The long barrel-like fyke net, which is commonly used to catch eels, had been placed illegally in a small tributary of the River Hayle, near St Ives, Cornwall.

The net was set without authorisation and no guards, which are legally required to prevent animals like otters getting caught up.

It is thought the dog, which drowned before its owners could reach it, was attracted by dead rabbit bait.

Fyke nets are commonly used to catch eels but can only be used if they are licensed by the Environment Agency.

Byelaws also require that the entrance to the fyke net must have an otter guard fitted, to ensure the animals do not suffer a similar fate to the one the dog endured.

The Environment Agency claims that if the otter guard had been in place, the dog may not have swum in and got trapped.

“This was a very unfortunate incident caused by an individual who did not think of the possible repercussions of their actions,” said Holly Hocking, of the Environment Agency.

“We are keen to highlight that all types of illegal netting are taken very seriously and anyone looking to set a net should seek advice from their local Environment Agency office before doing so.”

Eel numbers have plummeted in England over recent years and they are now classified as endangered; however, licenses for nets may still be granted by the Environment Agency.

Sam Plester

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