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Judgment has been reserved in the judicial review into the granting of a marine licence for the excavation of gas storage caverns under Larne Lough.

After four days of submissions at Belfast High Court, on Friday (5 May) Justice Michael Humphreys described the case as “complex” and “significant”, according to BelfastLive.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Northern Ireland’s main conservation groups have come out against the plan to develop the gas storage caverns underneath Larne Lough on environmental grounds.

In the most recent of a series of demonstrations, some 30 swimmers took to the waters of Larne Lough on Saturday 22 April to protests plans to store half a billion cubic metres of natural gas under its bed.

Representing the campaigners, Barrister Conor Fegan warned of a damaging impact on marine wildlife in the area, noted how it would lock Northern Ireland into extended fossil fuel dependence and questioned suggestions that the caverns could be used to store hydrogen instead.

King’s Counsels representing DAERA and Islandmagee Energy, meanwhile, sought to mollify concerns over the approval process for the licence and minimise the potential for discharge in the sensitive sea life zone.

BelfastLive has much more on the story HERE.

Two men have been convicted of possessing 16 illegal salmon nets near the River Drowes in Co Donegal.

Philip and Eoghan McCluskey of Bundoran, Co Donegal received fines and costs totalling €6,000 in relation to the offence, which occurred on 25 July 2021 on the Drowes River in Magheracar, Bundoran.

Among the items in the father’s and son’s possession on the night were two large holdall bags which contained 16 nets, wooden pegs, 20 empty coal sacks, balaclavas, a knife, throw line, binoculars and a camouflage jacket which was covered in wild salmon scales.

The case was heard at Ballyshannon District Court on Friday 21 April.

The court heard that Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) Mobile Support Unit (MSU) for fisheries protection, with local fisheries staff, discovered evidence of possible illegal activity taking place on the lower Drowes River.

The MSU, working together with local fisheries officers, carried out covert surveillance of the river which led to the defendants being apprehended.

Commenting on the case, Francis O’Donnell, chief executive of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) said: “This illegal operation was halted by a professional team of fisheries officers through a significant covert operation.

“The two men had 16 nets in their possession when caught, and 20 empty coal bags to place fish into. IFI was established in 2010 and in that time there has never been a seizure of such a quantity of nets used for the illegal capture of fish in fresh water. The potential impact of these nets on the River Drowes would have been catastrophic for the salmon population.

“IFI will not tolerate this behaviour on any Irish river. We will continue to prosecute those who persist in poaching. I would like to commend all our Fisheries Officers for their commitment in dealing with this type of ecological crime.”

Welcoming the judgement, Dr Milton Matthews, director of IFI’s North West River Basin District said: “Salmon stocks have never been under more pressure from illegal fishing, habitat loss and climate change.

“The River Drowes represents one of the last strongholds for Atlantic salmon in the Northwest of Ireland. The apprehension of these offenders and seizure of this quantity of poaching equipment represents a significant boost to safeguarding this valuable natural resource.”

Published in Angling

A former salmon draft net licence holder has been found guilty of two breaches of fisheries legislation when he was found to be in possession of 13 untagged salmon in the boot of his vehicle.

Liam Whyte of Ardara, Co Donegal was convicted in relation to an illegal fishing incident which occurred on 10 July 2017.

The case was first heard in Glenties District Court on 27 February 2019 where Whyte was convicted and fined €1,300 for possession of the salmon,and fined costs of €750.

In light of previous convictions, the court imposed a sentence of three months’ imprisonment which was suspended for two years, on condition that there be no further convictions under the Fisheries Acts during that time.

Whyte appealed the ruling to Donegal Circuit Court and the case was heard on 14 March 2023.

As Whyte had not come to the attention of the courts in the intervening period, the court waived the three-month suspended sentence and instead convicted Whyte on two counts of breaches in fisheries legislation with fines amounting to €2,800 and costs of €979.63.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Dr Milton Matthews, director of the North Western River Basin District at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) said: “I commend the ongoing vigilance of our fisheries protection officers who conduct extensive surveillance operations throughout the year to ensure that licensed salmon draft net holders comply fully with the strict tagging and quota regulations.

“Any salmon killed in excess of the quota identified for any particular salmon fishery directly impacts on the long-term sustainability of that salmon fishery.

“It is critical for all stakeholders to strictly abide by tagging and quota regulations to safeguard the future of these valuable fisheries. Members of the public can report incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and fish kills, to Inland Fisheries Ireland’s 24-hour confidential hotline number on 0818 34 74 24.”

Published in Angling

Three men have been found guilty of illegally fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna off Baltimore Harbour in West Cork.

Brian Hassett from Monkstown, Co Cork; Barry Keohane from Blackrock, Co Cork; and Conor Jones of Kildinan, Co Cork were found guilty of illegally fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna in waters south of Baltimore Harbour on 10 October 2022.

All three entered guilty pleas at Skibbereen District Court at a hearing on Tuesday 14 March.

The court heard evidence from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) officer David Lordan, who said he observed the men using a spreader-bar lure system for around 70 minutes before their vessel entered Baltimore Harbour.

Despite an application for a return of the seized fishing gear, the court granted Forfeiture Orders in respect of all items seized.

Details were also presented of the importance of protecting Atlantic bluefin tuna and the research programme Tuna CHART, a catch-and-release tagging programme gathering scientific data through licensed recreational charters since 2019.

Hassett was found guilty of a breach of Section 285(a) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 and fined €1,000. He was also found guilty of breaches of Article 4 (a) and 4 (b) of Bye Law 981 of 2020, which were taken into consideration.

Keohane and Jones were found guilty of breaches of Article 4 (a) and 4 (b) of the 2020 Bye Law, and both men received the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act on bonds of €5,000 each for a period of three years.

Commenting after the case, Sean Long, director of the South-Western River Basin District at IFI said: “I want to praise the vigilance of the fisheries officers involved in this operation.

“Illegal fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna jeopardises the potential future for sustainable catch-and-release angling fishery, currently valued at €1 million annually, for professional skippers and for rural coastal communities.

“I continue to encourage members of the public to report incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and fish kills, to Inland Fisheries Ireland’s 24-hour confidential hotline number on 0818 34 74 24.”

Published in Angling

Two Cork men have been fined a combined €4,000 over an incident in June last year which resulted in the seizure of a 500-plus-metre net and eight illegally caught salmon.

Frank Sheenan of Dursey Sound, Co Cork and Denis Healy of Cahergarriff, Castletownbere, Co Cork were both convicted of illegal fishing at Bantry District Court on Thursday 23 February.

Judge James McNulty heard evidence at an earlier sitting of an extensive operation by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) at Garnish Bay on 28 June 2022 which resulted in the seizure of a 523-metre-long net, eight salmon and a van.

Hearing that both men had previously been convicted of illegal fishing and had benefitted from a Hardship Scheme introduced to compensate fishers who ceased salmon fishing, Judge McNulty ordered both to come to court with banker’s drafts to the value of €2,000 each.

The court also heard evidence that illegal salmon netting has far-reaching consequences for vulnerable salmonid populations migrating along the coast to their spawning grounds.

On finalising the case at the 23 February sitting, Judge McNulty imposed fines of €2,000 each for breaches of Section 285(a) of the Fisheries Act 1959 (as amended) and ordered each to pay €250 by way of contribution to IFI’s expenses. Orders of Forfeiture were made in relation to the salmon and net.

Each defendant was also found guilty of a breach of Article 3 of Bye-Law no. 857 of 2009 and Section 182(2) of the 1959 Act, which were taken into consideration.

Sean Long, director of the South-Western River Basin District at IFI welcomed the conviction, reiterating that illegal netting of migrating salmon can wipe out an entire year-class of stock in rivers with already declining populations.

“These men had no consideration for the future of our salmon stocks nor for the social and economic value sustainable salmon stocks contribute to local economies supporting jobs and businesses,” Long said.

“Maintaining biodiversity and protecting and conserving these precious fish is critical. This case sends out a clear message to those involved in illegal fishing: Inland Fisheries Ireland will use its full powers under the law to prosecute offenders through the courts.”

Published in Angling

Lagan Materials Ltd in Bweeng, Mallow, Co Cork, now trading as Breedon Ireland, were convicted and fined €3,000 at Mallow District Court on Monday 9 January following a prosecution taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

The defendants did not appear before the Court and Judge Joanne Carroll expressed surprise and disappointment at their absence.

After hearing evidence from senior fisheries environmental officer Andrew Gillespie, Judge Carroll convicted the quarry operator under Section 173 (1)(d) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 and Section 3(1) of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977 for allowing a discharge to the Clydagh River in the townland of Carrigcleena, Bweeng, Mallow on 12 November 2021.

The Clydagh River is an important nursery habitat and tributary of the Munster Blackwater.

Convictions were also recorded and taken into consideration in relation to two further charges under Sections 171(1) and 173(1)(c) of the 1959 Act.

Sean Long, director of the South-Western River Basin District (SWRBD) at IFI welcomed the conviction, noting that salmonid habitats are incredibly sensitive and urged quarry operators to take all measures to minimise the risk of harmful discharges to waters.

He added that “while the overall level of compliance is high, fisheries environmental officers in the South-West detected 99 incidents of habitat and water quality infringement in 2022 and every incident is one too many”.

Published in Angling

Two Carlow men have been found guilty of fishing illegally for protected wild salmon on the River Slaney and for obstructing or impeding a fisheries officer, in a prosecution brought by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Sitting before Judge Geraldine Carthy at Carlow District Court earlier this month (Thursday 1 December), Shane Rooney of Park Avenue, Phellim Wood in Tullow and Adam Keegan of Slaney View Drive in Tullow were found guilty of all charges against them.

On the evening of 29 March this year, a covert protection operation was carried out by a specialist fisheries unit, supported by local staff. This was at a time of year when wild salmon were extremely vulnerable during the ‘spring run’ up the River Slaney.

In the townland of Kilcarry, on the freshwater portion of the River Slaney, the two defendants were observed illegally fishing for wild salmon during the closed season, using pieces of angling equipment that were contrary to bye-laws.

Rooney was fined €1,500 and ordered to pay a further €750 towards prosecution costs for the three charges against him. These were: obstructing or impeding a fisheries officer contrary to Section 301 (Fisheries Consolidation Act, 1959); using or attempting to use a lure other than artificial fly using single or double barbless hooks, contrary to Bye-law No. 992 of 2021; and using or attempting to use any fish hooks other than single or double barbless hooks contrary to Bye-law No. 989 of 2021.

Keegan, who had pleaded guilty, received a €400 fine in respect of the breach of Article 5(a) of Bye-law No. 992 of 2021 (using or attempting to use a lure other than artificial fly using single or double barbless hooks) and Judge Carthy took the remaining two charges into consideration, which were obstructing or impeding a fisheries officer contrary to Section 301 (Fisheries Consolidation Act, 1959) and assaulting or obstructing fisheries officer contrary to Section 308 (Fisheries Consolidation Act, 1959).

Both men also had their fishing rods and reels seized.

Commenting on the case, Lynda Connor, director of the South-Eastern River Basin District at IFI said: “The River Slaney has an early spring run of wild Atlantic salmon, so these migratory species are especially vulnerable at that time and require as much protection as possible.

“The illegal fishing of wild salmon puts the survival of this protected species into jeopardy, not just in rivers here in the south-east like the Slaney, Nore, Barrow and Suir, but in every Irish river.”

Connor added: “Breaches of fisheries legislation highlight the ongoing issue of illegal fishing activity. At Inland Fisheries Ireland, we have a zero-tolerance approach to serious environmental crime and we initiate prosecutions, where possible. I would like to commend the fisheries protection Officers and their commitment to protecting this vulnerable species.”

Published in Angling

A sailor who was struck in the face by a steel pulley on the deck of a multi-millionaire’s superyacht is set to get up to £1.6 million (€1.84 million) in damages.

According to MailOnline, Adam Prior says he was forced to quit his career at sea after he was struck by the 10-kilo steel pulley on board the Eleonora E during a race off the Isle of Wight in July 2015.

In an unrelated incident, the classic schooner Eleonora E was sunk after a collision with a large supply ship in the Spanish port of Tarragona this past June and is currently listed as “out of service”.

The £7 million boat is owned through a company by retired business tycoon Zbynek Zak. That company, Peras Ltd, was sued for £3.2 million in damages by 40-year-old Prior, who alleged blaming unsafe weather and lack of maintenance for the accident which he says caused him brain damage.

While the company denied all blame for the incident, Judge Richard Davison at a hearing at London’s High Court last month did not see it that way and found both sides equally at fault — which means Prior is in line for up to half his claim in compensation

MailOnline has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Superyachts

State-owned forestry company Coillte and its contractor, Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd, have both pleaded guilty to breaches of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 in a case brought by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Following reports of pollution in November 2021 along the Glenaboy River, a tributary of the Bride River in Co Cork, officers from IFI found heavy deposits of silt, vehicle tracks in the river bed and a lack of adequate silt control in an area where Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd had been carrying out thinning operations on behalf of Coillte.

As a result, IFI estimated that significant damage had been done to spawning beds and that a valuable stretch of the river had been lost to spawning wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout that year.

Sitting before Judge Colm Roberts at Mallow District Court on Monday 28 November, Coillte pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 171 (1) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959.

Also before the court on that date was Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd, which Judge Roberts believed were the main instigators of the silt discharge to the Glenaboy River.

Judge Roberts afforded Coillte the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act and ordered a payment of €2,000 to Tallow TidyTowns Committee.

Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd were also found guilty of a breach of Section 171 as well as Section 173 of the 1959 Act and Section 3 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act 1977. The company was also given the benefit of the Probation Act and ordered to pay €2,000 to the Tallow Anglers Association, €1,500 to the Tallow TidyTowns Committee and post a bond of €1,500 for a period of two years under Section 1-1(2) of the Probation Act.

The court heard evidence that IFI officers, including senior fisheries environmental officer Andrew Gillespie, visited the location between Sunday 20 and Tuesday 22 November following reports of pollution.

There was evidence of silt in the river over a five-kilometre stretch downstream of the thinning operation’s location. Gillespie highlighted that the time of the occurrence, in November, was particularly relevant as it was the critical spawning period and that the effect of the silt discharge would be to smother any eggs deposited in the spawning gravels.

Speaking in court, Judge Roberts remarked that Coillte “didn’t properly supervise” the thinning operations and that their contractor “didn’t supervise properly as he was overstretched,” before observing that “when State agencies fail in their obligations, we are in big trouble”.

Sean Long, director of the South Western River Basin District at IFI welcomed the decision, noting that neither Coillte nor their contractor had been before the courts before and had cooperated fully with IFI to implement immediate mitigation measures at the site.

Speaking after verdict was delivered, Long said: “Located in the Munster Blackwater Special Area of Conservation, the Glenaboy River is a very important spawning ground for returning wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout, which are very vulnerable species protected by conservation measures and legislation.

“Sadly, the damage that was done to these spawning beds through pollution was significant, meaning that a valuable stretch of this river had been lost for spawning salmon and sea trout last year.”

Published in Angling

An angler has been convicted at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court for several fishing offences and fined a total of £465, which included a £15 offender levy.

Kevin McCann (55) of Lagmore View Gardens, Dunmurray, Belfast was found guilty at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court to three breaches of legislation and fisheries regulations prescribed under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966, namely unlicensed fishing, fishing on Public Angling Estate (PAE) waters without a permit and obstructing and impeding an authorised person while carrying out their duties.

The court heard that on 25 August 2021, DAERA fisheries protection officers were on routine patrol of PAE waters at Hillsborough Lake when they observed McCann angling.

When asked to reel in his rod so a check of the bait could be made, McCann reeled in two rods; a further rod licence and permit check confirmed that McCann had a game licence and permit for one of the rods and not the other.

When this was explained to McCann, he advised the second rod belonged to his grandson who had gone for a walk. The fisheries protection officers then advised they would await his return. McCann obstructed and impeded DAERA staff from carrying out their duties, the court heard.

The total fine of £465 consisted of fines of £150 for each offence along with an offender levy of £15.

DAERA says it is committed to pursue those who fish illegally in Northern Ireland. If you are aware or suspect illegal fishing, DAERA Inland Fisheries can be contacted at (+44) 0300 200 7860 or outside office hours (+44) 0800 807 060.

Published in Angling
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