AN ANGLER who confronted three restaurant workers he caught illegally netting seabass on an ‘industrial scale’ said: “I just saw red.”

Steve Cullen was sleeping in his car on the quayside at Poole Harbour early on Sunday morning when one of the workers opened his car door by accident.

Steve, 35, challenged the men after discovering they had caught about 33lbs of undersized bass worth hundreds of pounds.

There has been a dramatic decline in numbers of seabass in recent years. The species is considered critically endangered.

Mr Cullen tipped the bass back into the sea and videoed the three men and their car, which had a logo for the Vietnamese restaurant Eat Pho on the bonnet.

Fishing authority Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) has now launched an investigation into the incident, along with Dorset Police.

Bosses at the Bournemouth restaurant has also issued a public apology on its Facebook page, claiming it was a one-off incident.

Mr Cullen, a burglar alarm fitter from Havant, was sleeping in his Volkswagen Touran while he waited for the tide to come in before going out kayak fishing.

He said: “I woke up because one of them opened my car door. He said he had made a mistake and opened my door instead of his. I then started trying to figure out what they were doing.”

“Bass is one of the most expensive fish to buy, it’s probably about £20-30 a kilo and they had about 15kg.

“It was four o’clock in the morning and the men were from a local restaurant. To me it was obvious what they were doing.

“They didn’t seem aggressive so I wasn’t really worried about confronting them on my own. I just saw red.”

Ben Tran, the owner of Eat Pho in Bournemouth, issued an apology on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Mr Tran said: “I would like to apologize for my actions which have offended the fishing community on social media in regard to fishing undersize bass.

“I am not a fisherman, have no experience in fishing and honestly I was not aware of the ban while doing this.

“It’s a bank holiday weekend so I just decided to take our boat out after work with some friends, thinking to relax after a stressful few weeks.

“We have never served seabass. Our pure intention when going fishing is just for entertainment only.”