More than 20 illegal fish traps seized from rivers in North East

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A selection of illegal traps were pulled out of the River Skerne in Darlington

More than 20 illegal fish traps have been seized from North East rivers in the past three months.

The Environment Agency said the devices were deadly for river animals like otters, which may get stuck in them and drown.

The traps were found as part of a crackdown which is aiming to help white clawed crayfish and European eels, which are threatened by climate change.

Several of the traps were found in the River Skerne in Darlington.

There have been reports of illegal fish theft and crayfish trapping seen by members of the public in the River Skerne and nearby ponds, which the Environment Agency is monitoring.

It is urging anyone who sees any illegal activity to get in touch.

The Environment Agency says use of fish traps is rarely allowed because of the low numbers of native crayfish

David Shears, senior fisheries enforcement officer, said: "It's a serious crime to set these hazardous traps and horrific to see evidence of otters having drowned, as well as the other ecological impacts we risk.

"We are on the ground, remaining vigilant and will act on all intelligence we receive."

Operation Creel

Traps used to collect fish must be safe for other wildlife and authorised for use, the agency said.

The government body says because numbers of native crayfish are low in the area, permission is rarely granted unless it is for scientific reasons.

It is working on an operation codenamed Creel to try and protect white clawed crayfish which are in decline because of the invasive American signal crayfish, which overpowers the native breed and takes over their habitat.

Darlington councillor Andy Keir said: "We're happy to continue to support the work of the Environment Agency's enforcement officers in tackling illegal fishing and would urge anyone with information to pass it on to the Environment Agency."

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