Have you ever heard of the Salmon Act 1986?
This United Kingdom Act of Parliament outlines legislation that covers legal and illegal matters within the salmon farming and fishing industries.
Among its provisions, it makes it illegal to “handle salmon in suspicious circumstances”.
While this may sound like an archaic law, it is actually a relatively new addition to the act.
But why is it illegal to handle salmon suspiciously?
In this article, we’ll explore the reasoning behind this law and what it means for those in the fishing industry.
So, grab a cup of tea and settle in as we dive into the world of salmon handling and suspicious circumstances.
Why Is It Illegal To Handle Salmon Suspiciously?
The Salmon Act 1986 was put in place to stop illegal salmon fishing in the UK. One of its provisions is the law against handling salmon in suspicious circumstances.
But what exactly does this mean?
According to the act, handling salmon in suspicious circumstances is defined as when one believes, or could reasonably believe, that salmon has been illegally fished or that salmon – that has come from an illegal source – has been received, retained, removed, or disposed of.
Essentially, this law is aimed at preventing the sale of fish gained through illicit means. It is not meant to target innocent individuals who may be carrying salmon for legitimate reasons.
The phrasing of the law may seem broad and vague, but it was actually carefully worded to protect unwitting people from the then-in-place wider law of “possessing salmon which have been illegally taken, killed or landed”.
In fact, a five-hour House of Lords debate about the issue in February 1986 decided on the wording to ensure that innocent individuals would not be unfairly targeted.
What Is The Salmon Act 1986?
The Salmon Act 1986 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that regulates salmon fishery. It was passed in 1986 to provide fresh provisions for the administration of salmon fisheries in Scotland and to provide licensing and regulation for salmon dealing in Scotland, England, and Wales. The act also amends the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, section 5 of the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966, and section 9 of the Diseases of Fish Act 1983.
One of the most well-known provisions of the act is the law against handling salmon in suspicious circumstances. This provision makes it illegal to receive or dispose of any salmon under circumstances where one believes or could reasonably believe that the salmon has been illegally fished or has come from an illegal source. The law is aimed at preventing the sale of fish gained through illicit means and does not target innocent individuals who may be carrying salmon for legitimate reasons.
The Provision Against Handling Salmon In Suspicious Circumstances
Section 32 of the Salmon Act 1986 outlines the provision against handling salmon in suspicious circumstances. This section creates an offence in England and Wales or Scotland for any person who receives or disposes of any salmon in circumstances where they believe, or could reasonably believe, that the salmon has been illegally fished. The aim of this provision is to reduce salmon poaching by making the handling of poached salmon a criminal offence.
While this provision may seem strange and even humorous, it is important to understand its context. Illegal salmon fishing was a serious problem in the UK at the time, and this provision was put in place to deter individuals from engaging in such activities. It is also worth noting that this provision is not intended to target innocent individuals who may be carrying salmon for legitimate reasons.
The wording of the law may seem vague and open to interpretation, but it was carefully crafted to protect individuals from being unfairly targeted. In fact, a five-hour House of Lords debate about the issue in February 1986 decided on the wording to ensure that innocent individuals would not be wrongly accused.
The Reasoning Behind The Law
The reasoning behind the law against handling salmon in suspicious circumstances is to protect the salmon fishing industry in the UK. Illegal fishing not only deprives legitimate fishermen of their livelihood, but it also damages the environment and threatens the sustainability of salmon populations.
By making it illegal to handle salmon that has been illegally fished or obtained from an illegal source, the government hopes to deter individuals from engaging in this activity. The law also makes it easier for authorities to prosecute those who do engage in illegal fishing or selling of salmon.
Furthermore, the law helps to ensure that consumers are not unknowingly purchasing illegally obtained salmon. This protects both consumers and legitimate businesses within the salmon industry.
While the phrasing of the law may seem unusual or even absurd to some, it serves an important purpose in protecting the environment and the livelihoods of those who depend on the salmon fishing industry.
What Constitutes Suspicious Circumstances?
The Salmon Act 1986 does not provide a clear definition of what constitutes suspicious circumstances. However, the act does state that anyone who handles salmon in circumstances where they believe, or could reasonably believe, that the salmon has been illegally fished can be charged with an offense.
This means that if someone is found to be in possession of salmon that is suspected to have been illegally obtained, they may be charged with an offense under the Salmon Act 1986.
It is important to note that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person handling the salmon knew or should have known that it was obtained illegally.
In practice, suspicious circumstances may include things like carrying large quantities of salmon without a valid license, offering to sell salmon at a significantly lower price than market value, or possessing salmon in an area where illegal fishing is known to occur.
However, it is ultimately up to the courts to decide what constitutes suspicious circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
The Impact On The Fishing Industry
The Salmon Act 1986 has had a significant impact on the fishing industry in the UK. By making it illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances, the act has helped to deter illegal fishing practices and protect the sustainability of salmon populations.
One of the main ways that the act has impacted the industry is by regulating salmon dealing. The act requires all salmon dealers to be licensed and comply with certain regulations, such as keeping records of their transactions and ensuring that the salmon they sell is legally caught. This has helped to create a more transparent and accountable industry.
The act has also strengthened penalties for certain offences related to salmon fishing, such as using illegal fishing methods or selling illegally caught salmon. This has helped to deter illegal activities and protect the integrity of the industry.
However, some have criticized the act for being too broad and potentially targeting innocent individuals. There have been cases where individuals have been accused of handling salmon in suspicious circumstances despite having legitimate reasons for possessing the fish. This has led to concerns about the potential for wrongful accusations and unfair treatment.
Enforcement Of The Law
Enforcing the law against handling salmon in suspicious circumstances can be a challenge, as it requires proving that the individual knew or had reason to believe that the salmon was obtained illegally.
The responsibility for enforcing the law falls on various organizations, including the Environment Agency in England and Wales, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland. These agencies have the power to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of handling salmon in suspicious circumstances.
Penalties for breaking this law can be severe, with fines of up to £50,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. The severity of the penalty reflects the importance of protecting salmon stocks, which are a vital resource for both commercial and recreational fishing.
In addition to these penalties, individuals found guilty of handling salmon in suspicious circumstances may also face confiscation of any equipment or vehicles used in the commission of the offence.
It is worth noting that this law is not intended to discourage legitimate fishing practices or prevent individuals from carrying legally caught salmon. Rather, its aim is to prevent the sale of illegally obtained fish and protect the sustainability of salmon stocks in UK waters.