#ANGLING - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has been successful in a circuit court case against a Louth man who appealed a district court decision over illegal salmon fishing.
Pat Smith of Annagassan, who was appealing the severity of the sentence handed down by the District Court in April last year, was ordered to pay two fines totalling €600 and costs of €2,369 to IFI in a hearing at Dundalk Circuit Court on Friday 11 May.
Smith was found to be illegally fishing in September 2010 after fisheries officers from the Dundalk district apprehended him with a fixed net at the shores of Annagassan, the tidal section of the Dee and Glyde rivers.
Court proceedings were initiated and on 14 April 2011 Smith was convicted and fined €600 and ordered to pay total costs of €880 to Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Smith appealed this case on two counts: first on the townland where the incident took place, and secondly on the severity of the sentence. The first count was dropped by the defendant just before proceedings began in the circuit court.
On the second count witness Assistant Inspector Ronan O’Brien gave evidence of events of the day in question and outlined that all rivers on the East Coast, with the exception of the River Fane, were closed for salmon fishing due to declining salmon stocks.
Judge Terry O’Sullivan stated that the offence committed was serious and had to be treated as such because salmon stocks were in decline around the country and were an important part of our heritage. He ordered Smith to pay both fines totalling €600 within six months by default or face six months imprisonment. The judge also ordered him to pay total costs of €2,369 to IFI with six months to pay.
Since 2006 IFI has engaged in conservation measures to combat the decline in salmon numbers. This resulted in an end to the interceptory mixed stock fishery for salmon throughout Ireland, and affected newsmen who availed of the Hardship Scheme were compensated for their loss.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the IFI Salmon Conservation Scheme has been extended through this year, with funding increased to a total of €200,000.
The pilot scheme will facilitate the rehabilitation of salmon stocks, giving priority to rivers below their conservation limit which have the greatest prospect of recovery.
According to IFI: "At the peak of salmon production in the 1970s, approximately 3,000 salmon were caught commercially in Dundalk waters. This declined to an all time low in 2006 when only 225 were caught in the entire Dundalk bay area. Annagassan would have been a traditional location for poaching salmon and sea trout in the past.
"Consequently all the rivers on the East coast, with the exception of the River Fane, were closed for salmon fishing. Only this year are the Castletown, Glyde and Dee rivers open for catch-and-release only."
The fisheries body added: "It is hoped that these measures will preserve our stock of Atlantic salmon, which are not only a valuable resource for our economy, but also an important part of our natural heritage as salmon and trout have been running our rivers since the last ice age."
Members of the public can report incidents of poaching and pollution to the IFI at freephone 1890 34 74 24 or for easier recall 1890 FISH 24.