Traditional Salmon Fisherman Wins Damages for Human Rights Violation

If you feel that your human rights have been violated by a public authority’s misuse of power, you should consult a solicitor without delay. The point was made by the case of a traditional salmon fisherman who won more than £180,000 in damages after an Environment Agency decision effectively put him out of business.

The pensioner had for many years held a lease that entitled him to take salmon from a stretch of the River Severn, using an ancient technique which involves trapping adult salmon in baskets. He and a fellow fisherman caught hundreds of salmon annually, generating an income of about £60,000 a year.

However, due to concerns about declining salmon stocks in protected river waters, the agency proceeded to impose conditions on his annual fishing licence which restricted his catch to just 30 fish per year. Further reductions were imposed in subsequent years, but no compensation was offered.

The fisherman launched proceedings on the basis that the required reduction in his catch was so onerous as to make his business wholly uneconomic and his lease of little or no value. After he fought a long campaign through the legal system, the Supreme Court found that there was a rational basis for the agency’s decision.

However, there was no evidence that the agency had considered the devastating impact on the fisherman’s livelihood before making a decision that eliminated at least 95 per cent of his business. On that basis, the imposition of the restrictions without payment of compensation amounted to a breach of his human right to peacefully enjoy his private property, enshrined in Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Following a further hearing, the High Court awarded the fisherman £187,278 in damages to reflect his loss of profits arising from the agency’s decision over a three-year period. Several years’ worth of interest was added to the award.