These are the main statutory provisions of the Fishery Acts. There are also certain matters in other Acts that should be noticed. By the Larceny Law Consolidation Act, 1861 (24 and 25 Vict., c. 96), it is an indictable offence to take fish in any water running through or in land adjoining a dwelling-house. It is an offence punishable on summary conviction to take fish in any other water where there is a private right of fishing, otherwise than by angling in the daytime. In the case of angling in the daytime the offence is also punishable summarily, but the penalty is less. As to angling, the owner is by the same statute empowered to seize the trespasser's rod and tackle, but if this is done no legal proceedings can be taken. It should be noticed that the power is only given to the owner or any one authorised by him. A tenant, unless authorised by the owner, would not have the right. Care should be always taken by the tenant to have such a power expressly given him in his lease. The seizure can only be made on the ground, water, or fishery of the owner, so that a trespasser, if wading, if only half the river was included in the lease, has only to step over the middle line to prevent the power being exercised. Care must also be taken not to seize too much; it is only the rod, line, hook, net, or other implement that can be seized; if anything else is taken, such as the fish caught, the person who seizes would be liable to an action for damages. A person found angling in the day is, for this section, a person found between the beginning of the last hour before sunrise and the expiration of the first hour after sunset.
To protect the fisheries and see that the law is carried out Fishery Boards appoint water-bailiffs. These officers have very large and very arbitrary powers. They have a right to enter upon and examine all weirs, engines, and traps for taking fish; to stop and search boats, to seize all articles forfeited under the Fishery Acts; to search all nets, baskets, and bags used in carrying fish. On this a question has arisen, and not been as yet decided, if a water-bailiff can search pockets as a police constable can under the Poaching Prevention Acts. The Acts give a water-bailiff all the powers of a constable, but it is doubtful if these extend the right given by a special statute to search for game to the right to search for fish. The Acts also authorise a water-bailiff to obtain from the Fishery Board power to enter and remain on land and to get a search-warrant to search houses. A power is also given to arrest persons found illegally fishing at night. Before sunset a person can only be asked for his name and address, and whether he gives a true or false address he cannot be arrested; but a person angling at night, or a person found fishing by any means other than angling, may be arrested.
Proceedings under this section of the Larceny Act often fail because the offender set up what was known as a bond-fide claim of right to fish at the place in question, and if he could get the justices to believe this, their jurisdiction was ousted. Recent decisions have, however, prevented this defence being of the same use as formerly. It has been decided that a mere bond-fide belief that the defendant has a right will not do, he must prove (a) that the right he claims is a right that can legally exist, and (b) give some evidence, very slight evidence will do, of its legal existence. Thus a claim to fish in non-tidal waters as one of the public, which was the usual case, will not do, as such a right cannot exist in law. But if it was a claim to fish at the place as an individual and some evidence, either documentary or oral, could be given of the individual's right, then the justices could not go on with the case. Two other points may be noticed; the Larceny Act makes it an offence to take fish in any private fishery, whether in tidal or non-tidal waters, provided it can be shown the fishing is private. Only if it is in tidal waters the complainant must prove his right; in non-tidal waters, all he need show is his ownership of the spot, or that he is occupier of it under a deed without reference to title. It will then be for the defendant to justify his fishing. The other point is, that the term fish in the section is not limited to fish popularly so called; it includes every fish, and probably all living inhabitants of the fishery, even if not properly speaking fish, such as crayfish.
Fish that have been caught and are placed in a pond, or boat, or tank, so that they can be taken out when desired, are the private property of the owner, and any one who takes them can be indicted for larceny. In George I.'s reign an Act, known as the " Black Act," was passed, which made it a capital felony for persons at night to cut down the bank or sluice of a fish pond. This provision has been repealed, but by the Malicious Injuries to Property Act, 1861 (24 and 25 Vict., cap. 97), it is still a misdemeanour, punishable with seven years' penal servitude, to cut or break down the bank of a fish pond in which there is a private right of fishing, with intent to take or destroy the fish, or to place lime or other noxious material in any pond or water in which there is a private right of fishing, to destroy fish.
There are provisions under the Salmon Fishery Act against polluting a salmon river or its tributary, but they are so fenced round with provisoes, one of which is that it is necessary to prove that fish were actually sickened or killed by the pollution, as to render them almost useless. The Rivers' Pollution Prevention Act also purports to deal with pollution, but except in regard to solid matters the difficulties and restrictions as to proceedings under it, especially the action of the Local Government Board in the way it protects polluters, render the Act of very little practical use. The only really effective way to prevent pollution is an action for an injunction in the High Court of Justice, but this, although efficient, is a very costly form of procedure.