Some may still see poachers as romantic figures, but their activities can seriously threaten protected species of birds and other wildlife, Scotland’s nature watchdog is warning

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland are urging the public to report any suspected fish poaching incidents, along with illegal fishing nets which could unintentionally catch and harm wildlife.

An illegally-set gill net, which trapped a red-throated diver, has been recovered from the Isle of Lewis, and is seen as likely evidence of illegal salmon poaching.

The net was found at Geshader, West Loch Roag last month. The diver was probably saved from drowning by getting entangled at the surface rather than underwater. It was freed from the net and released apparently unharmed. A similar net recovered from Loch Roag last year contained a drowned great northern diver.

In September 2014 an otter and her two pups were found dead inside an illegal trapping net used to catch eels or crayfish illegally.

A member of the public discovered the otter family in the net in the waters of the River Tyne, next to Haddington Golf Course. It was thought the pups swam into the net and the mother followed and tried to free them.

Meanwhile a year before a porpoise perished after being caught in a net in East Loch Roag on Lewis.

Johanne Ferguson of Scottish Natural Heritage said: "These incidents show how important it is for people to be vigilant about possible poaching and the use of illegal gill nets, and to report cases to Police Scotland or the relevant district fishery board water bailiff as soon as possible.

"They highlight both the threat these nets pose to wildlife, and the continued prevalence of an illegal practice which should now be seen as unacceptable. As well as being an illegal form of fishing, this form of netting poses a major threat to all kinds of wildlife, including birds, porpoises and seals, which often feed in the water column and easily become entangled.”

Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer PC Daniel Sutherland added:

“Western Isles-based Wildlife Crime officer Phil Bertin and I urge the public to come forward with any information regarding the use of illegal methods to poach fish which include gill nets. We believe someone who is familiar with the local area will have information to assist the enquiry and we urge them to make contact.

“The Western Isles is well known for its amazing wildlife and it is important we do all we can to protect it by tracing and reporting those who commit wildlife crime.”