A salmon fishmerman whose medieval methods were consigned to history by the Environment Agency has won over £180,000 compensation in a landmark case.
Fishermen have been using picturesque ranks of “putchers”, a type of basket, to trap adult salmon in the Severn estuary for hundreds of years.
And Nigel Mott was one of last surviving proponents of the technique when the agency ordered him to cut his catch from 600 fish a year to just 30.
He and fellow fishermen, David Merrett, made about £60,000-a-year from their 20-year lease on fishing rights in Lydney, in the forest of Dean.
But the pensioner said the agency’s 2012 decision to slash his permitted catch made putcher fishing “wholly uneconomic” and his lease “worthless”.
Judge David Cooke ruled in 2015 that the agency’s decision violated Mr Mott’s human right to peacefully enjoy his private property.
And today the same judge ordered the agency to pay him £187,278 compensation for the destruction of his trade.
The ruling is the culmination of a long campaign by Mr Mott, who had to fight case against the agency all the way up to the Supreme Court.
The agency said Mr Mott’s catch had to be cut to protect salmon fisheries in the neighbouring River Wye, a special conservation area.
Experts said there was a threat of salmon stocks in the Wye – which welcomes 10-15,000 spawning fish annually – becoming unsustainable.
But Mr Mott pointed out that his putchers are 15 kilometres upstream from the mouth of the Wye and insisted his small operation posed no conservation threat.
Court of Appeal judges ruled in 2016 that there was a rational basis for the Agency’s tough restrictions on putcher fishing in the estuary.
But there was no evidence that the agency had even considered the devastating impact on Mr Mott, of Stroat, near Chepstow, and his livelihood.
At least 95% of his business had been “eliminated” by the agency’s decision and his fishing rights were rendered unsaleable to anyone else.
Just because the catch limits were imposed on environmental grounds did not mean that Mr Mott’s human rights could be ignored, the court ruled.
The agency’s challenge to that decision was rejected by the Supreme Court last year, finally opening the way for Mr Mott to seek compensation.
Judge Cook today had the final word in the saga when he compensated Mr Mott for the profits he lost due to the agency’s decision.