A fisherman fighting to keep an ancient fishing method alive has defeated the Government in the Supreme Court.
Nigel Mott, who catches salmon in the Severn estuary near Lydney Harbour using a putcher rank, argued that an Environment Agency-imposed limit on the amount he could catch had rendered his business unviable.
In 2012, the Agency limited his catch to 30 fish for that season and further limits of 23 and 24 salmon were imposed in 2013 and 2014.
He had previously caught up to 600 salmon each year and earned around £60,000 from his business.
While Mr Mott, of Sproat, Chepstow, was paid compensation on various occasions between 2004 and 2011 not to operate the fishery during particular seasons, none was paid to compensate him for restrictions between 2012 and 2014.
Now the Agency will have to resume paying him compensation after a panel of senior judges dismissed an appeal against a Court of Appeal ruling in his favour.
„The Agency gave no consideration to the particular impact on Mr Mott’s livelihood, which was severe,“ said Lord Carnwath.
He added that the case was an „exceptional case on the facts, because of the severity and the disproportion (as compared to others) of the impact on Mr Mott“.
Mr Mott says that the putcher method, which involves trapping the fish in baskets and which dates back to at least the 17th century, is environmentally sensitive and ensures salmon stocks remain stable.
The Agency said the move was necessary to protect the salmon fisheries of the River Wye, arguing that salmon caught in the estuary included fish that originated in the waters of the Wye, which is a special area of conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Salmon stocks are at an all-time low and it is the Environment Agency’s duty to protect them where they are at risk. We are working hard to restore salmon to healthy levels and will soon be proposing new measures to protect them. But it is only through working with others that we will preserve this iconic species for future generations.
“We welcome the court’s support for the Environment Agency’s role to impose catch limits on salmon, and the recognition that Mr Mott’s case is exceptional.”
He added that the Agency had accepted the court’s ruling and would work with Mr Mott to agree appropriate compensation.