Nigel Mott, 73, was one of the last fishermen to use a medieval method of salmon fishing called “putcher rank”, which involves setting up timber frames across a tidal river and trapping fish in willow baskets.
In a slippery move (sorry), the local Environment Agency introduced a new quota, limiting the amount of fish Mr Mott was allowed to catch using his putchers from 600 to 30 per year in order to protect salmon stocks.
With his livelihood on the line (sorry sorry), Mr Mott took the Environment Agency to court saying that the policy was ‘irrational’ and was a breach of his human right to the peaceful enjoyment of property.
The right to peaceful enjoyment of property can be limited if that limitation is in the public interest (for example, for raising taxes), and States are afforded a ‘wide margin of appreciation’ in deciding when to limit enjoyment of the right. Usually there is only a breach of this right if a person has been deprived of all the rights of an owner of property. However, some cases (such as Fredin v Sweden (No 1)) have suggested that there can be a breach of the right to property if a person is unable to use his or her property effectively.
In this case, such an onerous restriction on fishing meant that Mr Mott had little to no oppor-tuna-ties (very sorry) to use his putchers. There was also no evidence that the Environment Agency had considered this when they imposed the restriction.
After taking some time to mullet over (come on, that one’s quite good), the Court of Appeal held the policy was not ‘irrational’ and so the policy still stands, but it was a breach of Mr Mott’s right and therefore he was entitled to compensation.