A CRAYFISH dealer who used unlicensed traps to catch freshwater crayfish in the Basingstoke Canal at Farnborough has been fined £900.

Alan Mitchell, 47, appeared before Newbury magistrates in a prosecution brought by officers from the Environment Agency.

The court heard how Mitchell, trading as Continental Crayfish, of Woodstock Road, Begbroke, Oxford, used the illegal traps in Farnborough and on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Ufton.

Agency fisheries officer Mick Cox discovered an employee of Mitchell setting crayfish traps on the Kennet and Avon Canal on September 13 last year.

Further investigation found that other offences of illegal crayfishing had taken place and that the same employee had set traps at Ash Vale Bridge and Claycart Bridge on the Basingstoke Canal.

Claycart Bridge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is described as one of the richest aquatic systems for plants in England.

Mitchell was prosecuted under Section 27 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

Mitchell admitted three offences of illegal crayfishing by using unlicensed traps. He was fined a total of £900 and ordered to pay the Agency £250 costs.

After the sentencing, Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officer Dennis Welling said: "Illegal trapping of crayfish, or any other fish, can cause havoc to our environment."