Press Release Tuesday, 30th September 2008
Illegal Fishing no Longer Socially Acceptable
Illegal fishing is posing a threat to fish stocks nationally according to the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards. Illegal angling and netting activities have been detected all across the country by the staff of the Regional Fisheries Boards on both inland and coastal waters. Protection patrols have resulted in the confiscation of 18,770 meters of illegal nets and the detection of 649 violations. More species are being targeted by illegal fishermen and anglers, including endangered and conservation species. Poachers are not only targeting salmon and sea trout but they are also taking bass, pike, eels and coarse fish.
Dr Ciaran Byrne Chief Executive Officer of the Central Fisheries Board said “illegal fishing is no longer socially acceptable and it is a shame to see our natural heritage being destroyed by a small number of unscrupulous people. The staff of the Regional Fisheries Boards, the Naval Service, Air Corps and An Garda Síochána are doing a fantastic job in combating illegal fishing and in protecting our natural fisheries heritage.”
In recent weeks the South Western Regional Fisheries Board seized illegal eel nets on Inniscarra reservoir in Co. Cork which contained hundreds of eels which are an endangered species. This illegal catch was reportedly destined for overseas markets and an ongoing investigation is being carried out by the SWRFB.
In the Northern Regional Fisheries Board area Fisheries Officers have made a number of apprehensions for illegal fishing in Inver Bay and have also reported an increase in the illegal netting of salmon in a number of rivers particularly in the Donegal area. This escalation in illegal fishing has been linked to a substantial increase in the price of wild salmon in recent years and has also been driven by the increase in unemployment due to the recent economic downturn.
In the Cavan / Monaghan area Fisheries Officers have seized a large amount of angling equipment targeting valuable coarse fish stocks from many of our premium coarse fisheries. A spokesperson from the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board said “we feel that many of our premium specimen fish waters may have been badly damaged by this activity”.
In a bid to cut off potential markets for illegal catches, the Fisheries Boards continually inspect sales outlets with 997 inspections carried out to date this year.
Dr Cathal Gallagher Director of Field Services with the Central Fisheries Board said “as well as depleting our fish stocks, illegal fishing has much wider effects than it may at first appear. It has the potential to have a negative impact on ecosystems and it damages tourism revenues. The Central and Regional Fisheries Boards work tirelessly to detect and deter this illegal activity while developing and conserving this valuable natural resource.”
In combating illegal fishing the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards are employing a number of different strategies including boat patrols on inland waterways and at sea, as well as extensive foot patrols along rivers and lakes, on a 24 hour, seven day week basis. The Boards have also deployed new technologies in dealing with the problem of illegal fishing with the use of surveillance cameras and sophisticated night vision equipment yielding results. In addition to detecting and preventing illegal netting, Fisheries Officers carried out a total of 9,315 licence and logbook inspections and 490 on the spot fines have been issued by the staff of the Regional Fisheries Boards for a broad range of fisheries offences. Several prosecutions are also being processed through the courts.
In protecting salmon and sea trout stocks at sea the Boards use rigid inflatable boat patrols (RIBs) supported by two large patrol vessels (LPVs). Patrols to monitor illegal fishing at sea are run in conjunction with the Naval Service, Air Corps and An Garda Síochána. To date 4,500 nautical miles have been patrolled at sea by the LPVs and 350 checks carried out by the staff. The Boards have also expanded their capability to counter illegal fishing on inland and coastal waters through joint helicopter and aerial patrols with the Air Corps. To date ten aerial patrols have been carried out with the Air Corps and 56 patrols days have been provided by the Naval Service.
The Central and Regional Fisheries Boards while strongly enforcing legislation are cognisant of their role in conservation of our fisheries resource. The Boards believe that a key element of conservation is education. The officers of the Regional Fisheries Boards have already visited one hundred and fifty schools this year with their ‘Something Fishy’ educational programme and additional visits are planned prior to the end of 2008 and early in 2009. The Boards have also embraced the shift in the demographic make up of our population with fishing information provided in multiple languages on websites and many fisheries around the country.