A CHEPSTOW fisherman has won a Supreme Court challenge after limits were imposed on his business.

Nigel Mott, of Stroat near Chepstow, fishes the River Severn with a putcher - conical baskets to trap adult salmon as they attempt to return from the open sea to their river of origin to spawn - and has done so since 1979.

To operate the putcher rank during salmon season, Mr Mott has needed an annual licence from the Environment Agency under section 25 of the Salmon Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, but in 2011 the Act was amended to enable the agency to limit the number of fish taken as the agency considered “necessary...for the protection of any fishery.”

In 2012, after negotiations between the parties failed, the agency served notice on Mr Mott limiting his catch to 30 fish for the 2012 season. Further limits of 23 salmon and 24 salmon were imposed in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Whilst Mr Mott was paid compensation on various occasions between 2004 and 2011 not to operate the fishery during particular seasons, no compensation was paid to him in relation to the restrictions imposed between 2012 and 2014.

Mr Mott challenged his license conditions for 2012, 2013 and 2014, where he was only permitted to catch 30, 23 and 24 wild salmon each year, claiming before the limit was introduced his average catch was in the region of 600 salmon per year: an equivalent income of around £60,000.

In 2016 the Court of Appeal ruled that limitations imposed on his business by the Environment Agency were an infringement of his human rights, claiming that the limitations were “wholly economic” and were “irrational”.

Judges dismissed the irrational argument, but ruled the agency had breached Mr Mott’s rights under Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (A1P1), which establishes the principle that the state cannot deprive a citizen of his property without compensation, and he was therefore entitled to claim damages.

This ruling was appealed by the Environment Agency, but this appeal was universally rejected by the Supreme Court last Wednesday (14th February).

Lord Carnwath gave the lead judgment with which the other justices agreed.

“The important question in this case was whether, in the absence of compensation, the effect on the particular claimant was excessive and disproportionate and consistent with the fair balance to be drawn under the convention,” he said.

“The special importance of environment protection must be recognised but it is not overriding.

“The court finds no error in the judge’s evaluation in this case, he was entitled to hold that the conditions imposed by the agency in this case were closer to deprivation than mere control, and that the agency had given no consideration to the particular impact on Mr Mott’s livelihood. This was exceptional on the facts, both because of the severity of the effects on him and the disproportion of those effects as compared to other people effected by those restrictions.”

Simon Jackson, fisheries expert with Harrison Clark Rickerbys, who has represented Nigel throughout his legal battle, said: “The next step for Nigel is to consider his claim for damages – his business has been completely disrupted for the last six years and European law is quite clear that national bodies cannot take such action without compensation being offered. I am delighted for him that the Supreme Court has upheld his rights in this – it is a vindication of his determination throughout.”