Two men from Stirling recently appeared at the city's Sheriff Court to answer a charge of taking eels without a licence.
Eels are a European protected species and are listed as a critically endangered species. They are also protected by the Fish Conservation (Prohibition on Fishing for Eels) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 and Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 such has been the level of decline over recent years.
Water Bailiff's from the Forth District Salmon Fisheries Board were patrolling the river Forth in Stirling on Friday 9th September 2011, when they received a report of two males poaching near to Dobbies Garden Centre.
The Bailiff's responded immediately and came across the two accused fishing with rod and line. Both men were spoken too and had their gear seized and were later charged with a contravention of the Fish Conservation (Prohibition on Fishing for Eels) (Scotland) Regulations 2008, by officers from the Central Scotland Police's Wildlife Crime Unit who were called into assist the Water Baliff's.
The case was heard on Wednesday 9th May 2012, and one of the accused pled guilty to the charge and was given an admonishment. The others plea of not guilty was accepted by the Court.
A representative from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscals Service confirmed that this is the first conviction in Scotland using the new regulations.
A National Wildlife Crime Unit spokesperson said "Wild European eels are now critically endangered as stocks collapse, yet the exact reason for this remains unknown. Legislation was introduced to act as a deterrent to eel fishing in order to afford the existing population protection and to assist their future survival. Current thinking suggests that it will take at least two decades before stocks significantly rise again due to the anticipated shortage of adult eels.”