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Salmon Act 1986

2 min read

The Salmon Act 1986 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, passed in 1986, which regulates salmon fishery. It is frequently cited in lists of absurd or unusual laws, since it contains a provision making it illegal to “handle salmon in suspicious circumstances”.


The act contains 43 paragraphs, dealing with a wide range of detailed matters relating to salmon fisheries. Matters covered include

  1. the definition and registration of “salmon fishery”, the legal regulation of close seasons on such fisheries, and the constitution and governance of salmon fishery boards.
  2. regulation of the methods allowed for salmon fishing (specifically, giving the Secretary of State the power to define what is meant by various forms of net fishing)
  3. regulation of the trade in salmon dealers.

A large part of the Act updates Victorian-era legislation, for instance the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868.

Handling Salmon in Suspicious Circumstances


Section 32 of the Act is headed “Handling Salmon in Suspicious Circumstances”.[1] This section creates an offence in England and Wales for any person who receives or disposes of any salmon in circumstances where they believe, or could reasonably believe, that the salmon has been illegally fished. The maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment. Essentially, this is a provision aimed at reducing salmon poaching by making the handling of poached salmon a criminal offence. Section 22 introduces a parallel provision into Scottish law.

This offence is often cited, without its context, in lists of quirky or absurd laws—often alongside archaic or downright mythical “laws”.


  1. “Salmon Act 1986”. Legislation.gov.uk. National Archives. Section 32.
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