Five Cardigan men have been ordered to pay over £20,000 in fines and costs after poaching the River Teifi for over 20 years and depriving her waters of salmon and sea bass.

“Their poaching has resulted in the death and demise of one of the most iconic fish in Wales,” commented Prosecutor Jon Tarron.

Yesterday the five men pleaded guilty to charges of handling fish in suspicious circumstances and of taking fish when not authorised to do so.

They were Emlyn James Rees, 35, of Dan y Graig, Cenarth; Dafydd Rees, 34, of Williams Terrace, Cardigan; Matthew Phillips, 35, of Maeshenffordd, Cardigan; Carl Rago, 25, of Penffynnon, Cilgerran and Colin Gentle, 56, of Broyan Road, Penybryn.

Prosecuting on behalf of Natural Resources Wales, Jon Tarron said that on May 14, 2020, water bailiffs were on patrol at Stradmore Gardens which lies between Cenarth and Llechryd where they found a length of blue rope lying on the bank and a gill net hidden in the undergrowth.

At 5am the bailiffs saw a man in dark clothes walking across the fields carrying a large rucksack.  He was seen to pull a net from the river and remove trout.  Bailiffs apprehended him and identified Emlyn Rees.

During a search of his property bailiffs seized nets, sacks, ropes and two freezers stocked with fish.

They also found what Mr Tarron described as a ‘poaching diary’, namely a log book containing dates, photographs of the co-defendants alongside their catches and fish records dating back 20 years. 

As a result, the bailiffs were able to make their subsequent arrests.

“Emlyn Rees was undoubtedly the control factor in this large-scale poaching operation,” said Jon Tarron, “but for over two decades, the other defendants were all involved on different scales.”

He went on to say that poaching has had a devastating impact on the Teifi.  In 2005 the Teifi’s salmon stocks stood at 4,342 but in 2020 it had diminished to 1,197.

“The damage of an operation like this is painfully obvious,” he said.

Following an application by the NRW, District Judge Mr Neil Thomas sent Emlyn Rees to Swansea Crown Court where his case will be heard on April 19.

Dafydd Rees was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £3,208 costs, Matthew Phillips was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £3,416 costs and Carl Rago was fined £500 and ordered to pay £2,316 costs.

Colin Gentle was the only defendant who hadn’t participated in illegal fishing however phone data confirmed that he had engaged in numerous sales of illegal salmon, and mullet with Emlyn Rees.

Gentle was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,770.  All four defendants were ordered to pay a £100 surcharge.

Tivyside Advertiser: Dafydd Rees with the sewin he caughtDafydd Rees with the sewin he caught