal can do to hurry things along - the statutory bodies have their procedures. Also, the Agency will not release information until a decision has been made whether to prosecute. If a prosecution goes ahead, the information will not be released until after the trial. If the decision is not to prosecute, this does not mean that Fish Legal will not take the case - many more than half our cases now do not follow EA, SEPA or NIEA prosecutions.
  • The Fish Legal solicitor will if required visit you/your club after the event to discuss what Fish Legal can do for you

Contact: Fish Legal - Eastwood House | 6 Rainbow Street | Leominster | HR6 8DQ | Tel: 01568 620447

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