A prosecution taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and the Director of Public Prosecutions for illegal netting of bass at Helvic, Dungarvan Bay, Co Waterford resulted in a conviction and heavy fine for a Dungarvan man at a recent sitting of the District Court in Dungarvan. Mr. Adrian Healey pleaded guilty to three charges under Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 230 of 2006 (Bass Conservation of Stocks Regulations) and two charges under the 1959 Fisheries Act as amended.
Mr. Tony O Dwyer, an Inspector with IFI, outlined to Judge Finn that six IFI officers were involved in what was an ongoing investigation following several reports of illegal netting of bass and sea trout at night, off the Waterford coast. IFI officers were observing the coast at Helvic in an attempt to find if illegal netting was occurring. Mr. Healy was found in possession of a boat, a 426 yard net, 11 bass, 9 pollack and one mackerel at Helvic pier at approximately 0300 hours on the 5th of September 2013. Mr. Healy was co-operative when approached by IFI officers who seized the net and bass. Solicitor Burke who represented Mr. Healy outlined mitigating factors explaining that Mr. Healy had a small fish dealer business, Abbeyside Seafoods, which he was trying to get off the ground at the time and that he was under pressure with a young family and made a mistake which he admitted to. Mr. Healy no longer has this business. Mr. Burke also highlighted that net fishing for bass was not illegal in other European jurisdictions and that Mr. Healy's net was also automatically forfeited following the conviction.
Having heard the evidence Judge Finn convicted Mr. Healy and imposed fines totalling €4,000.00 and awarded legal expenses of €674.89 to Inland Fisheries Ireland. The three counts under SI 230 of 2006 have a maximum fine of €5,000 each if heard in the District Court while the two counts under the Fisheries Act have a maximum penalty €2,000 each or 6 months imprisonment if heard in the District Court.
Net fishing for bass is illegal and such activity has the potential to do huge damage to stocks. Securing a conviction for illegal netting at night takes significant resources and dedication of staff and such night time activity is usually undertaken in an attempt to evade apprehension by fisheries officers. The sale of wild Irish bass is also illegal and it is important the public do not support illegal fishing by buying these fish.