A FISHERY owner who shot an otter dead in front of horrified day ticket anglers is serving time in prison, in the first prosecution of its kind.

Stuart Jones, then owner of Lyons Gate Caravan Park & Fishery, was sentenced to two months.

He pleaded guilty at Weymouth Magistrates’ for killing a protected wild otter and also setting a trap for the purpose of taking or killing one.

Jones, 54, who ran the venue Cerne Abbas, Dorset, was banned for life from having a rifle.

He is being further prosecuted under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the money he saved by not paying for otter fencing. Jones is due back in court on July 20.

The court heard how last July an angler had caught the Lyons Gate otter in a landing net and informed Jones, expecting him to move it elsewhere.

But the angler was shocked when Jones promptly came with his rifle and shot the protected species in the back of the head.

The otter was shot in this landing net at Lyons Gate fishery.

‘Stupidity’  slammed by Trust

Jamie Cook, new chief executive of the Angling Trust, commented strongly on the Lyons Gate case.

He said: “This ruling demonstrates the stupidity of taking the law into your own hands.

“We are pleased that it was law-abiding anglers who witnessed this criminal action and reported it to the Police.

“They are the eyes and ears of the waterside, and the vast majority of anglers obey the law and care for the environment and the places where they fish.

“This rogue fishery owner deserved to be brought to book for his reckless actions.

“With funding available to protect fisheries from otters by using non-lethal means, there was simply no excuse for this fishery owner to do what he did.”

Jones set up this trap at Lyons Gate in an effort to catch the otter.

‘No quick or easy solution’

Jamie continued: “We are aware that the increase in otter numbers and their geographic spread can cause problems for fishery owners and clubs.

“There is no quick or easy solution to this problem.

“We continue to lobby the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for more funding to help fisheries manage this situation in a non-lethal way.

“Through our Fisheries Management Advisors, we offer a range of advice and services to support fisheries in managing the presence of otters.

“This includes access to funding for the establishment of non-lethal management through the angling improvement fund.

“Over £90,000 of angling improvement money was awarded in 2018/19, including nine requests to help with otter-proof fencing.

“Our FMAs are licensed to legally trap otters that may get into a fenced fishery and release them outside of that fence,” added Jamie.

Happier times before the case will be back – Jones has sold Lyons Gate to Kent Enterprises, who run Wylands International Angling Centre, in East Sussex.

Almost all fisheries and club waters are currently closed to fishing due to the coronavirus crisis – find out more here.

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