NRW go after ill-gotten gains of 20-year illegal poaching operation ringleader

Emlyn Rees holding illegally caught sea trout

Natural Resources Wales made an application on 19 April to Swansea Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to confiscate ill-gotten financial gains made from a 20-year illegal poaching operation.

The application looks to confiscate money made by Emlyn Rees from poaching fish on the River Teifi.

The application was signed by the Judge and a final sentencing hearing will take place on 1 July 2022.

Rees was the ringleader of a group of eight men who were involved in a 20-year poaching operation in the River Teifi. Five pleaded guilty to illegal fishing charges at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on 4 April.

Ben Wilson, NRW Principal fisheries Advisor said:
“Salmon and sea trout are iconic species in Wales and are valued by fisherman and the wider public as indicators of a healthy river environment. But, put simply, there are not enough adult fish returning to our rivers to sustain stocks at their current levels or to prevent further decline.
“The conservation status of salmon and sea trout means that any illegal fishing is a substantial threat for those vulnerable stocks. Despite their declining abundance, these recent cases show that they are still the target of illegal activity in Wales.
"This investigation demonstrates how NRW - working with local police and with community intelligence - are able to catch and prosecute such cases. The fines levied by the court so far also show the serious financial consequences offenders face if caught."

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. They decided to monitor the area overnight.

At 5am the next morning, a person wearing dark clothing was seen retracting the net 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, and his home was searched. The outcome of the search was the basis for the rest of the investigation and implicated his co-defendants.